Exciting book 2 in a steampunk, dystopian trilogy
Dearly, Beloved (Gone With the Respiration, #2) by Lia Habel
Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: September 25, 2012
Publisher: Del Rey
Source: Amazon Vine
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
This book is the sequel to Dearly Departed (Gone with the Respiration #1) by Lia Habel. It is book 2 in a dystopian trilogy, pitched by the publisher as "steampunk romance meets zombie thriller." The publishers also bill this book as a story of "star-crossed lovers," which it certainly is. You don't get a much bigger romantic conflict than that the male lead is suffering from "the Laz," a disease that is slowly turning him into a zombie, one of the "walking dead." I myself view this series as "Beauty and the Beast" meets steampunk meets zombie apocalypse.
This story takes place in 2195. A hundred and fifty years prior, the Americas endured a civilization-crushing convergence of man-made and natural disasters, including plagues, volcanic eruptions, rising seas and a civil war in the U.S. in which both sides nuked each other. The small fraction of survivors in North and Central America surged as displaced refugees far into South America and warred with its inhabitants for control of their land and natural resources. Years later, the victors, many of whom were presumably native speakers of Spanish and Portuguese, decided along with their English-speaking compatriots that the most desirable society to form out of the rubble of a destroyed world would be an English-speaking one that reinstated the customs of Victorian England of the late nineteenth century, including hot, cumbersome clothing worn in a tropical climate and a highly stratified social order. They chose to emulate this time and place in history because they admired its "conservative" values--with the notable exceptions that lesbianism (and presumably male homosexuality) were not frowned upon, and little girls were allowed to play, unchaperoned, with little boys who were not members of their family.
In book 1, Nora Dearly, who is somehow immune to the Laz, the infection that creates zombies, was kidnapped by non-evil zombies, led by her father, whom she had thought was dead but is alive and leading the zombies. She also fell in love with a young zombie, Bram (Abraham) Griswold, a captain in a zombie company called, naturally enough, company Z. This book continues a couple of months after the previous book. New London has endured a zombie plague and been forced to realize that people can survive the disease and retain their intelligence and moral compass. A vaccine against the Laz seems to work, but unfortunately a new strain has emerged. In addition, Nora is threatened by a rejected suitor; her best friend is in danger, and she is dealing with the social reality of dating a zombie.
There is no sexual activity in this story (much as in Twilight) because it is dangerous to Nora to exchange bodily fluids (much like AIDS) with Bram. This forces the author to create a strong romance entirely based on unconsummated sexual tension--not a bad thing at all.
This story is told from multiple points of view, but there is no confusion because chapter headings make clear whose head we are in. I personally enjoy having various perspectives to broaden the story. There is mystery, action, and strong romance--something for readers of all ages.
I rate this book as follows:
Hero (Bram): 4
Fantasy World-Building: 3
Action-Adventure Plot: 4
Romantic Subplot: 3