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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Pride and Prejudice and Zombies » User review

A book originally written by Jane Austen and adapted by Seth Grahame-Smith

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The zombie apocalypse has never been so hilariously well-mannered

  • May 8, 2009
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Rating:
+4

It's hard to imagine a 2009 title more anticipated than "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies." The concept is nothing short of brilliant, combining Jane Austen's classic novel of society and romance with "ultraviolent zombie mayhem." The possibilities seemed endless, ranging from half the main characters having their heads cracked open to windows of a manor house cracked open with decaying fists. Indeed, it seemed like something that could go so over the top it would make Austen herself rise from the grave in complaint.

So does it measure up to that promise of madcap zombie fun, or does the gimmick burn out less than half-way through? The answer is neither – but that turns out to be to the book's benefit. Rather than sacrifice a work of literature to Internet memes, "Zombies" actually spends more time with the original story than expected, reshaping the characters but never excising the plotlines. It's not what most readers would expect going in, but in many ways it makes for a much better book, regardless of whether you favor Jane Austen or George Romero.

For the uninitiated, the original "Pride and Prejudice" is the story of Elizabeth Bennett, the most willful of a country gentleman's five daughters. Continually badgered by her mother's desire to marry her off and the flighty attitudes of her younger sisters, she finds a new target for her ire after the haughty Mr. Darcy dismisses her at a ball. As the two continue to interact, they find their terse reactions might be only a cover, masking an attraction that must overcome pride and social circumstances.

The new version keeps the original narrative, but adds a twist in that the countryside is crawling with the living dead. For the past five decades England has been besieged by hordes of the "unmentionables," which rise from their graves in tattered suits and gowns to swarm manor houses and crack open the skulls of those within. Elizabeth and Darcy, along with several other characters, are now highly trained warriors who are capable of decapitating their enemies and feel no qualms about setting the bodies ablaze.

What is interesting about this undead invasion is that while they retain many of the more fearful aspects – passing zombie infection through bites, pitiful moaning and feasting on brains – it never becomes the overarching concern of the story. Most of the recent efforts in the genre have focused on the apocalyptic aspect, but the world of "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" still considers social norms and inheritance the greatest of concerns, and Austen's verbal sparring is supplemented by actual combat rather than replaced.

Keeping the language turns out to be the smartest decision the book could make, as mixing the free indirect speech of the original book with nightmarish threats makes it funnier than any gore-splattered zombie film. The precise verbal patterns see characters encountering the "sorry stricken," weapons are drawn and they are "promptly dispatched to Hell," and given "a proper Christian beheading." A variety of incongruously humorous scenarios ensue, such as when two zombies slaughter an entire staff of servants in the kitchen and the party's host can only observe "a delightful array of tarts, exotic fruits, and pies, sadly soiled by blood and brains, and thus unusable.

The subtleness of the zombie humor keeps the altered narrative going, but the book's real strength is in the indirect changes the threat provides. Elizabeth and her sisters have been trained in the deadly arts by Master Liu of China, and are capable of walking on their hands, administering cuts of shame in times of failure and fight with "a razor-sharp dagger with one hand, the other tucked modestly into the small of her back." They and other characters have grown up with the zombie threat, and as a consequence match breeding with battle skills.

With the characters tooled in this fashion, it enlivens the original's conflicts considerably. Elizabeth sees Darcy's slights not merely social but an insult to her warrior honor, and vows to take his head after their first meeting, and when he confesses his lover her first reaction is to kick his head into a fireplace mantel. Lady Catherine, the preeminent noble in the book, is respected as much for her elite guard of ninjas as her extreme wealth, and Darcy's dispute with Mr. Wickham is less about money and more about severe beatings. The moves seem to make the characters more interesting, as they can act on their feelings rather than just talking.

In the end, the real victor of this parody appears to be Jane Austen herself, as her book has been reanimated in a way not even Keira Knightly could pull off. Fans of the original will be both taken aback and charmed by their beloved characters talking casually about ripping out an enemy's heart, and those who haven't read it before will be intrigued as to how the story could work without. "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" has not only had a brilliant idea, but handled it in the most competent fashion.

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May 08, 2009
This sounds so cool! Did you see the film? What did you think of it? Do you agree with @audiotaco's review?
 
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More Pride and Prejudice and Zombie... reviews
review by . July 09, 2010
I tried my best to appreciate Jane Austen.  I was an English major in college, after all; it is practically a requirement for graduation.  I took a seminar, I read the cannon cover to cover, the only book I liked was Mansfield Park because of the underlying allusions to female slavery. My modern  ideals placed Elizabeth Bennet so far removed from myself that I could not fall in love with what has been called one of the best romance novels of all time.  It was just not happening, …
review by . June 25, 2010
Who Knew Zombies and Austen Could Be So Hilarious?
I have been an Austen fan since I was a youngster. Never, in all my wildest dreams, did I imagine that someone would someday mix the living dead with Austen's literature. As I read through this book, I was astounded by the level of humour buried within the original text that was enhanced by the modern insertions. I laughed out loud again and again.      I highly recommend this novel for Austen lovers or anyone who is looking for a good chuckle. Or for anyone who loves zombies …
review by . July 12, 2010
     I had never read Jane Austin.  My husband made me read Bronte (and how does a crazy guy in a moor rate a love story anyway/), but never the Lady Jane.  When I read the title Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I realized it was time to break down and see what the fuss was about.      It was suggested to me that I read both Pride and Prejudice and the Zombie version at the same time.  I decided to go with the original first and work my way over …
Quick Tip by . July 17, 2010
This is the closest I've came to reading Jane Austin so can't comment on the original story. However it does seem to lend itself to the inclusion of the unmentionable zombies very well. It's almost as if Jane Austin perceived that one day her book would be adapted and left the story open to zombies.
Quick Tip by . July 14, 2010
What ajoke. Simpley disgusting. Why would someone destroy a perfectly written classic?
Quick Tip by . July 13, 2010
Not nearly as fun or well-written as I'd hoped. I love both the original book AND zombie pop culture, but this just doesn't do justice to either.
Quick Tip by . July 12, 2010
If you haven't read the original, much of the humor of this book will not be the same! I'm not a zombie lover but I found this book quite entertaining.
Quick Tip by . July 05, 2010
ok, not great - better than the old plain version!
Quick Tip by . July 05, 2010
Most people say 'take it lightly' or 'this is just for laughs' and tell you to read this book. The honest truth is though, it's shallow. The only depth or creativity in the book comes from rewriting Jane Austin. It's a pathetic attempt at comedy from one who is incapable of actually writing a whole novel.
Quick Tip by . July 04, 2010
I love Jane Austen. And I thought this would be a fun read. But I just couldn't get into it. I'd recently reread Pride & Prejudice, and it just felt like I was reading it again, with zombie bits thrown in random places. Which is exactly what it was. It was a cute idea, but it didn't keep my attention for the length of the whole book, so I just gave up.
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Les Chappell ()
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Member Since: May 8, 2009
Last Login: Jun 12, 2009 10:28 PM UTC
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Author: Jane Austen, Seth Grahame-Smith

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