Book Review: Dearly, Departed
By: Lia Habel
Narrated By: Kim Mai Guest & Various Others
Published By: Random House Audio
Publication Date: October 2011
Audio Length: 16 hours, 46 minutes
Audience: Young Adult - Science Fiction/Horror, Zombies
On the Story & The Writing:
I have a serious case of cover lust with this one. I honestly only picked this one up because of the cover. Zombie books aren't always my thing - they can sometimes be a bit too gory for my tastes - but I figured one that came in such a pretty wrapping couldn't be all bad. I am so glad I decided to give this one a chance. I ended up being totally sucked into Habel's world; I bow down to her creativity and attention to detail. Furthermore, I was seriously blown away when I realized that this is a debut novel. It is intricate, compelling, and deliciously macabre.
Dearly, Departed focuses on a world where North America no longer exists. Survivors of terrible civil war and natural disasters banded together in tribes and sought a new home in Central and South America. There was a touch of dystopian running throughout the beginning of the novel as Habel sets up her universe. She also goes into great detail explaining the history of her New Victorian society as well as the history of the rebels called Punks. I was mesmerized by the history of this society and found myself wanting to know even more. The brief trip to this museum of Natural History further added to my fascination.
I also found Habel's zombies to be interesting creations. The Grays are the typical breed of zombie that is dying to feast upon your flesh; they do not retain any shred of their former humanity. There are also good zombies; these members of the undead do retain their human personalities and emotions. They choose to be good and refrain from snacking on the living. With the help of modern technology, medicine, and a steady stream of tofu, these zombies have proven to be quite useful in waging war against the legions of the Grays.
The novel bounces around between five different narrators. I was nervous about this at first, but it worked really well - especially in audio. I can see how it might be overwhelming in a more traditional format. I enjoyed seeing what was happening from all the different perspectives - especially when the characters were not in the same locales. Nora and Bram's segments allow readers to learn more about the types of zombies and how operations at the zombie military base work. Pamela's segments allow readers to stay in touch with what is happening in Nora's absence back in New Victoria, where the zombie threat has been kept a secret from the populace. Finally, Victor and Wolf's segments allow an additional layer for the reader to explain things that the characters are not privy too. While daunting, the inclusion of five narrators allows Habel to tell a more complete story. I, for one, was grateful. I did find Wolf and Victor's sections to be a bit tedious in spite of the valuable information they contained, but I was enthralled with the voices of Nora, Bram, and Pamela.
In addition, I really liked the symbolism of class warfare that runs through this story. You see not only the typical class warfare of rich vs. poor, but also the issues that arise between the living and the dead. It was interesting to me that the dead who retained their minds were still treated as disenfranchised citizens. People did not want to extend the same rights to the dead that were entitled to the living. This mirrors some of the debates that are swirling through America currently.
Dearly, Departed is a tremendously fun read complete with steampunk elements, romance, the walking dead, strong females, hilarious dialog, and some kick ass moments with a parasol. The ending left me craving more.
On the Audio:
I loved that for each of the five narrators had their own unique voice. It made it much easier to follow the story and keep up with who was talking. In this regard, I would say that the audiobook might be stronger than the print version. All of the narrators were fabulous!
One Last Gripe: It did take me awhile to be okay with the romance in this one. It is hard for me to see a zombie as a romantic hero - even one as amazing as Bram.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: The combination of Victorian Age, Modern Technology, & Zombies
First Sentence: I was buried alive.
Favorite Character: Nora
Least Favorite Character: Michael
Love can never die.
Love conquers all, so they say. But can Cupid’s arrow pierce the hearts of the living and the dead—or rather, the undead? Can a proper young Victorian lady find true love in the arms of a dashing zombie?
The year is 2195. The place is New Victoria—a high-tech nation modeled on the manners, mores, and fashions of an antique era. A teenager in high society, Nora Dearly is far more interested in military history and her country’s political unrest than in tea parties and debutante balls. But after her beloved parents die, Nora is left at the mercy of her domineering aunt, a social-climbing spendthrift who has squandered the family fortune and now plans to marry her niece off for money. For Nora, no fate could be more horrible—until she’s nearly kidnapped by an army of walking corpses.
But fate is just getting started with Nora. Catapulted from her world of drawing-room civility, she’s suddenly gunning down ravenous zombies alongside mysterious black-clad commandos and confronting “The Laz,” a fatal virus that raises the dead—and hell along with them. Hardly ideal circumstances. Then Nora meets Bram Griswold, a young soldier who is brave, handsome, noble . . . and dead. But as is the case with the rest of his special undead unit, luck and modern science have enabled Bram to hold on to his mind, his manners, and his body parts. And when his bond of trust with Nora turns to tenderness, there’s no turning back. Eventually, they know, the disease will win, separating the star-crossed lovers forever. But until then, beating or not, their hearts will have what they desire.
In Dearly, Departed, romance meets walking-dead thriller, spawning a madly imaginative novel of rip-roaring adventure, spine-tingling suspense, and macabre comedy that forever redefines the concept of undying love.