Author: Steve Hockensmith
Published: Quirk Classics (2010)
Genre: Horror; Romance
If you haven't read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, just imagine Jane Austen's classic novel about young love and propriety ... but with the added subplot of a zombie infestation. It's not rocket science, but it was a daunting effort by Seth Grahame-Smith to fine tune a zombie tale into Austen's words. Now, Steve Hockensmith has written a prequel to that popular mash-up novel, but this time it is sans Jane Austen.
This time around Hockensmith was tasked with crafting what is essentially an original tale involving the characters created by Jane Austen and augmented by Grahame-Smith. All things considered, I'd say it's mission accomplished for Hockensmith.
After listening to the audiobook version of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (reviewed earlier this week), I sat down with this book and hunkered down for another romp with the Bennett's and the undead. Turns out that wasn't really necessary for a casual reader like me. If I'd been an Austenite (or whatever her fans are called) or a big fan of the mash-up, I might have appreciated the allusions and winks and nods.
The Bennett daughters along with the rest of the community attend the funeral of a neighbor, only to horrified when he rises from his coffin and clumsily tries to feast on anyone within arm's reach. Upon killing the "dreadful," it's apparent that the dead are rising ... again. Despite this being a prequel, there's still the predating war against the undead which Mr. Bennett and others fought in. This story ends up following the first days of training, as Mr. Bennett takes it upon himself to finally train his daughters in the martial arts--Elizabeth especially.
There's lots of incidents and encounters with the zombies, plenty of wit, and even a love triangle as Elizabeth's affections are torn between a warrior and a scientist as they fight off the hordes--what's an homage to Austen without some romance. Ultimately, however, this ended up feeling like more of the same from the mash-up. And some of the suspense was diminished from the knowledge of how certain characters were destined to remain alive and appear in the first book. It's a fatal blow to many a prequel, and the action and angst offered wasn't quite enough to keep me hooked.
I think Steve Hockensmith did a heck of a job picking up the ball and running with it, but I think the end result is a novel aimed at existing fans, rather than aiming at recruiting new ones. It's like a bonus reel for fans of a particular movie, or downloadable content for fans of a particular video-game.