Author: Lia Habel
Publisher: Del Rey
Publication Date: October 18, 2011
Series: Gone With the Respiration #1
Links: Amazon | Goodreads
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.
Nora Dearly is a sympathetic heroine. She's a high society orphan who is now stuck with her aunt and attending boarding school. She is to become a lady and marry well. But this is not good enough for her. Right away, the reader can see that Nora is meant for more than a smart match. She watches war documentaries obsessively, she knows how to shoot, her father was a war hero. She's a feisty spitfire who won't submit to marriage or zombies without a fight. As far as zombies go, Bram is basically amazing. He's cute, smart, strong, and apparently pretty durable for a zombie. He is patient, cautious, and gentle in his interactions with Nora, because he wants her to feel comfortable rather than freaked out and afraid. Bram wants her to know that she is safe, that not all zombies are the insane, people-eating kind.
Bram and the rest of Company Z remind the reader what zombies come from - people. They show that there is humanity, personality, intelligence, and feelings in the undead. Pamela is the kitten to Nora's tiger, and probably experiences the most growth throughout the story. She's Nora's best friend, and is meek and lowly by comparison. When the shit hits the fan, Nora is her inspiration to be smart and actionable. There are several antagonists in the story: a couple of human villains and the crazed face-biting zombies, but also prejudice.
The setting is amazing. It is over a hundred years into the future and the world has suffered from climate changes and other disasters that have forced the population to migrate toward the equator. Because of this, governments collapse or become obsolete. Wars break out over territory. New Victoria is one of the societies that emerges, based upon the values of the Victorian Era but with the benefit of computer technologies and modern amenities. There is another faction that the New Victorians battle along their borders. This faction, the Punks, doesn't like the idea of computers running everything, which is where the steampunk element comes in.
The pacing is quick, and there is plenty going on in the plot to make this book unputdownable: missing people must be found, a zombie apocalypse must be stopped, vaccines must be discovered. The story is told in alternating points of view. The primary perspectives are those of Nora, Bram, and Pamela, with a couple of others added in sporadically to provide plot information. My one complaint is that I'm not sure about how successful these extra points of view are. I think that, at least with Wolfe, he could've been left out because his information can be given elsewhere and he's not a very developed character. I think Pamela does need her own POV, because her story is interesting and provides a ground view of what is happening in New London, and she has that depth and growth. Bram's POV is my favorite. His thoughts in reaction to Nora are really amusing at times and he is sincere and easily likable. Nora is also really fun, and Pam is interesting as well. I enjoyed the camaraderie of Nora and Pam, and the impact that Nora's friendship has on Pamela. I also really like the relationship development of Nora and Bram. There is a building of trust that has to happen, especially from Nora. And of course there are obstacles to overcome as well. He's a Punk; she's a royal. He's dead; she's alive. You know how it goes.
I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. I was concerned that it could have ended up being a total freaking mess. But instead I got a pretty amazing story with heartfelt characters and a wonderfully paced plot with a good bit of action, and I liked it a lot. Who knew zombies could be so sexy? I'd recommend it to fans of futuristic settings, Victorian influences, steampunk, zombies, love, and smart characters.