L.M. Ironside's Reviews > Dearly, Departed

Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel
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I made an honest attempt to read Dearly, Departed but had to put it down with a sigh of relief about half way through.

This is one of those books I just can't figure out. Why did this get published? Why wasn't more heavy editing done? Why is this kind of writing encouraged in this industry? I can't fathom it.

The problems with this novel are legion, but I think the biggest problem, and the most offensive to me, is the feeling I get in reading it: That as long as it can be slapped into the YA category, anything goes. This book, like so many others recently published in the YA genre, left me with this oily sensation that writers and publishers alike don't believe young adults (or the grown adults who like to read YA) have any discernment -- that you can literally stick anything at all on a YA shelf in Barnes & Noble, give it a vaguely spooky-dark-looking cover with a brooding female prominently featured, and it will sell. This kind of attitude about YA readers is so disrespectful. It rather turns my stomach.

But hey -- the publishers aren't wrong. It sells, doesn't it? Look how many people are eating this book up, just because it has the trend of the moment in it: Zombies. Woo. Another zombie book. As with vampires several years ago, there are lots of people out there who will literally buy and praise ANYTHING as long as it has zombies in it. The actual quality of the storytelling, the probability of the circumstances, the development of the characters, and the consistency and quality of the prose mean nothing. All that matters is zombies. Throw in a steampunk-esque setting and you've got a double-whammy of carelessness and cluelessness turned into baffling success.

I just don't get it.

Since this book is set in a future time, I can see certain strange, uniquely modern slang terms holding over, virtually unchanged, for a couple hundred years. After all, the word "cool" standing in for "desirable" or "admirable" is still being used in basically the same context as it's been used since at least the early 1900s. But it does strain credibility far too much to think that the language of Ye Olde Internets ("facepalm," "unicorn-fart special," etc.) would hold over unchanged as an entire, massive, intact lexicon, unaltered and still fully in use, nearly two hundred years in the future, when most of modern technology has been destroyed. It wouldn't have taken much effort for Lia Habel to come up with similar, plausibly altered-by-time's-passage slang terms. And a little effort in that area would have gone a very long way toward building some goodwill between writer and reader. As it is, the lazy use of language reads like a loogie in the eye of the hapless reader. It's just insulting.

Aside from the bizarrely unoriginal use of language, there is really no differentiation in the point of view characters' voices. The entire book could have been told in one character's viewpoint and it would have read the same way. There was so little actual craft deployed in the writing of this novel that I felt like I was reading a rough draft.

All that said, the premise for the setting was intriguing. I got the overall impression that Habel could be a really good writer with fully developed craft given a little more time, less praise, and more constructive criticism. She clearly has some good ideas (even if zombies are way played out) and a vivid imagination. I almost feel as if Habel has been victimized by her publishers, who threw a contract at her, eager to get anything zombie-related into the hands of the zombies who only care that a book has zombies in it, and don't care about anything else. This book needed a lot more development and revision before it was ready for print, but to print it went, and "BRAINS! BRAINS!" the fans all cry as they line up to buy more in this poorly crafted series. Publishers: 1. Lia Habel: 0. Kind of sad when you look at it that way.

I love it when a good author succeeds in the face of trying circumstances. But I only love it when that success is deserved. Ms. Habel will get there with time, but she's not there yet, and her editors aren't helping her right now. This book's many problems prove that she doesn't understand the craft well enough yet to build a successful career -- once the zombie fad finally gets its head cut off and it stops twitching and biting at all of us, I don't see much chance for her if she continues on as she's been going. It's up to her editors to help guide her toward better writing if they want to publish her zombie-filled ideas. But it sure seems, based on the confusingly sloppy state of this book, that it was rushed to press just to satisfy the masses. Oh, Bottom Line, you bitch of a mistress, you.

I hope the author is able to recover from this early-career gaffe and go on to publish works people will take seriously -- people other than those in the all-zombies, all the time crowd, I mean. Though it will probably require a change in pen name.

Sometimes that's just how this industry goes.

P.S. If you want to read a series that has a steampunk setting and deals with zombies AND is very well-written by an author who really knows her business, I recommend Boneshaker by Cherie Priest.Boneshaker
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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Denae You've been warned. I wash my hands of this. ;)

message 2: by L.M. (new) - rated it 1 star

L.M. Ironside Bwahahahahhahahaaaaa!!!

A friend of mine got a free copy at her local publishing conference. She promises she will read it and give me a full report soon.

message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

You can't say you weren't warned :P

message 4: by Richard Reviles Censorship (last edited Jan 10, 2012 05:13PM) (new)

Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways *heavy sigh*

I wish it was otherwise, but the entertainment biz has always done this type of thing, and with much these results. Look at Peyton Place...it convinced that dreadful hack Grace Metalious she could write! She even said of her (quite correct) critics, "If I'm a lousy writer, then an awful lot of people have lousy taste."

Yeup. Sure do.

ETA and this was in 1956!

message 5: by Ashley (new)

Ashley You have just given words to one of my biggest problems with most of contemporary YA. It's insulting that so many people are allowed to publish what must basically be first drafts.

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