Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
By Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
Synopsis (goodreads): Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, is an expanded
edition of the beloved Jane Austen novel featuring all-new scenes of
bone-crunching zombie mayhem. As our story opens, a mysterious plague
has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton and the dead are
returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe
out the zombie menace, but she's soon distracted by the arrival of the
haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy.
What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of
civilized sparring between the two young lovers and even more violent
sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield as Elizabeth wages war against
hordes of flesh-eating undead.
I'm sure I've mentioned once or twice on this blog or in the comments of other blogs my dislike for Jane Austen, well the dislike I felt after passing out from reading a chapter of Pride and Prejudice about 7 years ago. However because everyone raves about her so much I thought I'd better give it a try, but if I was going to do that then why not amp up the action a little and read the altered version by Seth Grahame-Smith that features zombies. Surely that'll keep me awake...right?
So what did I think? Well the zombies were an interesting addition. I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this novel, nor how exactly the zombie storyline would be woven into the original tale. For the most part the splicing of the old with the new worked fairly well although there were the occasional zombie reference or alteration of the original text that I found to be a little messy and awkward, but I guess that would be expected from a feat such as this. It did seem to remain fairly true to the original, however as I previously admitted I haven't read the original I've only seen the BBC adaptation (which I believe to be quite close) and I certainly recognised not only scenes but entire chunks of dialogue from the series in the book.
Before I began reading I had wondered about the author's intention with the zombie plot, whether it'd seem contrived or gimmicky, the result of a guy merely trying to cash in on the zombie trend and make the most out of the freedom of public domain texts. Surprisingly though I thought it worked quite well in reinforcing Austen's original character traits and themes (again this is an assumption made from the BBC series and the general talk I've head). I thought this was so especially regarding Elizabeth, she now has a superior external strength, talent and ruthlessness to her character which I think better exemplifies her qualities of uniqueness, strength and courage that Austen had originally depicted her with.
Often having seen the movie, or in this case series, before reading the book ruins my ability to visualise the characters how I'd like to, however either it's been long enough since I've seen the series for it not to overshadow, or the slight alterations Seth Grahame-Smith made to the characters were great enough to change them from their depiction in the series. I had no problem letting the book spark my imagination in terms of character appearance and accent etc except in the case of Mr Darcy. Perhaps because of the universal acknowledgement that Colin Firth is Mr Darcy, I couldn't visualise anyone else and it was only his voice I ever heard saying Mr Darcy's lines. This wasn't a problem though, it actually added to the comedy quite substantially to imagine Colin Firth running around in a suit and top hat decapitating zombies with a katana.
I did enjoy this book, but at times I did really have to force myself to keep reading, setting myself page goals I had to reach before I put it down. I don't think I'll be picking up the original, at least not anytime soon. I think this was close enough for me to grasp the intentions of Austen without having to fall asleep one more trying to read it. I've heard complaints from Austen fans that they found this gimmicky and didn't feel like they needed to read the whole thing and I'd say they'd probably be right. If you know the story and read it often the addition of the zombies might seem quaint and comical at the start but it doesn't alter the plot enough for it to really engage someone who knows the book well, or at least that's how I (the Austen novice) feel.
That said the book is well written and for the most part I though Seth Grahame-Smith did an amazing job seamlessly combining his words with Austen, although once more I have to remind you I haven't read the original so an Austen fan might be completely opposed to everything I say here! The zombies gave it that push of action I really needed so that I could get through it because this is a book from an era I tend to steer clear of, in a writing style I tend to dislike on a subject I can't stand, so the fact I got through it (even with the help of zombies) is quite remarkable to me!