Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith

I have so much to say about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, "The Classic Regency Romance -- Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!" (title page), that I'm not sure quite where to begin.

Book Club is discussing Pride and Prejudice this month and we thought it might be fun to allow spin-offs since many of us have read P&P before. I'd been curious about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies after all the hype so I that's what I decided to read.

I'll begin by saying that while I do love P&P, I've read quite a few spin-offs before and went into I started Pride and Prejudice and Zombies with an open mind. I understand the premise: there are certain things in Austen's work that could be better(?) explained by the introduction of zombies into the story (like Charlotte deciding to marry Mr. Collins).

In addition class and wealth, in Grahame-Smith's England individuals are judged by their skills in the deadly arts. His Lady Catherine is a famous zombie slayer who advises the royal court on security and looks down on Elizabeth because the Bennett sisters have Chinese martial arts training rather than Japanese.

I can accept that Britain has a zombie infestation and that its citizens need to train themselves to defend the country. It doesn't make sense, however, that Elizabeth and her sisters are sent to the Shaolin Monastery to learn kung fu, let alone that they were able to make the trip to "the Orient" twice. Cost would be prohibitive for the family and travel time similarly unfeasible.

Beyond the fact that the "Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!" is not particularly well integrated into the original storyline, the main problem is that Grahame-Smith isn't able to maintain the essence of Austen despite keeping much of her original text. Mr. Bennett isn't true to character. Elizabeth is surprisingly unsympathetic (Grahame-Smith has her fantasizing about beheading her sister and that's the least of it). I know readers have mixed feelings about some of Austen's heroines (hello Emma), but Lizzy is universally liked.

This is part of a scene that takes place when Elizabeth visits Rosings:
Though discontented with such a beginning, Lady Catherine held the greatest hope for her third and final ninja, the deadliest of the three. But no sooner had she snapped her fingers, than Elizabeth flung her Katana across the dojo, piercing the ninja's chest and pinning him against the wooden column. Elizabeth removed her blindfold and confronted her opponent, who presently clutched the sword handle grasping for breath. She delivered a vicious blow, penetrating his rib cage, and withdrew her hand--with the ninja's still-beating heart in it. As all but Lady Catherine turned away in disgust, Elizabeth took a bite, letting the blood flow down her chin and onto her sparring gown.
"Curious," said Elizabeth, still chewing. "I have tasted many a heart, but I dare say, I find the Japanese ones a bit tender." (131-132)
Not only is this disgusting, but it is completely out of character for Lizzy, even zombie-slayer Lizzy. First of all, why on earth would she kill Lady Catherine's ninja trainers--one by "strangl[ing] him to death with his own large bowel" (130)--when she's just supposed to be sparring? It's practice; they're innocents. Second, eat a still-beating heart in mixed company?!

There are also other inconsistencies, for example: an English housekeeper at Pemberley wears a kimono, but has bound feet. Besides the obvious confusion between Japanese and Chinese culture, a woman with bound feet would be ill-suited for service.

In short, I finished the book, but only because I had to force myself to.

Apparently the same publisher (Quirk Books) has a book called Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters set for a September release. I don't think I'll be reading it.


  1. I wonder if this is what happens when a man goes all crazy rewriting

  2. It's probably exactly what happens! What's concerning is that the publishers were so certain that it'd sell (and it has) that they didn't do a very thorough job of editing.

  3. I didn't hate P&P&Z as much as I thought I would, but I did think it would have worked better as a Saturday Night Live sketch or a Mad magazine feature.