Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Review: I Am Scrooge / Dawn of the Dreadfuls

I Am Scrooge, Adam Roberts, 2009, Gollancz

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies 2: Dawn of the Dreadfuls, Steve Hockensmith, 2010, Quirk Books

Okay, I know what you're thinking: 'Hasn't that damned Zombie/Classic Literature Mash-Up subgenre run its course yet?' And it's a fair question. Like zombies themselves, zomlit novels just keep popping up all over the place, and - it must be said - some of them are truly dreadful (and not in good way, and yes, I am looking at you, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim!).

For those not yet thoroughly sick of this trend, however, it's heartening to know that there are some decent titles out there - well-written and genuinely entertaining, with decent plots and characters; not merely Original Text with zombies thrown into the mix. Two of the best I've read recently have been Pride & Prejudice & Zombies 2: Dawn of the Dreadfuls, and I Am Scrooge.

I truly didn't expect to enjoy PPZ2; if ever there was a wholly 'novelty' novel, the original PPZ was it, and the idea of a sequel (or, in this case, prequel) just smacked of needless commercialism. Much to my surprise, however, it's actually a pretty damn good book, largely due to author Hockensmith not having to structure his plot and dialogue around existing text. The tale revolves around the induction of the famed Bennett sisters into the deadly arts that will see them through the coming zombie uprising; indeed, the zombies of the piece play second fiddle to the sisters' martial arts training, and there's very little undead action until a good two-thirds of the the way through the book - which again may contribute to, rather than detract from, a readers' enjoyment. The tone of the piece is self-consciously, and mostly successfully, humorous. Great fun, and definitely worth reading if you even vaguely enjoyed the original PPZ.

If you're one of the many zomfans who thinks that Shaun of the Dead is the pinnacle of zombie cinema, then I Am Scrooge by Adam (A. R. R. R. R.) Roberts is definitely for you. Taking the original opening line - and the iconic character of Ebeneezer Scrooge - from Dickens' A Christmas Carol as its starting point, the novel immediately spins off into a bizarre, extremely gory, and laugh-out-loud funny tale involving ghosts, time travel, alternate realities, steampunk technologies, and (of course) a zombie apocalypse, with cameo appearances by Queen Victoria, H. G. Wells, Charles Dickens, and a certain 'Jolly Jack'. Basically, it's completely nuts. Comedy is obviously a subjective thing, but there truly is something in here for everyone, and I defy anyone to read this without at least cracking a smile.

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