“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in want of brains must be in want of more brains.”

November 15, 2009

book pride and prejudice and zombies

I just finished the latest Jane Austen novel.  Not that she’s writing from the grave (although, come to think of it, that would be a good subject in light of this latest development); she simply has a new co-author, Seth Grahame-Smith who’s come out with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a mashup of the classic tale with the classic zombie details of gore, beheaddings and rapidly rotting malefactors.  The premise is simply that over the last 50 years England has been terrorized by a plague of zombie undead attacking the countryside.  Gentlemen and Ladies alike have trained in the Orient to be able to fight off these attacks.  Other than that the plot is the same.  The book is about three quarters original text with occasional interventions and digressions to include musket fire from speeding coaches and daggers snatched from ankle holsters in order to repel the undead from a public event.  The contrast is very amusing.  For example, Mr. Bennett, in his opening statement of intent not to visit Mr. Bingley, dismisses his daughters as “silly and ignorant” but recommends Lizzy as having “something more of the killer instinct than her sisters.”  Darcy’s definition of an accomplished young woman is likewise familiar and yet … strange.

“A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing and the modern languages; she must be well trained in the fighting styles of the Kyoto masters and the modern tactics and weaponry of Europe.  And besides all this she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions or the word will be but half-deserved.  All this she must possess, and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”

For the most part its very funny indeed.  It pretty much garuntees laughing out loud to any fan of Austen who’s familiar with all the classic text.  I’m not sure how far it would go with someone who wasn’t already a fan however.  The main weaknesses are the non-zombie additions to the text; some unnecessary internal monologue for Lizzie (annoyingly rendered in quotation marks) and the odd bit of raunchiness thrown in for no apparent reason.  There isn’t enough of the latter to make it feel like an intentional shift in the tone of the book.  Its still a comedy of manners.  So the occasional double entendre on “balls” and the Lizzy’s reference to snugness of trousers as opposed to “his beautiful grounds at Pemberly” as the origin of her affection for Darcy just come off as weird rather than funny.  All that aside, however its a great idea and I laughed out often as I went through it.

Now we just sit back and wait for the movie – which should be an absolute gas.  Come to think of it perhaps the latest P&P adaptation had this kind of zombie marital arts training in mind when they continually costumed Kiera in those ridiculous boots.  How forward looking!

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