Nora Dearly is one of the New Victorians, living in what was formerly South America following a massive global meltdown and disintegration of most of the world’s major powers. The New Victorians are at war with the Punks, a more savage people who do not want to live according to the prim and proper rules that emulate 19th century England. Nora is just coming out of a year of mourning for her father when she is captured by what turn out to be zombies. That’s when she finds out that although her father is dead, he is still walking and talking. She also starts to fall for Bram, one of the undead soldiers caring for her. However, Nora’s father is missing, zombies are invading Nora’s town, and her best friend is being forced to protect her family while trying to find a suitor. Nora’s got big problems, and a massive zombie outbreak is just one part of the equation.
Dearly, Departed had a lot of fun elements to it. It’s a post-apocalyptic, steampunk zombie novel, which could have been a really good time. It fell flat for me, though. There was a bit too little action and a bit too much reveling in the cleverness of itself. In a way, it reminded me of a work of fan fiction, written in an attempt to honor the genres. At first I was having fun, but after a while the pacing of the book wore me down.
Part of my problem with the pacing was that the story would rotate narrators each chapter. Narrators included Nora, her father, Bram, Bram’s superior, and Nora’s best friend Pam. I had the same problem I have in a lot of books that alternate narrator: they each had the same voice. I’d have to go back to the first page of the chapter to gain my footing in who was speaking, which would have been apparent without the chapter title if the characters sounded more different from one another.
I did enjoy Nora’s relationships with the characters around her, though. Bram’s a zombie, so there will always be an “ick” factor in them getting together, but he was a stand-up guy and I didn’t mind the romance that developed between the two of them. Nora also has a complex but happy relationship with Pam, a lower class scholarship girl with her sights on elevating her family’s social standing. The girls stick together and stick up for one another, which is as it should be.
Overall, Dearly, Departed had some memorable characters and fun moments, but relied too much on its genres to carry it rather than moving forward because of its substance and action. I do think it will find its fans, but it just was not the book for me.