Sunday, August 2, 2015

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


   2009; 319 pages.  New Author? : Yes and Yes.  Genre : Classic Literature; Mash-Up; Humor.  Overall Rating : 7*/10.

    Hey, why don’t we liven up Jane Austen’s acclaimed-but-boring (at least to us guys) novel, Pride and Prejudice by adding a bunch of zombies to the story?  That’ll give it some gore and violence, to say nothing of killing the undead and eating BRAINZ!

    While we’re at it, let’s throw in some Ninjas, a Shaolin master, and a team of kick-ass kung-fu girls too.  And some vomit.  Yeah, that’s the ticket!

    And to top it off, let’s add cauliflower eating!  Awesome!!

    Wait.  What was that last one?

What’s To Like...
    I’ve been wanting to read Pride & Prejudice for some time, but not Jane Austen’s version of it, so Pride and Prejudice and Zombies seemed like the logical choice.  It did seem prudent, however, to read the plot synopsis in Wikipedia beforehand, and that really helped in understanding what was going on.

    This is really more of a mash-up than a smooth blend of two genres.  ANAICT, Seth Grahame-Smith uses Jane Austen’s verbiage quite a bit, and then tosses zombie scenes in for the heck of it at various spots.  It works better than you’d think, although some of the (presumably) Austen text sometimes made for slow reading.

    The titular themes of pride and prejudice are studied in depth through the two main protagonists – Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy.  But a lot of other topics are here as well – “Regency” manners and upbringing; the importance of money and status; the learning of the social graces and civility; and last-but-not-least, the absolute necessity of improving the position of one’s family by marrying for money or gain in social standing.

   In addition to the zombie fighting, there are lots of other neat things in the story – the game of Kiss Me Deer, the Seven Cut of Shame, and some way-kewl illustrations in this particular edition.  There is also the recurring double-entendre concerning “balls”, and apparently, back in that day, marrying one’s cousin was NBD.

    The ending is well done, although I suspect we have Ms. Austen to thank for this.  Be sure to read the section, “A Reader’s Discussion Guide” in the appendix; it’s quite excellent.  And reportedly (per Wikipedia), P&P&Zit is being made into a movie, due out in the summer of 2016.

Kewlest New Word ...
Propinquity (n.) : proximity; the state of being close to something or someone.
Others : Phaeton (n., and not a Star Trek weapon).

Excerpts...
    “Pride,” observed Mary, who piqued herself upon the solidity of her reflections, “is a very common failing, I believe.  By all that I have ever read, I am convinced that it is very common indeed.”
    Elizabeth could not help but roll her eyes as Mary continued.
    “Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously.  A person may be proud without being vain.  Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.”
    At this point, Elizabeth let out a most palpable yawn.  (pg. 19)

    “When they all removed to Brighton, therefore, you had no reason, I suppose, to believe them fond of each other?”
    “Not the slightest.  I can remember no symptom of affection on either side, other than her carving his name into her midriff with a dagger; but this was customary with Lydia.”  (pg. 227)

“Spoken like one who has never known the ecstasy of holding a still-beating heart in her hand.”  (pg. 44 )
    The 800+ reviews at Amazon tend to fall into two major categories.  In one camp are those who have read the Jane Austen classic version, love it, and think Grahame-Smith’s undead take-off is a crime against literary humanity.  In the other camp are those who have read Austen’s book, hated, and hail the zombie version as a refreshing new slant to a yawn-inducing classic.

     Since I haven’t read the Austen version (I strive to avoid American classic literature like the plague), I’ll take the middle ground on this.  The mash-up worked, but still felt awkward.  But Grahame-Smith’s close adherence to the original storyline and Austen’s text and style means I got a good feel for Austen’s Pride and Prejudice without undergoing the drudgery of actually reading it.

    7 Stars.  It’s rather obvious, but add 1 Star if you hated reading Austen’s opus; subtract 1 Star if you read it and loved it.  And if you’re one of those devotees who likes to go on a literary retreat called a “Jane Austen Weekend” (such things really exist), I don’t know whether to pity you or be in awe.

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