Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Jane Austen & Seth Graham-Smith, Quirk Books, 2009

A mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton - and the dead are returning to life! Yet another distraction for feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennett, whose attentions are already fully taxed by her dislike for the arrogant (yet irresistable) Mr. Darcy, and her desire to overcome the social prejudices of her peers. Oh, and those dratted ninjas that Lady Catherine keeps sending to attack her...

Even if you're not a fan of zombies (or Jane Austen) it's likely that you'd be aware of the publishing phenomenon that is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Following some fairly minor pre-release publicity back in Feb this year, this novel - which is nothing more (or less) than Austen's original work with a zombie subplot and some 'tweaked' scenes and dialogue thrown in - was immediately picked up for international distribution and optioned for a movie adaptation, all well before the title had even hit bookshelves. Of course, it could be argued (correctly, I'd imagine) that the hysteria surrounding 'Pride' has more to do with the popularity of Austen than with the popularity of zombies: nonetheless, I've never before seen so much promotion amongst the usually horror-phobic mainstream media and bookselling industry for any publication involving the living dead.

2009: Year of the Zombie, man!

But I digress...

So, hype and publicity aside, is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies actually any good?

Well, yes, it is. It's fair to say that the book works more because of the extreme novelty of the Austen/zombie mash up than because of any added literary merit the inclusion of zombies might bring, but this doesn't make the ride any less enjoyable. There's actually surprisingly little change to the original text - okay, so the Bennett sisters are now zombie-killing martial-arts experts, and the lower classes have a careless habit of getting their brains eaten - but what changes have been made are very obviously and effectively played for laughs. There's even a 'Reader's Discussion Guide' at the back of the book, filled with useful book club conversation-starters such as: 'Vomit plays an important role in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies...Do the authors mean for this regurgitation to symbolize something greater, or is it a cheap device to get laughs?'

I suspect that those who are truly serious about either Austen or zombies or - not impossibly - both may think twice before picking up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but I'd certainly urge them to do so. Austen fans should find great enjoyment in identifying where the narrative in this book diverges from the original, and zombie fans will undoubtedly enjoy...erm...the zombies. And the gore.

A great, fun, classic tale of modern manners. Now with added zombie mayhem.

(Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is distributed locally by Random House Australia)

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