Saturday, November 26, 2011

Dearly, Departed, by Lia Habel

I'm not really into zombies. Less so, the entire concept of zombie romance: zombies, like vampires, are inherently not Nice Guys. Plus: zombies have pieces falling off of them. Gross.

But the entry for this one on Scalzi's The Big Idea series made it sound like Lia Habel was aiming for a more interesting kind of zombie - one that remembered his humanity and tried to hold on to it - so I added it to my Kindle sample spree. (You can also read the first fifty pages of Dearly, Departed here - I think this contains more than the Kindle sample does, actually.)

It turns out: this book is full of win. It's incredibly funny - not slapstick funny, or silly funny, but it's the end of the world and you'd better find something in it to laugh about or else you're going to fall apart funny. It's sweet and sad, and the author hit the target on humanized zombies. I liked them a lot better than your standard moaning rotters.

Nora, the mortal heroine, is badass, without ever trading her pretty dress for pants. Bram, the zombie hero, is a stand-up guy who happens to have some pretty terrible instincts he has to control. OK, so he still has body parts due to fall off, gross, but he's not particularly happy about it either, and shit happens. I forgive him, and I can see why Nora comes to love him - which she does not do instantly. Nora: also creeped out by hanging around decaying, potentially raving cannibals.

It's written in first-person, from multiple perspectives - not just Nora and Bram. I found that a little odd at first, but it wasn't too hard to keep who was narrating straight. I really enjoyed the narration of Pamela, Nora's best friend: she's more inclined to be girly, but becomes badass out of necessity. She doesn't have to like it, but you know, when the Zombie Apocalypse comes to call...

I'm still a little confused on the motivations of the villain, even after his obligatory gloating speech. It seems like his whole plan was to... force somebody to do something he was going to do anyway? But it's not a villain-driven story, where that kind of thing could break it. I'm happy enough to gloss it over as crazy bad guy didn't think this through. Maybe it's the kind of thing that will be more clear on the re-read.

But I also loved that, because Nora and Bram are so very, very star-crossed - like, Bram is already dead star-crossed - I had no idea where the ending was going to go. Happily Ever After? Romeo and Juliet? It could easily have gone either way, and I really, really enjoyed not being able to tell.

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