Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance – Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!, by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
Quirk Classics 978-1-59474-344-4, 319 pp. (incl. Reader’s Discussion guide), 2009
Jane Austen’s works have recently come out of copyright, allowing anyone to republish the texts. Some have been a little more innovative. There’s a new film, Pride and Predator, expected to come out in 2010, and, of course, the mash-up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Austen’s original classic interspersed with martial arts and zombie mayhem by Seth Grahame-Smith.
While I’ve read some Jane Austen before, I hadn’t read Pride and Prejudice. ((Or seen the film(s?), for that matter.)) I corrected this, then proceeded to read one of the silliest books I’ve ever read.
Pride and Prejudice: The Original
The basic plot of Pride and Prejudice is well known. It features the Bennet family, Mr. Bennet is the eccentric father, Mrs. Bennet the empty-headed mother and their five daughters. Jane is the eldest, kind-hearted and the fairest, and the second-born, the witty and sensible Elizabeth, is our heroine.
Mrs. Bennet is desperately trying to marry off her daughters to wealthy men, or, indeed, any men, to see them settled as she deems that to be the finest thing.
Enter Mr. Bingley. Mr. Bingley is an attractive, sociable man who becomes besotted with Jane, plus, he’s rich (!). This endears him to Jane, Mrs. Bennet, and indeed all who meet him.
Enter Mr. Darcy. Mr. Darcy is Mr. Bingley’s haughty friend who snubs Elizabeth, and is slandered by an officer everyone deems charming. This endears him to no-one.
Through a variety of circumstances, Jane and Bingley are separated, and Darcy finds himself in love with Elizabeth, who spurns him. Though of course, by the end, both favoured daughters are happily paired.
Reading the original for the first time, after all the fuss over the proper order of introduction, and which seat a favoured guest should receive, I rather thought it could use a few zombies.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Rework
Truthfully, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but Grahame-Smith sets the tone right from the first paragraph:
It is a truth universally acknowledge that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains. Never was this truth more plain than during the recent attacks at Neitherfield Park, in which a household of eighteen was slaughtered and consumed by a horde of the living dead. ((p. 7 – the first page of the story proper.))
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies more or less carries the original plot, but inserts references to the “unmentionables” ((I was utterly unable to shake the association with underwear from my reading of this book, no matter how many times it appeared. And it appeared a lot.)) and the unlikely martial arts training received by the five Bennet daughters.
Indeed, Grahame-Smith cannot go six lines without reference to the Bennet sisters’ “formidable skills in the deadly arts”, or the “sorry undead”. It makes for trying reading. Then again, this isn’t intended as a work of fine literature, or even your usual genre fiction. However it is, admittedly, fun.
Interspersed throughout the book are illustrations by Philip Smiley depicting zombie carnage, and some pretty nifty footwork from Elizabeth, and these are utterly delightful.
At its worst, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a very silly book, but it may bring new readers to Austen’s works, and that is enriching.
Oh dear, more?
After the buzz and success of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Seth Grahame-Smith received a new two-book deal, the first of which is to be a fictional biography of America’s sixteenth president. It will be titled Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
I feel comfortable skipping this one.