When I say that I came up with the concept of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies years ago, I mean that every guy has. I’m not alone in declaring that there is maybe no time period or society that hasn’t already been ravaged by the undead in my daydreams. Especially vulnerable were the settings of any required reading in high school that failed to engage me on its own terms.
I think that’s P&P&Z’s reason for being, and why I cackled with delight when I first saw it. That delight didn’t last when I finally got to reading the book, which–and I guess I must give Seth Grahame-Smith credit for this– is exactly as advertised.
Same book, really, only with sentences and sometimes entire passages added in relating the zombie nuisance and the Bennet daughters’ prowess in the “deadly arts,” among other things. Basically to get zombies and ninjas in there. Yep.
Part of Austen’s Big Wry Joke is that these idle rich are consumed by thoughts of marriage and dinners and balls while remaining isolated from the rest of a seriously troubled England. I appreciate that joke being ballooned to ridiculous proportions, as the characters remain anxious about their money and position while being mostly nonchalant about the everpresent cannibal dead.
These so-called “unmentionables” (despite they’re being mentioned by the characters all the time) complicate travels on the picturesque roads of the Regency England countryside, and more than a couple coachmen and servants lose their brains as the story goes along.
The actual fight scenes that are shoehorned into the book (the zombie attacks and Lizzy’s duels with other characters), though, are wholly unsatisfying. This is, of course, damning. And in them, many “zombie rules” are badly broken: you don’t have to be versed in the Max Brooks school of zombie lore to cry foul at the zombie hordes who actually get scared and turn to flee at the sound of a gunshot.
For me, the book never rises above the level of mildly amusing. Plenty of sentences, especially those mentioning the Bennet girls’ Shaolin training under Master Liu, sound funny and that’s about where it stops. It’s so bizarre that I can’t even picture it. And that’s only early on: it’s essentially the same three gags pasted in the text over and over, and when the zombie elements seemed to peter out toward the end in favor of the original plot, I welcomed the reprieve. That doesn’t speak highly of what Mr. Grahame-Smith has done here.
The question that wouldn’t leave me was Who is this book for? The caveat lector for those excited by the funny horror aspect is this: it is still very much P&P. If you’re uninterested in reading the original classic, you won’t find the zombie modification thorough enough to satisfy you. This is why this book has an unusually high return rate at the store.
What about Austen fans? If this is you (and you’re not already put off by what appears to be a lazy mockery of one of your favorite novels), maybe there’s a chance you’ll like it. If you’ve ever imagined, for one, that Elizabeth should want to slay Miss Bingley or Lady Catherine, here’s the version where she make these thoughts very explicit.
I have recorded two people at my work who claim to have read P&P&Z and who still seem pretty enchanted by it. From what I can tell, if you like the original without taking it seriously at all (and I happen to be the converse of this), this just might work for you.
Really, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies the literary equivalent of the boxing nun. You have yourself a nice chuckle to learn that the thing exists, but ultimately that’s all the amusement to be had from it.