Friday, September 23, 2011

Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

Reviewed by Connie

Published: 2009

It's about: Half the original text of Pride and Prejudice, half zombie parody, Grahame-Smith adapts a classic story about marriage and the rules of civilized society to feature the excitement and humor of managing an epidemic of brain-sucking zombies. In the author's words: "You have this fiercely independent heroine, you have this dashing heroic gentleman, you have a militia camped out for seemingly no reason whatsoever nearby, and people are always walking here and there and taking carriage rides here and there . . . It was just ripe for gore and senseless violence. From my perspective anyway."

I thought: I had an interesting experience with this book. As I mentioned, much of the original text of Pride and Prejudice remains in tact, so as I was reading, I would get caught up in enjoying a dearly classic love story and forget that zombies would soon show their ugly faces. Their sudden appearance would catch me off guard and incite varying emotions. At times, the effect was hilarious, leading me to laugh out loud at the ridiculous juxtaposition of Austen's elevated writing about elevated society and not-so-bright, brain-sucking zombies. At other times, I became annoyed by the interjection, feeling stubbornly attached to the original text and resenting the intrusion. In all fairness, however, I think the difference in reaction had much to do with my mood while reading it.

As one who is quite fond of the original novel, I did take issue with a couple of the plot changes -- such as to Darcy's first proposal, which Grahame-Smith turns into an all-out fight to the near-death between Elizabeth and Darcy. Yes, in the original, they do spar with words, so to speak, but I don't know how I feel about having Elizabeth smash Darcy into Mr. Collins' mantel.

"Elizabeth and Darcy laughed at the sight, and for a moment,
resolved to keep walking -- as the zombies had failed to take notice of them.
 But, sharing a glance and a smile, the pair realised they had stumbled
onto their first opportunity to fight side by side. And so they did."
Other changes work surprisingly well, such as portraying Lady Catherine de Bourgh as a celebrated zombie slayer who looks down upon Elizabeth's lowly training in China -- everyone knows the best dojos are in Japan. The warrior mindset is actually quite consistent with the fierceness of Austen's Lady Catherine, and Grahame-Smith's intense battle scene between Lady Catherine and Lizzie when she forbids Lizzie to marry Darcy doesn't seem to be a far cry from Austen's original depiction of Lady Catherine.

Plus, there are delightful illustrations that feature Elizabeth kicking butt, like this one at the end, when Lizzie and Darcy have finally become engaged and happen upon a nest of zombies feeding on cauliflower they have mistaken for brains (I mentioned they weren't very bright).

Overall, I would call this a highly entertaining and clever read that served me two purposes: (1) it allowed me to enjoy (much of) a favorite novel over again and (2) provided some much-needed levity to a currently hectic life.

Verdict: Stick it on the shelf

Reading Recommendations: If you are not a person who would enjoy reading the original Pride and Prejudice, my guess is that you may not enjoy this book either.

Warnings: scenes of kick-butt lady-warrior action and gore, including the following:
She delivered a vicious blow, penetrating his rib cage and withdrew her hand-- with the ninja's still beating heart in it. As all but Lady Catherine turned away in disgust, Elizabeth took a bite, letting the blood run down her chin and onto her sparring gown.
Favorite excerpts:

The changes in this conversation between Lady Catherine and Elizabeth I found particularly funny. First, read the original, then read the Grahame-Smith version.

'Your mother should have taken you to town every spring for the benefit of the masters [of drawing].'
'My mother would have had no objection, but my father hates London.'
'Has your governess left you?'
'We never had any governess.'
'No governess! How is that possible? Five daughters brought up at home without a governess! I never heard of such a thing.'

Grahame-Smith version:
'Had your father more means, he should have taken you to Kyoto.'
'My mother would have had no objection, but my father hates Japan.'
'Have your ninjas left you?'
'We never had any ninjas.'
'No ninjas! How was that possible? Five daughters brought up at home without any ninjas! I never heard of such a thing.'

"[Mr. Bingley] scarcely needed an invitation to stay for supper; and before he went away, an engagement was formed, chiefly through his own and Mrs. Bennet's means, for his coming next morning to shoot the first autumn zombies with her husband."

What I'm reading next: Eleanor Roosevelt's Life of Soul Searching and Self-Discovery by Ann Atkins