Thursday, December 3, 2009

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

rating: 2 out of 10 "books"

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies takes the classic Jane Austen story and attempts to transform it into a witty modern day zombie action story. Unfortunately, the outcome felt more smug to me than innovative. Although I had never read the original Pride and Prejudice and must confess it’s been months if not years since I’ve seen the film version, I was still interested to see how this “Quick Classic” Jane Austen fan-fiction would play out.

I learned that the majority of the original text had been preserved and thus left me wondering if some of the events listed in the book had actually occurred in the original, but the existence of zombies and ninjas tipped me off to the obvious additions of some situations in P&P & Zombies. The story follows the Bennets, a family of seven who are no different than any other of their low birth, except for the fact that Mr. and Mrs. Bennet’s five daughters are skilled in the “deadly arts.” For more than 50 years, England has been overrun by zombies, and in desperate times desperate measures must be taken. Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters had been trained in the deadly arts of combat at a very young age, and even sent to China to master the art of zombie killing. From the Bennet sisters’ training in their dojo, to the existence of ninjas in England to protect the affluent Lady Catherine de Bourgh, much of the story seems different from the original.

But of course where would this update to the classic be without the drama and gossip of the original? There are still all the balls, excitement over officers in town, obsession with marriage, proper etiquette, and who could forget Mr. Darcy?! As Elizabeth’s older sister, Jane, falls in love with the newly arrived Mr. Bingley, Elizabeth has the chance to meet and despise Bingley’s friend, Mr. Darcy. But events unfold and the two gentlemen return to London, much to the heartbreak of Jane, who was very much in love with Bingley. Elizabeth travels often; to see her dear friend and recently “plague stricken” Charlotte Lucas who has married Elizabeth’s cousin, Mr. Collins; to visit with and travel with her aunt and uncle, etc. But it seems she can never go too far without running into the proud and arrogant Mr. Darcy.

Elizabeth is almost no better in attitude and spirit than Mr. Darcy however. She proclaims that, “There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every zombie confirms my belief that God has abandoned us as punishment for the evils of people.” She would much rather serve her King killing zombies as the “bride of death,” than entertain the idea of finding a proper husband. At the mention of her accompanying her aunt and uncle on an outdoor summer trip she replies, “What are young men to rocks and mountains?!” She is so set on hating Mr. Darcy, that she hardly has time to see any of his positive attributes. It is only when a series of events occur that Elizabeth begins to see the true side of Mr. Darcy, and against her wildest dreams, falls deeply in love with him.

When they are not fighting zombies, this whole book is about marriage (who is thinking of marrying whom, who is suitable to marry whom, who will make a good match, etc.), and gossip. Throughout the whole story people are gossiping behind each other’s backs instead of facing the matter head on. But then again, maybe this was the custom of the time, and besides, what else was there really to do back then? I just got really angry at Mrs. Bennet’s behavior. She was such an annoying character, obsessed with marrying off her daughter’s to big money. Elizabeth’s embarrassment for her family’s obsession with money and silly behavior was perfectly justifiable. Her mother went from hating a gentleman; to praising him when she found out he was to marry one of her daughters. Elizabeth’s youngest sister Lydia was no different. I could not stand this character and the way she behaved throughout the story. Elizabeth fantasized about chopping off her sister’s head, and I would not have minded if this had actually come to happen. What happened with her and the officer Wickham in the end of the story was the only thing that satisfied me with regards to that stupid girl.

There were some funny moments in the book that made the story somewhat enjoyable. One such moment occurred when Charlotte, who had been “stricken,” (bitten by a zombie), and was undergoing the transformation into a zombie herself, can only think about how delicious people’s brains would taste. When considering the proficiency of Mr. Darcy’s mind, “her thoughts would turn to the subject of chewing on his salty, cauliflower-like brain.” Elizabeth’s aunt also had some funny commentary to add to the story by commented on Mr. Darcy, stating that, “there is something of dignity in the way his trousers cling to those most English parts of him,” and after a visit to Pemberly and an encounter with Darcy, some chuckle-able moments ensue as Elizabeth remembers she has Darcy’s gun and ammo. Offering them to him, she says, “Your balls, Mr. Darcy?” As he reaches out and closes her hand around his bullets, he offers, “They belong to you, Miss Bennet.” But these laughable moments were hardly enough to make the book worth reading. Although the cover states that “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” makes the classic more enjoyable and less boring to read, I think it’s worth it to read it in its original form. Sure, the language may be a little daunting to read, but at least this way, you can honestly say you’ve read a classic Jane Austen story. My advice: save your money, and buy the original version for practically nothing, or borrow it from your library. Don’t waste your time on Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

*** UPDATE 12/15/09: It seems this book can be added to the book-turned-movies category as I've just learned that Natalie Portman has just signed on to play the Elizabeth Bennet character in a movie version of this story. Oh dear.... ***

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sarah! Let's just say I've been reading your book reviews since Rachel told me about them, but I've never commented before. I'm a follower of your blog, but can't figure out how to become an official follower....Anyway!
    I love your book reviews.
    My sister Allie loves Pride and Prejudice, so I would definitely read it if you ever have the time. Also Jane Austen's Emma and Sense and Sensibility! And if you haven't read Jane Eyre before, I'd suggest that too. They're good reads.
    I'm going to start reading the Vampire Diaries because of your reviews on the series. :)
    Keep 'em coming Sarah! I love reading your blog.