I like zombies and I like Austen. I like parodies. So why didn’t I like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies?
I have heard that you either love Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, or you love the original Pride and Prejudice. I disagree. Both have their high and low points, and ultimately, Seth Grahame-Smith had a great concept, but just didn’t push it far enough.
Gimmicky and a bit forced at times, this is definitely not a book for a hardcore Austen fan. The imposition of the zombie narrative reads like a cheap laugh. This is a shame, because the book has some genuinely hilarious one-liners and brilliant dark humour. If you are interested in broadening your horizons in terms of zombie literature and parodies, then this may be the book for you. There is so much potential to this plot that its unconvincing delivery is a real disappointment. I would recommend reading the first couple of chapters anyway, just to see what all the fuss is about, but the rest of the book is gutted by its lacklustre approach to the plot. Ultimately, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies reads like a great first draft in need of further structural revision.
Seth Grahame-Smith pays strict homage to Austen’s book for the most part in terms of delivery, and this is the main problem. The characters supplement in other, more contextually “natural” words such as “the dreadfuls” and “the unmentionables”, but it would have made the narrative flow much better had the word “zombie” been omitted entirely. The sense of context is disjointed and constantly brings to mind the author, rather than the story. The title would then have stood alone as a marker for what would follow. This is a book where a little would have gone a long way, but subtlety isn’t necessarily what you’re after if you’re reading a book about zombies and Victorian values. There are plenty of gory fight scenes for enthusiasts whose interests are neglected by Austen, but unfortunately the book is essentially an action-adventure comedic run that’s quick to cash in on zombie mania, rather than a well-planned piece of writing.
It is tempting to assert that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a more feminist take on Austen’s setting. The Bennett sisters are proficient in “the deadly arts”, due to their ninja training, therefore are able to take care of themselves, unlike countless others in the setting. They are more outspoken in general, and pride themselves on their independence. However, their access to these skills is not readily accounted for in the text, rendering their skills as unbelievable as their zombie foes. They are unlikely figures in an even more unlikely setting, destroying any semblance of empowerment that such a construction could have suggested. However, Seth Grahame-Smith’s effort on this part should be still recognised and commended. What needs to happen next is for this construction to be completed in another book.
This is a book that could have been amazing, but is hamstrung by its own adherence to Austen’s narrative style. It would have been possible, and potentially very compelling, to encode a zombie-fighting element to Pride and Prejudice, but it would have required perhaps an more confessional delivery style. Something more appropriate as a response to the travesties taking place, or at the very least, more in keeping with a disaster narrative written in the same time period. Austen’s writing style keeps the reader at an arm’s length, and this just doesn’t fit in a zombie and ninja-filled background. Ironically, Seth Grahame-Smith just doesn’t take enough liberties with the plot and structure to make this book compelling, or even readable in places. I’m still waiting for the ultimate zombies-meet-Victorian-values-and-train-with-ninjas book…
“He begged to know to which of his fair cousins the excellency of its cookery was owing. Briefly forgetting her manners, Mary grabbed her fork and leapt from her chair onto the table. Lydia, who was seated nearest her, grabbed her ankle before she could dive at Mr. Collins and, presumably, stab him about the head and neck for such an insult.”
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is available for AUD$8.35/USD$831 from the Book Depository