Friday, March 25, 2011

Dawn of the Dead: The Novel

1978, St. Martin's Press

by George A. Romero and Susanna Sparrow
1978, 1st edition
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
ISBN: Hardcover 9780312183936

1989; paperback edition

George A. Romero and Susanna Sparrow's novelization of the 1978 fright film classic, Dawn of the Dead, is a much sought after book by horror collectors and zombie fans alike... and for good reason! The novel takes us even further into the minds of the four protagonists (Peter, Roger, Fran, and Steve) attempting to survive an apocalyptic menace. The need to adapt both mentally and physically to the current situation, places a burdening strain on the very relationships within the group. When it comes to survival amidst a sea of flesh-eating corpses, being the weak link is NOT an option and what goes on through the minds of the individual four may even surprise and shock die-hard fans who have seen the movie numerous times.

What makes this novel special is Romero's involvement in writing the book. In many respects, this helps justify some of the minor differences from the movie, although, overall, it remains true to the U.S. theatrical release. Those who have seen the film may note that the character of Peter is less sympathetic to his former SWAT Team colleague, Roger, who is suffering severely from an infected injury caused by the cannibalistic walking dead. Additionally, we are also introduced to a fifth member of the group -- Adam! -- a young puppy Fran has managed to rescue and keeps as a pet.

Back cover - paperback edition

Comparatively, Romero and Sparrow's novel is much darker than the, sometimes, satiric humor on the screen. In fact, the zombies portrayed in these pages seem much more creepy as they silently watch their prey before they slink out of hiding and stalk their intended victims. The authors manage to escalate the zombie menace threat further by making them all the more vicious and deadly.

A particular scene that works better in the book than it did in the actual film, is Roger and Peter's attempt to hot-wire and move large semi trucks to use as barricades for the large shopping mall they're holding up in. At this point in the book, the living dead are at their most vicious and the suspense builds to such levels of intensity that the reader will find himself or herself greedily consuming page after page to find out what will happen next!

George A. Romero's film, Dawn of the Dead, was a direct sequel to his earlier film, Night of the Living Dead (1968). It should also be of interest to zombie fans that John Russo (co-scriptwriter of NOLD) also wrote his own literary sequel to Night, entitled Return of the Living Dead (1978; Dale Books). Return was the inspiration for the making of the 1985 hit movie of the same name, although the storylines are completely different from one another.

Sphere; paperback edition

2011; St. Martin's Griffin

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