Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Dreadfully Ever After

Since the release of the original Quirk Classic mash up “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”, there have been a slew of imitators in its wake while Quirk have continued since then to lead the charge, having perfected their mash up technique of combining classic literature and new material, be it steam punk with “Android Karenina” or Sea Monsters with “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters”. Still the original “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” alone has already spawned a much needed prequel, which helped clear up a lot of the plot holes found in the in original novel, especially with it’s uneasy 50 / 50 mixture of new and original material and with original author Seth Grahame – Smith choosing not to return, it was left to Steve Hockensmith to pick up the reigns and pen the prequel, which proved to be a worthy companion to the original novel and again he makes a welcome return here to complete the trilogy.
Once again here we are thrown into this alternate version of Austin universe and a lot certainly seems to have happened in the four years which have passed since Elizabeth married the dashing Dreadful slayer Mr. Darcy and it’s this Elizabeth that we first meet here, who proves to have changed the most in the meantime, having been forced into a more restrained lifestyle than she is used to, thanks to her newly married status, yet even this hasn’t harmed her slaying skills as soon proven by an early skirmish against a group of dreadful’s proves, yet it is clear that she sorely misses the days when she could freely slay dreadful’s without her status getting in the way, after all it is hardly ladylike for a married woman to be seen carrying a Katana! Still her happiness is cut short when Mr. Darcy is attacked by a rampaging Dreadful. Now faced with the rapid zombification of her husband, Elizabeth only hope comes when she told off of a cure by Darcy’s aunt and her long term rival Lady Catherine, which soon see’s Elizabeth on an undercover mission to London to obtain the cure, along with her father and youngest sister Kitty, as she battles to save her one true love, from joining the ranks of the undead.

Hockensmith has once again got a firm handle on the inner workings of this alternate universe, as he now finally gets to show how London has adapted itself to the constant threat of the dreadfuls, with heavy fortification around the city and patrols checking for early signs of the infection, while its residents have even taken to using dreadfuls for entertainment, by having dreadfuls chase an Irishman down a track, a scene which was reminiscent of the Zombie amusements seen in Romero’s “Land of the Dead”. Meanwhile he finally gives Kitty a chance to break out of the shadow of Lydia, who for too long I found her to be pretty much interchangeable with and it was nice to see her character being developed, while Lady Catherine and her Ninja henchmen also make a welcome return, as she manages to become even more devious than before, if that’s even possible.

Written in alternative chapters between Elizabeth’s mission to obtain the elusive cure and Darcy’s ever growing list of zombie symptoms, which also see him suffering several graphic and feverish dream sequences which frequently see him feasting on his wife’s organs or anyone else’s. Still this dual storyline style helps to keep the story flowing, especially when it feels to going over familiar ground and Darcy’s gradual change into one of the Dreadful’s helped it from being just more of the same. Still the dreadful slaying sequences are just as brutal and frequently creative as ever and while Elizabeth might have spent the last four years living a more restrained lifestyle, she certainly wastes little time getting back to her old ways when given the chance, while equally at home putting her “Deadly Arts” to work on the Ninja henchmen of Lady Catherine. These scenes are all splattered with gruesome details as limbs are swiftly amputated and skulls cracked all written with the same playful glee, which we have come to expect with the series.

“Dreadfully Ever After” is a suitable close to the trilogy, though it feels far too overly familiar, to the point were I found it hard to get into this latest edition to the Quirk Classic library, though whether this is down to the setting or the fact that it’s yet another Zombie story, in an already bloated horror genre, which like the “Paranormal Romance” genre, currently feels far too over saturated at the moment and seeing how they are kind of limited with how zombies can be used, it makes it all the harder to give the reader something they havn’t seen before, despite Hockensmith making a valiant effort here and I feel that Mr Bennet sums up the situation when he states “Somehow I find all this less entertaining than I once did”, which is pretty much what I was left feeling here.

Sowhat does the future hold for “Quirk Classics”?? Well thankfully for the moment atleast it doesn’t seem to involve Zombies as they once again move away from the world of Austin and instead focus on the Frank Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” which saw a salesman waking up to find that he had turned into a cockroach. This story which is set to be the next title to receive the “Quirk Classic” treatment as “The Meowmorphosis” which will see Fabric salesman Gregor Samsa waking up to find himself turned into a man sized Kitten. It’s a change of direction which certainly has me curious enough to give it alook and certainly what will help keep Quirk ahead for the moment of it’s rivals such as A E Moorat’s alternative history series which so far has included “Henry VIII: Wolfman” and “Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter” and not to mention the numerous one shots like “I Am Scrooge: A Zombie Story For Christmas” which have flooded the market since the release of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” so I guess for the moment, only time will tell if Quirk have what it takes to keep the formula fresh, just please don’t let it involve more zombies!!!

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