Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
|Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A great mix of zombie killing and ballroom dancing. I can hear the purists howling from here (quite like the undead they sound, too) but this remains a joyous rewrite, if not indeed an improvement.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: April 2009|
|Publisher: Quirk Books US|
Ah, the benefits to a good book of a classic first line. 'Call me Ishmael.' 'It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.' Who can forget Iain Banks' 'It was the day my grandmother exploded'? Or those timeless words by Jane Austen, 'It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.'
Well, alright, those might have been authored by Seth Grahame-Smith, but does that matter? I am reviewing one book, here, and that is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. If truth be told I have no interest in the original Austen, and I refuse to compare and contrast the two texts to see what has been changed. The delight of this mash-up, this literary remix, is that you never feel compelled to do so.
Our more contemporary author has seen fit to take the classic text of P&P, and change a word here, alter a death here, and include countless zombies everywhere. In this Hertfordshire, and elsewhere, a horrid plague is bringing the dead back to stalk the earth. The Bennett sisters, after years of hard-wrought physical training somewhere in the Chinese mountains, class as some of the best killers in the country, and woe betide any of the undead that get in the way of their balls, their flirtations, and their working out whether Darcy is an annoying man or a handsome bit of rough.
Whatever language has been added is perfectly in keeping. Sometimes you feel the author(s) losing restraint, and the zombies may be called manky dreadfuls. Many other times they can settle on unmentionables". But, whatever the terminology, the whole layer of world added to Austen's rings perfectly true, on the whole. Hardly does the text turn too far from the original, to offer something grand guignol, or flowing with blooded drabbles of zombie corpse, and in balance you could easily read this and imagine the imminent movie version as being too staid and close to what we have seen countless versions of before.
If anything, however, this book suffers slightly from that same problem. The inferior bits clearly are down to Austen, and the tiresome men her females are circulating around with. I will be shouted down as a philistine, an ignoramus of the highest order if I say this is an improvement on the original, but I won't be shy in suggesting that.
This never reads like a quick rough job at creating a gift book. The touches of Romero have been layered on subtly and with craft, and whatever your opinion of the original, I think you have to consider that this volume reads perfectly sensibly as a mixture of high society and lowly undead. It's all down to the matter-of-fact horror voice added to the social satire. Those who have an intimate knowledge of the Austen may much more easily point out how things - and how few things - have been changed, and I suspect to them this will seem like the result of a simple literary parlour game, but for me and many others this just reads like a surprisingly comfortable blend of two incredibly diverse styles of writing.
If you agree with Darcy when he declares I cannot comprehend the neglect of a family library in such as days as these, then neglect yours no further and add this to it. Or wait until November 2009 for the deluxe edition, which has added extras, but only diminishes my choice for cover artwork of the year.
It's clear there's only one way to go from here. Sense and Sensibility and Sea-Monsters.
You can read more book reviews or buy Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.