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SHAKESPEARE UNDEAD
By LORI HANDELAND (St. Martin's Griffin; 2010)

Fans of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES and ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER will enjoy this goofy faux-historical novel, which details William Shakespeare's career as a vampire. Actually, as elucidated here, Shakespeare died and a vampire took on his identity. Who precisely is this vampire? Well, apparently this centuries-old fiend previously caused some trouble in Transylvania...

     This concept helps explain the incredible breadth of Shakespeare's output, which many scholars now contend was actually the work of several different writers. Also explained herein is the identity of the Bard's so-called "Dark Lady": a zombie hunting babe named Kate who’s good with a sword and isn’t afraid to give the living dead what-for. It's not only vampires that are loose in this novel's late-1500s London, you see, as flesh-eating zombies also litter the land. Most people mistake the living dead for plague victims, but Kate and Shakespeare know the truth.

     These two initiate a passionate romance, even though Kate is unaware of her lover's true nature. He’s understandably reluctant to reveal that nature to her, and so is stuck with a moral conundrum.

     There's also the problem of the individual who caused the zombies to rise. This person, it turns out, is very much at large, and hostile to our heroes. It all winds up in a theater wherein Shakespeare is expected to emote--no big deal, except for the fact that the audience is packed with zombies!

     There's nothing too deep here, but the novel accomplishes its purpose: it's lively, funny and agreeably gory, and a fast, easy read overall. Author Lori Handeland is clearly well versed in Shakespeare's work and provides clever variations on many of his most popular themes, with nods to HAMLET, THE TEMPEST and, most prominently, ROMEO AND JULIET, whose conclusion is directly aped in Handeland's perversely upbeat ending. Also referenced are THE WIZARD OF OZ, STAR WARS and THE SIXTH SENSE(!), whose plots the undead Shakespeare, in one of the book’s more outlandish touches, somehow foresees.

     

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