by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
Publisher: Quirk Classics, 2009
Genre: Fiction, Horror/Classic
Where I Got It: Courtesy of Quirk Books
My Rating: 3.5 stars
As the subtitle succinctly states, this book is “The classic Regency romance—now with ultraviolent zombie mayhem.” When I first saw this unholy marriage of Jane Austen and zombies, I thought it was a joke—simply a funny idea for which someone mocked up a terrific book cover. (Just look at that cover!) Once I realized it was an actual book, it was hard to imagine how it might read. Yet it seemed wrong to read a mash-up of a famous book when you’ve never read the famous book in its original and “pure” form. So, when the book was first released, I passed it by—determined to read “unsullied” Jane Austen first. As you may recall, I read and reviewed Pride and Prejudice last year (in the guise of a Valley Girl no less) so I now felt “qualified” to read this version. So when Quirk Books offered me a review copy, I jumped at the chance—much like a zombie might jump an unsuspecting traveler along the road to Meryton.
Not quite knowing what to expect, I went in with an open mind—curious to see how Grahame-Smith would mix in the zombie action. The first line of the book sets the tone quite well:
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.
Staying true to Austen’s general story line and prose while cleverly and seamlessly working in a mysterious plague that has left England overrun with the living dead, Grahame-Smith has a ton of fun recasting the well-known Austen characters as zombie hunters (the Bennet sisters), soon-to-be zombies (poor Charlotte Lucas!), and horrors beyond all imagining (Mrs. Bennet, whose character is left virtually untouched). As we see the romance between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet play out, we are also treated to several scenes of Elizabeth’s kick-ass fighting abilities. Her takedown of famed zombie hunter Lady Catherine De Bourgh would rival any Tarantino fight scene in terms of choreography, violence and gore.
Is it wrong that I enjoyed the zombie version of Pride and Prejudice more than the original? Probably. I’m sure all the Austen purists out there shudder at the fact of this book’s existence. However, I liked it. It cracked me up, and the zombie storyline did make for a more exciting and fast-paced read. As it says on the back of the book jacket: “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies transforms a masterpiece of world literature into something you’d actually read.” However, the purist in me recoils at the idea of someone ONLY reading this version and not giving Austen’s book a try too. But I console myself in imagining this book as a “gateway drug” to classic literature. And would it really be wrong to expose reluctant readers to Austen only via mash-ups? Who am I to say? All I know is that I thought this book was rather well done. That being said, I don’t feel compelled to read the prequel or sequel. (Sorry, Quirk … although I might consider checking out Android Karenina, after I’ve read the original of course.)
The other aspect of this book I enjoyed was the Reader’s Discussion Guide at the end. Consider these questions:
Some critics have suggested that the zombies represent the authors’ views toward marriage—an endless curse that sucks the life out of you and just won’t die. Do you agree, or do you have another opinion about the symbolism of the unmentionables?
Does Mrs. Bennet have a single redeeming quality?
Some scholars believe that the zombies were a last-minute addition to the novel, requested by the publisher in a shameless attempt to boost sales. Others argue that the hordes of living dead are integral to Jane Austen’s plot and social commentary. What do you think? Can you imagine what this novel might be like without the violent zombie mayhem?
I suspect you already know if you want to read this book or not. However, if you’re curious or intrigued by the concept but not sure whether to make the leap, I’m here to tell you it was surprisingly well-done and enjoyable. Go ahead … read it. You’ll like it, and you’ll pick up the handy tip that you can distract zombies by laying out cauliflower (which they mistake for fresh brains).