Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Jenn's Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance - Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!Summary:  "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains." 

So begins Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, an expanded edition of the beloved Jane Austen novel featuring all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie mayhem. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she's soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. 

What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield as Elizabeth wages war against hordes of flesh-eating undead. 

Can she vanquish the spawn of Satan? And overcome the social prejudices of the class-conscious landed gentry? Complete with romance, heartbreak, swordfights, cannibalism, and thousands of rotting corpses, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies transforms a masterpiece of world literature into something you'd actually want to read.

Review:  If Austen is sacred to you, I doubt you have picked up this book. Obviously, I'm not opposed to mash-ups or I wouldn't be reading this. I will explain my stance on the matter with a parallel, in no attempt to sway but solely as perspective for my review.

As a trained musician, I believe that what we do to Opera would be considered a crime by 19th century composers. Opera was the musical theatre of the day, only more so. It was meant for the lower classes and upper classes alike because it was in their native tongue and it was understood. It wasn't meant to be placed on a pedestal as a highbrow art form that is inaccessible to the masses. Is it an important part of the history of vocal music? Certainly, but it's not the be-all, end-all. I feel the same way about classic literature. I enjoy, it, I like to read it, but I don't believe it's meant to be on an alabaster altar, untouchable in it's perfection. [getting off soapbox]

However, this particular mash-up also requires a bit of a dark, twisted sense of humor:

"Penny's father, mad with grief, had thrown himself into a vat of boiling perfume. By the time his apprentices pulled him out, he had been badly disfigured and rendered blind. Doctors were unsure if he would survive, or if the stench would ever leave him." ~page 61

If the idea of Kill Bill meeting Looney Tunes being set in the early 19th century in the middle of a love story is abhorrent to you, perhaps this novel is not for you.  Frighteningly, it's like Seth Grahame-Smith lives in my head.

The zombie bits are dispersed throughout the novel in all the places where I found the original a little, well, sluggish. No, it isn't ultra-violent and gory, but it's got enough blood and guts to add a little excitement. Elizabeth is a trained warrior remember, so there are also times when she must defend her or her family's honor as well. (Picture the drawing room proposal between Elizabeth and Darcy coming to blows...)

A surprising amount of the dialogue is maintained. However, some of the additional dialogue cracked me up:

"...his intentions were respectable, for Darcy merely meant to retrieve his Brown Bess, which Elizabeth had affixed to her back during her walk. She remembered the lead ammunition in her pocket and offered it to him. "Your balls, Mr. Darcy?" He reached out and closed her hand around them, and offered, "They belong to you, Miss Bennet." Upon this, their colour changed, and they were forced to look away from one another, lest they laugh." ~page 205

This was a good laugh and a great way to start the new year.  Does it replace the original? Never. Would you appreciate it if you haven't read Austen? I'm not sure.  Will I read more by Seth Grahame-Smith?  Absolutely!  Did it make me appreciate Pride and Prejudice more? Surprisingly, yes. It made me reflect on it with an affection deeper than I was aware I possessed.  Actually, I feel the need, maybe not to re-read, but perhaps to re-watch one of the movies again. Now if only I could choose which film version...

Final Take:  4.0/ 5.0

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