Dearly, Departed (Gone With the Respiration, #1)by Published 18 Oct 2011
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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.
Dearly, Departed (Gone With the Respiration, #1) Reviews
Dearly Departed is one of the most enjoyable steampunk novels I've ever read, as the author skillfully puts Victorian customs down in a futuristic setting and then throws the crazy addition of zombies into the mix! It is, unfortunately, also a very frustrating novel in many ways, mainly because it has major flaws that stand in the way of a really terrific story.
In the year 2195, Nora Dearly is just coming out of a period of mourning for her father, who was a noted scientist, when her home is attacked by living corpses. She's rescued by Captain Bram Griswold, a dashing young man who turns out to be not quite alive himself. [spoilers removed] There's a difference between Bram's brand of zombie, however, who have technically died but have retained their memories and personality, and those who are just mindless, violent cannibals.
There are a number of well-plotted action sequences, mostly involving escaping from the bad, flesh-eating zombies called Greys--there's a particularly fantastic one involving a parasol being jammed into a, ahem, vulnerable part of an attacker's face. I liked the explanations as to why the zombies crave fluids and proteins (their bodies are drying out and their own body tissues don't rebuild on their own), as well as the fact that the author thought through the sicknesses and the "cures." I also appreciated that there were attempts to explain why Victorian attitudes and customs were adopted again after hundreds of years, as in the rebuilding period after catastrophic world events, Nora's ancestors viewed that era as a model of civil behavior, order, and prosperity. While you have to accept a certain amount of implausibility when you read any steampunk novel (okay, and any zombie novel, too), most of them don't even try explore why the world might be the way it is.
I really loved how the author advanced technology in a way that also blended it with a punky, Neo-Victorian sensibility. In New Victoria, citizens are fitted with ID chips upon birth, they use pearly styluses with their digital diaries, there are flat screens mounted inside carriages, people use the Aethernet, and the world has been shaped by terraforming and holographic technologies. There are also polite nods to historical fact, including St. Cyprian's School for Girls, observing a mourning period, coins in puddings, bustled gowns of "emerald faille with a fashionable ruffled hem that whispered upon the grass," Elysian Fields, yellow journalism, various names of import including Alencar and Evola, the propriety of calling cards and visiting customs, taxidermy, china dolls, and so on and so forth. A lot of steampunk or novels with 19th century settings aren't very well-researched, but this one does a fantastic job of imagining a possible future steeped in historical detail. One of my favorite touches was the ladies' parasols with miniature electric gas lamps, whose color indicated her marriageability, including green for "a woman who wasn't keen on men at all, but whose head could be turned by the sight of a pretty skirt."
I'm also prone to get a little fussed over Victorian novels that have a faulty ear for the language--but somehow the author manages to combine surprisingly funny, modern dialogue with more formal speech and mannerisms in a convincing and winning way.
...I found little bottles of shampoo and soap and a toothbrush and the like, as well as a tiny brown glass vial of perfumed oil. It smelled of violets and chocolate.
Yeah, like I needed the zombies to find me any more delicious. That'd be like a cow wearing eau de gravy.
So why is this book rated in a more middling fashion? It has a few major flaws, and unfortunately the flaws are a serious impediment to the story. There are a number of characters who are too broadly drawn, including the improbably named Vespertine Mink, as well as the rather cartoonish villain; the zombie action also slows down considerably as the book wears on. The biggest issue, however, is the inclusion of FIVE first-person narratives, which severely detracted from the flow of the novel and pulls the reader in too many different directions. Focusing the book on just Nora and Bram would have tightened things up considerably, and we would not lose so much of the urgency of the action, especially since the additional POVs add nothing of particular value to the story. I mourn the missed opportunity for fixing these issues during the editing process, because this could so very easily have been a truly excellent book.
The parts of the book that were good were really entertaining, however, so I'd say that if you're interested in steampunk, it's definitely worth a read if you can borrow a copy, as long as you keep your expectations in check. I'm hoping that the next installment of this series will find a much more streamlined story that won't alienate readers with a distracting and unnecessary framework--because this is an author with a lot of fantastic ideas who deserves an audience. Fingers crossed that Dearly, Beloved will be everything that Dearly, Departed almost achieved.
This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.
A steampunk novel that lost its steam
What a frustrating book! I so wanted to love it. It had so many good elements to it. However, somehow, the book lost its way and could not find its way back again!
Zombie, soldier, and overall nice guy. He was the source of many of my favorite lines in the book. He was charming, respectful, and he was the guy that all parents dreamed that their loving daughter would find… minus the fact that he was a zombie.
An unconventional girl in an unconventional world. She was a tough, high-spirited, quick to learn, quick to sass girl that charmed me enough to make me want to cheer for her. I loved her loyalty to her friends and her sassy mouth.
The "other" zombies
You might notice that the “good” in this book is showing a pattern. It was the characters. All the characters..good or bad…were well written and convincing. I liked the zombies even the “bad” zombies. However, here, I’m talking about the zombie characters, their personalities, not the fact that they were zombies. In truth, their zombieness [spoilers removed] is irrelevant in this book. Let me explain (look down at the bad for my explanation).
Yes, yes, I know. Zombies again. So the zombies are good and bad? Yes. But how the hell do I explain this. Ok. So, the zombie character was great but the fact that the zombies were really zombies wasn’t. The author didn’t really do the entire zombie thing like she could have. I’m not asking for more ripping, shredding, blood and guts but just more of a “OH #@$#%” instead of “Oh cool, they are zombies” type of attitude.
In the beginning, the author did it right. For example, one of my favorite lines from the beginning of the book…
"They were men. They looked like men, at least -human- but like people who had been dead for months, years, in all stages of decay- flesh hanging limply off limbs, bones exposed..."
Sounds like a zombie right? However, later, when other people first run into these same so-called zombies, their descriptions are far less remarkable, even borderline boring. It almost seemed like the author forgot she started with a zombie book.
The Ever Changing POV's
Oh my god. This is what killed this book. Forget zombies. They are harmless compared to the horrible POV switches in this book. What is worse, it wasn’t needed. The author could have left all but Bram and Nora’s story out. That is it.
This is just too much of a good thing. Dystopian, Steampunk, Horror, YA. I swear the author wrote the character’s story and filled in everything afterwards. It did start off good, but it was clearly a case of biting off more than you can chew.
I liked the characters and that is it. I won’t continue with the series.
Dashing zombies anybody? Dearly, Departed has quite the original zombie lore. I really enjoyed it and thought it was brilliantly done. Stephenie Meyer took vampires and made them sparkly. But Lia Habel, she took zombies(!), and made them charming! There's just no beating that!
This story takes place in a future after a volcano almost ends humanity. The new age is called New Victoria - yup, it's Victorian age with holographs and cell phones. It's pretty neat and very well thought out. Obviously there are zombies included - some bad and some... not so bad. I thoroughly enjoyed the lore that Lia created.
When I first saw Dearly, Departed, it's the cover that drew me in. It has to be my favorite cover of 2011. Then, when I read the synopsis, even though it sounded pretty neat, I was a bit wary of the "finding true love in a zombie" part. I love zombies. I've watched every zombie movie and enjoyed quite a few zombie books. But zombies are scary! They're gross; cannibals; mutilated - Ick. I was doubtful that anyone could convince me that zombies could ever be boyfriend material *puke*. So, obviously, Lia is a genius, and she did it: She somehow made her zombies cute!
The world building was fantastic. The first half of the book was used to explain this new world and how the zombies came about. If there are any holes in it, I didn't see any. It was complete and very well explained, as well as extremely creative. There were a few clichés. Private school, rich mean girl, best friend with a crush on the guy who wants Nora, but it was mostly all in the beginning and used to illustrate how it's not extremely different from the present - just a bit old fashioned. Women with dresses; travel in carriages, etc. But girls are still girls! Once the zombies arrive, though, the clichés go out the window. So all in all, I found it truly original.
The book is divided into several point of views. We have the two protagonists, Nora and Bram, but we also see a few side characters' POV - even the villain's, which is very interesting. I found all of the characters really enjoyable with distinct voices and fun personalities. It was great to be able to see Nora with the "good" zombies and then her friend Pam who was unaware of any zombies, good or evil, nor where her friend had disappeared to. We got to see both sides of the coin.
Any zombie lover should definitely pick this one up. At the very least, you'll have a gorgeous cover on your bookshelf!
*This ARC was provided to me by the publishers via NetGalley. No money or favours were exchanged for this review.*
Somewhere along the way, zombies became hot.
No, not that kind of hot
This kind of hot!
Lia Habel has taken my two favourite genres, steampunk and zombies, and mixed them together. The results of which should have been a hundred times more fantabulous than anything humanity could ever have hoped to produce up until this point.
With the sole exception of Neil Patrick Harris. Oh! And Terry Crew's abs.
Habel has a lot of potential going for her. This novel had SO much potential. Unfortunately, it was let down in a few key areas. However, I'm assured by the powers-that-be that this was done on purpose to stop humanity from transcending to the next level of consciousness, so I guess that explains a lot.
Habel displays an easy talent for creating fun characters, a diverse world and interesting storyline. Unfortunately, a lot of this was lost through a few rookie mistakes. It was doubly frustrating because I really wanted to enjoy this novel.
First of all, there are five POVs in this novel and it switches between them all rather frequently. Look, there's nothing wrong with multiple POVs. Many people enjoy them. However, what you gain in adding to characterization, you lose in pacing.
Reading a novel is a little like driving a stick. You start in first gear and you move your way up to five as the intensity picks up and heads towards the climax (I so want to put a filthy joke in here, but notice I didn't. RECOGNIZE MY RESTRAINT!) Then you have to move down in gear for your denouement and eventual conclusion.
But POVs tend to equal an automatic change in gear - often downward and it takes the reader awhile to get back up to speed and progress upwards. They have to get mentally pulled out of the storyline they were just following, they have to readjust to the new setting, recall where the current POV last finished and pick back up from there. Most readers can do this without much difficulty - to a point. But too many of these and you have a jerky ride at best, or lose all momentum at worst.
Secondly, the beginning struggles to get past a few big info dumps which makes the first half of this novel cumbersome. Once Habel is finished setting up her world, despite the extraordinary amount of time she takes to do this, she shows a natural flare for storytelling. With explanations out of the way, Habel seemed free to actually pump the novel full of action and excitement - something I greatly enjoyed.
I suppose the biggest issue is getting past the squick factor of romanticizing reanimated flesh.
Oh c'mon, walking corpses have been dominating the catwalk for years! Right, Kate Moss?
Every time I thought I was okay with it, I realized I. Just. Wasn't.
Which, I guess, leads me to my last and final complaint because I found the relationship between the two main protagonists to be... uninspiring, if you know what I mean. And your proper enjoyment of the novel probably hinges on the following question. Do you want to imagine illicit zombie smoochies? And let's keep in mind that Habel's zombie lore isn't that different from normal zombie lore. They're still rotting dead people.
I mean, we're talking about a Chris Brown level of gross.
No, wait. That's insulting to the zombie.
If you can, then strap on your clockwork jetpacks and give this novel a try!
Want to know why this book was awesome? Two words: Victorian zombies. Oh yes, you heard me right.
I think that we can all agree that that alone makes this book a must-read, but there's plenty more to love about Dearly, Departed-- starting with the amazing, multi-dimensional characters. Nora Dearly is the heroine of the story, a proper New-Victorian girl living in the year 2194. The perfect mix of spirited stubbornness and genuine loyalty to her friends, Nora's character was definitely able to stand on its own without leaning on the love-interest. (Although Bram was also amazing, and we'll get to him in just a minute!) I loved that Nora wasn't afraid to speak her mind or fight for those she cares about-- and she had a sense of humor too, which made it a lot of fun to read from her perspective!
Bram was Nora's zombie love interest, and seriously the cutest thing ever. For being a dead guy, he totally beats a lot of other living guys I've read about lately in YA, no joke. His sweet, innocent attachment to Nora and his thoughts about how he can impress her were so freaking adorable, and I also loved his loyalty and bravery as he fights to save his friends, who are dead but still human. And speaking of, Bram's friends and the rest of the Z-Camp zombie crew were all fun, quirky, and a little creepy-- definitely a great mix of characters to read about!
I've heard some other people say this too, but I'm going to repeat it because it was a refreshing change of pace: the romance was not overdone. I feel like in a lot of YA books, the romance overwhelms the rest of the story and even the characters get lost because the only thing you know about them is that they are so head-over-heels in love with each other. But Dearly, Departed had much more of a story behind it, with politics, war, rebellions, social upheaval-- all of which created plot conflict without depending solely on an unbelievable or angsty teen love story. Oh! And also-- there are NO love triangles!! Woohoo, that alone earns this book big ratings in my book!
The world building was fascinatingly dark and beautiful, if a bit overwhelming at times. Lia Habel created a completely new type of setting that was both futuristic and old-fashioned at the same time. I loved reading about New Victoria and the camp where the undead lived, and all the politics surrounding the New Victorians and the Punks really made things seem complete. I felt like there was so much detail that I could really picture the world that the story took place in.
The only major problem that I had with this book was that the narrative was somewhat choppy, due to the fact that it's told through 5 different perspectives: Nora, Bram, Nora's friend Pamela, Nora's father Victor, and evil Captain Wolfe. I liked reading from Nora, Pamela and Bram's perspectives, but I didn't care enough about Victor and Wolfe to even remember what was going on with them, so that made following the entire story kind of tricky. My recommendation, if you do decide to read this book, is to not read it on and off like I did-- there's just too much to keep track of, and if you stop and try picking it up again a bunch of times, you might have to backtrack a lot to figure out where you were. I found that when I was able to sit down for longer periods of time, I was able to get much more out of the story.
Dearly, Departed was a really fun and unique book that crossed over into several different genres. The story itself was dark and creepy, but had light-hearted humor and a cute love story to balance what would otherwise had been a bit of a grim and depressing read. The action and adventure added to the memorable characters and intricate world building. Even though this book took me forever to read, I thought it was worth it, and I know that many YA readers out there are going to really love this one!
This is such a gorgeous cover! I love the monochrome colors, and the graveyard in the background gives the whole book a creepy, eerie feel. Also, how much do you love the outfit Nora's character is wearing?? **I want!** Finally, I think the font type for the title fits in perfectly with the Victorian theme. Altogether, this cover definitely captures the dark, Gothic mood of the book.
Lea @ LC's Adventures in Libraryland