Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
By Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith
Release date: April 1, 2009
Jane Austen‘s literary classic Pride and Prejudice has long captured the hearts of women, thanks to its independent, intelligent heroine Elizabeth Bennett and her antagonist turned love interest, the handsome Mr. Darcy. Since its publication in 1813, this tale of romance set in the Georgian age of social propriety and conformity has rarely enticed a male readership, but Seth Grahame-Smith‘s new mash-up novel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, is sure to do just that.
Grahame-Smith took the majority of Austen’s beloved novel and incorporated a plague of attacking zombies hellbent on feasting on the brains of the people of England. While most of the countryside is open game for the “Unmentionables,” the wealthy are able to hire ninja warriors to protect them from the constant zombie assaults. Some well-off families, like the Bennetts, had a different strategy — the five Bennett sisters, including Elizabeth, were sent by their father to the Far East to study martial arts with a Shaolin master and are now in His Majesty’s service to protect their fellow countrymen.
Mr. Bennett takes pride in his daughters’ abilities and encourages them to train further, much to the dismay of their mother, whose sole purpose in life is to see her daughters married well. Elizabeth, the most proficient of warriors, does her best to keep with the traditions of the time, but her exceptional capabilities and independent nature make marriage less appealing to her, especially since she’d have to cast aside her sword to accept a man’s proposal. Ironically enough, it’s Elizabeth swiftness with a dagger that first endears her to the upper class snob, Mr. Darcy, who also happens to be well-trained in the art of slaying.
Even in dangerous times, the Bennett sisters must yield to modesty by arming themselves in social situations with only an ankle dagger concealed beneath their dresses instead of carrying the more practical musket or katana sword, which couldn’t be concealed and therefore considered unladylike. When alone, though, Elizabeth casts aside these conventions, lifting her skirt to deliver a massive blow to the head of one of her zombie attackers.
PPZ keeps intact everything you’ve love about PP — Mrs. Bennett’s embarrassing ways; Elizabeth and Darcy’s tension-filled conversations and erroneous presumptions about each other; Elizabeth’s older sister Jane’s plotline with Darcy’s friend Mr. Bingley and her younger sister Lydia’s indiscretions; Mr. Wickham’s infiltrations — basically, everything you’ve ever loved out Pride and Prejudice — but just advances the story quicker than in the original text. Even without Grahame-Smith’s highly entertaining twist, his condensed version would be a welcome read for anyone struggling through Pride and Prejudice, as the author incorporates background information those not familiar with 19th century English vernacular and social etiquette.
Aside from the welcome addition of the Unmentionables, there’s something else about PPZ that stands out — the women not only fight the undead, but they fight each other! That’s right. If you recall from the original story, Elizabeth has several ladies who not only disapprove of her, but wholeheartedly disliked her. In Pride and Prejudice, hardly anything in polite English society ever progressed to more than a veiled sarcastic remark and even someone’s outright proclamation of dislike for another never turned into anything more than merely a raised voice; in PPZ, an offhand insult can easily escalate into a bloody match, with the intention of death.
What you don’t get in this new version is why there’s a zombie plague. You can expect plenty of zombie action — Elizabeth’s on a carriage ride, enter zombie, violent dispatching of zombie — but if you’re expecting a comprehensive history on the epidemic, you’ll be left wondering. The classic story does lend itself to the insertion of the undead quite nicely though, so those of you who love a good zombie infestation will be pleased. There’s nothing more amusing than uptight British elitists who’d rather adhere to social constraints than employ logic suffering such improprieties as having an infected loved one slowly turn undead or getting their brains chopped on by a zombie in the midst of a lovely ball. I think Miss Austen, who herself loved to poke fun at these absurd types, would be amused by it all too.