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Dearly, Departed (Gone With the Respiration, #1) - Lia Habel Edit: So, I was bored a while ago and recorded an audio version of this review (with Special Guest Appearance by the birds on my balcony). I haven't read aloud all that much, so apologies for how odd I sound. I kept running out of breath.. At the risk of sounding flip about it, I have to commence this review by saying that I felt Lia Habel’s zombie/horror/post-apocalyptic/steampunk/neo-Victorian novel was rather in need of a corset. To be fair, what appears to be a slightly scattergun approach to genre actually works. Habel melds the elements of her story together convincingly, with noticeable attention to detail and a thought out process to her world-building. However, as much credit as I must give the careful crafting of a complicated premise, the book felt somewhat bloated and loose, particularly around the midsection (no pun intended). Okay, pun a little intended.There is a vast amount of information in form of backstory and world history, the set up of character conflicts, and explanation of the zombie-creating disease, that, while necessary, can get rather tedious. Combined with the multiple (five!) points of view through which the story is told, there is an undeniable sprawl to the book, which occasionally threatens to get out of hand. I’ll be honest and say that at times, I had to fight the urge to start skimming, and the plot didn’t consistently hold my attention. I can see why the additional viewpoints were included, but the successful rendering of all the voices was far from equal. The elaborate world of Dearly Departed is quite admirably drawn and it seems evident from the writing that Habel has a genuine passion for her subject matter and genre. This is not merely a case of dressing up a paranormal romance in a crinoline, shoving in a few references to cogs and automatons and calling it steampunk. Habel has also taken care to portray the finer points of Victoriana, twisting the etiquette and dialogue to suit her futuristic, hybrid world. Whether you can buy this particular concept – that the future world has chosen to revert back to a “golden age” of refined manners and strict social codes including the restriction of female freedoms – is quite a gamble on Habel’s behalf. However, I do think that pending suspension of belief, the resultant world is interesting and rather entertaining. While I enjoyed the majority of the characters, particularly Bram and his comrades at Z Base, be aware that this story largely romaticises zombies (though not to the point of sparkles, thankfully). While the lurching, falling-apart, rotting, brain-consuming variety are certainly a presence – there are also a less offensive type who have retained the majority of their humanity and personalities. Obviously, this is an effort to make the human-zombie love plotline palatable, but zombie purists may have a hard time accepting this version of… zombification, finding it raises more questions than answers (though these may be addressed in future books). This was not an earth-shaking book for me, and I had a few irritations with the way the story was told, including the sheer breadth of viewpoints, which slowed the pacing. (It kind of lurched and shambled around at time, much like the Grays..) There is a lot going on: political intrigue, double-crossing, inventive zombie-slaying, burgeoning love, social commentary, uppity mean girls, tofu-eating, and plentiful gadgetry to be explained.. But at the end of the day, I found the characters and their story mostly engaging and entertaining. In an increasingly popular and crowded genre, Dearly Departed rises boldly to the challenge of presenting something a little different, and most importantly (for me), fun.