pride-and-prejudice-and-zombiesBY SEAN CLARK

This book has been chosen as a Great Read

Authors: Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith

2009, Quirk

Best ebook deal: Sony eBook Store

Filed under Literary, Horror, Humor

From the discussion guide appended to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies:

Some scholars believe that the zombies were a last-minute addition to the novel, requested by the publisher in a shameless attempt to boost sales. Others argue that the hordes of living dead are integral to Jane Austen’s plot and social commentary. What do you think? Can you imagine what this novel might be like without the violent zombie mayhem?

If you’re at all familiar with Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice, you will immediately upon beginning Pride and Prejudice and Zombies notice that this is really that same book just…modified. It’s not a rewrite, just a reworking. What is really astounding about the Zombies edition is how well Grahame-Smith manages to implement the gory horror aspects, and indeed and entirely new setting, atmosphere, and fictional historical context while remaining true to the source material.

For the most part, the additions presented in this edition actually feel organic to the original story. At times the Shaolin and ninja references can feel a tad silly, but Grahame-Smith tweaks the world enough to keep the modified material from seeming as if it was merely stapled to a public domain text and reinforced with duct tape. (For instance, the Bennett sisters’ training in zombie defense at a Chinese Shaolin temple is seen as a cheap, bourgeoisie substitute for the more refined choice of a Japanese sensei’s martial arts tutelage.)

Not every sentence or paragraph is modified in this edition; much of Austen’s original text remains untouched. Wholly new sentences and paragraphs do now appear amidst familiar scenes. But most of the changes are implemented slight tweaks to the pre-existing text. Take the introduction to Mr. Darcy (who is, by the way, more a dreamy badass now than ever before):

His brother-in-law, Mr. Hurst, merely looked the gentleman; but his friend Mr. Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mein–and the report which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his having slaughtered more than a thousand unmentionables since the fall of Cambridge.

There are, of course, some more substantial plot alterations which add to the cohesiveness of this novel as a standalone work. For example, in Zombies when Charlotte marries Mr. Collins she is already half transformed by the mysterious zombie plague, though he doesn’t realize. Later in the book, Mr. Darcy takes “particular pleasure in beating Mr. Wickham lame.”

The book is splattered with cool etch-like sketches like this.

The book is splattered with cool etch-like sketches like this.

However–back to the study question at hand–these plot alterations, rather than non-sequitur or aberrant to the original work, are a boost to the biting social commentary that so defines the original work. Zombie fiction tends to have a deeper sociological or satirical slant than many other similar genres do. Perhaps it is by its very nature that it weds so well with Austen’s masterpiece. It is, undeniably, a gimmick slapped onto a literary classic, yet rather than mock the original itself, it mocks the same things as its source material.

And let’s not forget the all new, gore-splattered scenes that punctuate every fifty pages or so. They are awesome, especially to be appreciated by any readers with a penchant for zombies. Each time I came upon one I reveled in dorky, gory fun.

Other books: Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (Austen & Winters), Grendel (Gardner), A Night at the Movies, or You Must Remember This (Coover)