In the book that will have tongues wagging and purists rolling their eyes, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies takes the feisty feminine strength of Jane Austen’s classic Elizabeth Bennet and turns her into one hell of a butt-kicking babe.
Austen’s Pride and Prejudice may well be one of the most adapted books of all time. Its basic storyline message of first impressions and the failings of self-importance and narrow-mindedness are universal and the piece’s characters are celebrated. Having been turned into a Broadway musical, various Hollywood adaptations, a Bollywood adaptation, and a BBC miniseries, it really was only a matter of time before Pride and Prejudice reached literary mashup territory.
Enter Seth Grahame-Smith and a despicable horde of zombies. By placing himself alongside the name of Austen, Grahame-Smith may be wandering into hazardous territory. Visions of assorted incensed Austenites might be more petrifying than any repulsive zombies he could ever form, but he does a more-than-admirable job at turning this classic into something altogether mesmerizing and exciting.
For some, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies will be sweet emancipation for hours spent impressing girlfriends with attempted reads of Austen’s classic. For others, it will be a loathsome travesty. Regardless of where Grahame-Smith and Austen’s work finds you, discarding it entirely would be to great peril.
The story opens in the quiet English village of Meryton as a mystifying plague is bringing the dead back to life. Dubbed “unmentionables,” this menace infests all of England with drooling horror. Austen’s heroine, Elizabeth, and her sisters Jane, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia have been trained in China in the deadly arts. They possess skills with knives and guns, offsetting the hospitable social niceties more recognizable in the region.
With Elizabeth and her sisters game to wipe out the zombie threat, Mrs. Bennet hopes to marry off each of the young ladies with the intention of getting them out of the zombie-fighting biz. Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley arrive as the two major players for the affections of the sisters Bennet, with their own skill sets and communal proclivities.
As romantic tension transpires, plenty of dishonesty, misjudgements, and zombie ass-kickery take to the fore. Grahame-Smith stokes the natural strain of Austen’s fiction with heaps of fight sequences, stacking up gruesome scenes with delight.
Perhaps the most compelling piece of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is just how seamless the writing is. Grahame-Smith almost immaculately integrates the horrifying bone-crunching nature of zombies into Austen’s comedy of etiquette, producing belly laughs and breathing new life into the mouth-watering sparring between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth.
With a sequel already in the works and 20 illustrations, this is one big, blissful swell of bloody insanity that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Grahame-Smith, author of The Big Book of Porn: A Penetrating Look at the World of Dirty Movies, may seem an improbable cohort for Jane Austen, but I think it’s safe to say that, like it or not, these two are inextricably linked forevermore.