Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a mash-up of Jane Austen's classic, Pride and Prejudice, and a zombie conflict. Grahame-Smith effectively weaves in the zombie attacks and how the Bennet clan dispatches them with skill. A majority of this novel is Austen's words, but the dialogue and descriptions that are modified to accommodate zombies are done with aplomb.
"'My dear Miss Elizabeth, I have the highest opinion in the world in your excellent judgment in all matters within the scope of your understanding, particularly in the slaying of Satan's armies, but permit me to say, that there must be a wide difference between the established forms of ceremony amongst the laity, and those which regulate the clergy. After all you may wield God's sword, but I wield His wisdom. And it is wisdom, dear cousin, which will ultimately rid us of our present difficulties with the undead.'" (Page 77)
Fun and entertaining on a base level, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is an exercise in revision and an examination of Austen's characters in a new light. Many readers will disagree with Grahame-Smith's portrayal of Lizzy as a cutthroat assassin who is quickly turned by her own emotions or strict sense of duty and honor, particularly since she often talks of dispatching her peers for slighting her family, imagines beheading her own sister Lydia simply because she prattles on, and other unmentionable actions.
"'Jane, no one who has ever seen you together can doubt his affection. Miss Bingley, I am sure, cannot. She may not be a warrior, but she has cunning enough. Dearest sister, I implore you -- this unhappiness is best remedied by the hasty application of a cutlass to her throat.'" (Page 95)
However, one of the most perceptive and playfully done sequences in the novel is the sparring match between Mr. Darcy and Lizzy. Some readers could find this sequence too forceful, but others may view the physical combat between the characters as just a manifestation of their verbal tete-a-tete in the original novel. The elements of zombies and ninjas provide additional circumstances that further delineate the class differences Austen sought to examine in her novels, enabling readers to further investigate the social conventions and prejudices inherent in this society.
There are other instances, however, in which these revised scenes do not work as well, and many of the social conventions of the time are overlooked in favor of ensuring the Bennet sisters, who are of little means, were shipped to the Orient for training in the deadly arts -- even if it was with the inferior Chinese Shaolin monks --and were prepared for combat, which is inevitable in a nation nearly overrun by the undead. In Austen's novel, it would be unconventional for Lizzy to converse so openly with Wickham about Darcy, and it would be outside convention for Darcy to write her a letter to explain himself. Here, convention is defied even more so in that the Bennet women are trained to kill -- even if it is only zombies -- and Lizzy openly displays her talents and shuns marriage.
Austen purists will NOT enjoy this novel unless they loosen their reverence for the author's work. Overall, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a creative revision with an edge that modern readers may enjoy for its drama and action-packed zombie slayings. There is a lot more to this rendition than simple entertainment.
This is my 3rd book for the 2010 New Authors Challenge, though should I consider it a new author if a majority of the book is written by Jane Austen, who is an old favorite.
This is my 2nd book for the Jane Austen Challenge 2010!