Tag Archives: Macabre

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Dreadfully Ever After, by Steve Hockensmith

photo via Quirk Books

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the monster mash-up that started it all back in 2009, has inspired an entire sub-genre of literary classics (and the lives of the writers who penned them) that have been infiltrated by the dark side. Now, after a New York Times Best Seller prequel (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Dawn of the Dreadfuls), Quirk Books delivers the actual chronological sequel to the original mash-up, in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Dreadfully Ever After.

The beginning of Dreadfully Ever After picks up the story of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy four years after the original mash-up ends. The zombies (or as they’re referred to in polite Regency society: the dreadfuls, the unmentionables, the sorry stricken, or the zed words) are still terrorizing the country, but finding herself now the wife of a respectable gentleman, Elizabeth has hung up her katana and throwing stars to lead a life of quiet wedded bliss. It would seem, however, that our favorite kung fu couple are experiencing a problem of their own in the form of Elizabeth’s unshakeable, unplaceable discontent. Deep into a long walk and serious discussion, the pair run into a boy from the estate and fail to notice the “odd tilt to the boy’s head and the gray palor of his skin and the smell of death and feculence that drifted with him onto the road.” Consequently, Mr. Darcy is bitten and infected.

The warrior within dictates that Elizabeth should promptly behead her beloved and burn the remains. Instead she turns to her nemesis and Darcy’s aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, one of the most renowned zombie slayers in the country. We learned in the first book that Lady Catherine was working on developing an antidote to the evil plague. To help save her nephew (in spite of the fact that he once spurned her strange, sickly daughter), she sends grief-stricken Elizabeth, still-silly Kitty Bennet and a happily wife-free Mr. Bennet to a dreadful-infested London and the source of the fabled cure. Mary Bennet, unwilling to be left out of the excitement, shows up in London to join in the fray.

Add an eccentric, fiery tempered Scotsman with access to the cure and his handsome, idiotic dandy son to the cast, along with a mysterious Man in a Box, a couple of mangy dogs, a sneaky ninja with an eye for Kitty and a very important bunny, and you’ve got Dreadfully Ever After.

The story lines—both the Bennet family’s quest for the cure and the intrigue abounding back at the residence of Lady Catherine, where Darcy is being held, er, healed by his aunt and creepy cousin—moved at a clipping pace. Dreadfully Ever After spotlights characters who were previously thrust into the shadows, as Anne de Bourgh has a pivotal role in the book. I also really enjoyed the development of Mary and Kitty as they each broke from the static, typecast roles thrust upon them in the original, the mash-up and its prequel. I was impressed with how author Steve Hockensmith went beyond simply writing a goofy, fun monster mash-up to including actual character development and ending the book on, dare I say, a didactic note? I won’t give away the ending, but I will say it was one with an unmistakable moral lesson.

The creativity with which Hockensmith built up a Regency London society plagued with dreadfuls had me giggling, snorting and oversharing with my poor mother, who has absolutely no interest in anything dark or, well, dreadful. But as a die-hard snobby Brit-lit enthusiast, even she was chuckling at some of the excerpts I read aloud. For example, the book opens with Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, back-to-back, surrounded by a herd of recently unearthed unmentionables. “As his beloved Elizabeth shattered the nearest zombie’s skull with a perfectly placed axe kick, Fitzwilliam Darcy saw in her eyes something that had been missing for a long, long time: joie de vivre… Although one couldn’t say the creatures had joie de vivre, both joie and vivre being long beyond them, they were undeniably enthusiastic in their quest for succulent flesh.” Such little quips are sprinkled heavily throughout the narrative, making the book much more light-hearted than your average zombie infestation.

Bottom line: The newest book in a well-established series, Dreadfully Ever After, is undeniably fun, well-written and engaging. I definitely recommend it, even if you’re not typically a reader of zombie lore.


Rotters, by Daniel Kraus (2011)

RottersRotters by Daniel Kraus
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really have to give some hard thought to my review of this book… I have very mixed feelings about it.

Take one part touching story about a boy (Joey) losing his mother and going to live with the father he never knew existed. Add one part teenage angst about starting over in a new school and from day one, being the target of the violent meat-head school bully and his cronies. Add the embarrassment of having the town pariah as his father and showing up at school smelling like garbage every day. Mix in a crush on meat-head’s girlfriend, for added measure, and a vindictive teacher bent on torturing Joey all year long.

Now, sprinkle into your promising mix the following:

Joey’s suspicion of his father’s life of thievery, which takes a turn for the macabre when he follows the old man one night. Watching his father clip a finger off of a disembodied hand to pocket the gold ring, Joey discovers just what kind of thievery his father is best at.

Joey’s first night out under his philosophical, professor-like father’s wing. You get to go along for the graphic, darkly educational ride as Joey takes part in his first dig and sees his first “Rotter.”

The eventual revenge Joey takes on the three high school forces that ruin any chance for normalcy between the hours of 8-3. I’m at a loss for words trying to sum up the method of revenge Joey takes. Creative, for sure, but also dark, gruesome, disgusting and twisted. So very twisted. My feelings of “they got what was coming to them” were tainted by my slight revulsion of the method.

A dark, sad cast of other Diggers peppering the story, including one whose drug-fueled wasting illness, descent into insanity and sickening violation of Joey’s own mother’s buried body isn’t enough to keep Joey away. The maniacal teachings and philosophies of his father’s old enemy were grotesquely fascinating, like a terrible car accident that people stop traffic to gawk at.

A vile project by one whose right mind left him long ago, threatening to bring an end to a long, proud line of Diggers. Kraus occasionally pays homage to the history of grave-robbing by mentioning Scotland’s resurrection men, who dug up fresh bodies for medical study, and Leonardo da Vinci, who apparently used the bodies to study human form.

For the pièce de résistance, top with the subtle instances of alcoholism, bullying, bodily mutilation (of the live variety), necrophilia and the difficult journey of teenage self-realization.

Rotters was unlike any book I’d ever read. And I’ve read some dark ones. I feel like the “normal” elements of the story would appeal to any high schooler who’s ever been bullied at school or crushed on someone socially out of reach (myself included). It’s the parts that come in between, the dark, creepy parts that make you think twice about turning out the lights, that take a special kind of reader to enjoy. I’m not sure which line Kraus crossed to leave me feeling so uneasy after the book was finished (cuz he crossed a lot of lines with this one), but even now, while I’m writing what I feel is a kind of negative review, I want to pick up the book and read it over again.

Kraus, for all his gruesome genius, is a very gifted writer. I couldn’t help but laugh at some of his cleverly worded passages (there is, in fact, humor in this book as well!). His Diggers, in spite of all their oddness, dirt and stink, are somehow much more likable than anyone “normal” within the high school’s doors. The relationship between Joey and his father grows and develops in a very real way, in spite of the dark cacophony surrounding it, and though it isn’t all happy, the book has a pretty satisfying conclusion.

I would recommend this book to those with a very open mind and a very strong stomach. If you like things that are dark, creepy, twisted, suspenseful and more than a little shocking, you will probably enjoy the adventure of reading this book. If you are squeamish about anything I’ve mentioned above, take a pass because nothing I’ve written does justice to Kraus’ work.

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