Tuesday 9 June 2009

Book Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
Quirk Books

It is a truth universally acknowledged that everything, no matter how awesome it is, improves with the addition of zombies. I have long theorised this, and I still dare anyone to prove me wrong.

Here, Seth Grahame-Smith has taken my theory to its logical conclusion, and applied it to the girliest thing in the world. Can hordes of the walking dead improve a plot that consists almost entirely of women in big hats talking about who they can and can't marry? The answer is...yes. Yes it can.

Rather than going for a one-note joke, Grahame-Smith has actually taken the plot of Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and re-written it set in the middle of a zombie outbreak. Okay, so other changes are made - Jane and Elizabeth Bennett aren't fawning, simpering young women like they are in the original. In this re-telling they're katana blade wielding martial artists. If that doesn't sound awesome, then you're reading the wrong website.

What is possibly the cleverest thing of all is the way that the new zombie outbreak backdrop does (or, often more appropriately, doesn't) interact with the original story. The novel actually trucks along much as the original does for the most part, with very little in the way of changes - these are aristocratic people, after all...and the concerns of the common people are unlikely to bother them. The casual indifference that the main characters feel for the carnage around them is in itself hilarious at times - juxtaposed by the furious outbursts of gore and violence when the two do finally interact.

Unfortunately, it is this that is also it's downside. See, vast chunks of the original story remain unchanged. It's not uncommon for several chapters to go by without any zombie action, and I found myself wondering why I was bothering. Looking back, though, I think that this actually works in its favour - serving as a concrete experiment to discover whether everything truly does improve with the addition of zombies. Put simply, yes...it does.

This book is recommended for a quick chuckle, but you're probably not going to go back to it once it's finished. The hard Austen prose is a little too much for my comfort zone, and the zombie gags are too few and far between to truly provide major entertainment. Ultimately: buy it, read it, forget about it.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence: Several scenes of cannibalism, decapitation, sword-fighting, kung-fu, blood and gore. A little too few and far between. – 8/10

Swearing: None. – 0/10

Sex/Nudity: None. – 0/10

Other points in favour:

An interesting experiment, and it'll be fun to see what they do next. "Wuthering Heights Vs The Wolfman", "Martin Chuzzlewit and Frankenstein"...um...."Dracula Vs Dracula"?

The reading group notes at the end are hilarious

Final score: 7/10 – Great fun, and worth a read, but will be forgotten about by next Summer.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is available now in paperback.

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  1. Oh, crap. I AM reading the wrong website!

    Thanks for pointing that out.

  2. Seems I'm reading the wrong website, too.

    I ended up wishing that the writer could've blended the two very different genres with even an attempt at subtlety. The hilarious indifference mentioned in the review could've been taken a lot further, and the zombies written better in to the story.

    Instead we have Shaolin trained British aristocrat women wielding katanas, which isn't half as awesome as it sounds, and it doesn't even sound too awesome.