Okay, so Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance – Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem! (Paperback)
By Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
I was really excited about this book before it came out. And then I was really excited about it for about 2/3 of the book. The reader on the audiobook got it JUST right. The stiff Brit accent for the Austen stuff, then she read the ultra-violent action with the relish of a blood-thirsty vampire.
And then I got less excited. For me, it started to fail around about the time of Lydia’s elopement with Wickham. Which was social ruin for an entirely different reason than it was in the original, though it took me until the very end of the book to figure that out. <SPOILER ALERT> Basically, everyone was embarrassed for Lydia because they thought she’d been abducted and defeated, an affront to her ‘warrior honor’ but since not everyone in the society were warriors, it didn’t really gibe. I only figured out that was supposed to be the real problem when in the final section, it talks about Mary taking tons of lovers.
Plus there were some things that were just not consistent, like the Bennets training in China (which was cute, really, but where did they get the money?), and the muskets being able to fire more than once without reloading, and the assumption that the problem of the Bennet estate being entailed away from the female line would be solved by <SPOILER ALERT>killing off Mr. Collins. The estate would just to the next closest male relative.. Honestly, if you’re going to muck with Miss Jane Austen, you should get the research right.
I listened to the audiobook, so I haven’t seen all the illustrations from the book. The five I did see were very poorly researched, showing Elizabeth Bennet and her posse in Victorian clothes, not Regency. Guys, this is not a hard thing to get right. I personally own three 200-year-old Regency-era fashion plates that I bought in London (in the street that inspired Diagon Alley in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books). But there’s tons of stuff on the internet if they’d bothered to spend five minutes on Google. It would have been easy to get this right, and they missed the mark.
Okay, but here’s my big disappointment. (Listen, I KNOW this was meant to be fluff. I DO. I really, really, do.)
The zombies (and not the fact that they were called ‘unmentionables’ in many parts of the book, and then mentioned in the rest of the book) were never explained. They were a ‘strange plague.’ You could become one by being bitten… but also somehow old corpses just randomly became zombies. Like, after they’d been buried for a while.
I’ll say it again: I KNOW THIS WAS MEANT TO BE FLUFFY…
But I take my zombies very seriously. And let’s remember where zombies come from–voodoo. How did voodoo start in the Caribbean? Slaves invented it. Why were there slaves in the Caribbean?
The Slave Trade, in which the British had a huge hand. (Though you have to acknowledge they were also the first to abolish it.) Ta-dah, instant motivation for otherwise unmotivated villains.
I KNOW I’m demanding too much of this book. I KNOW IT. I KNOW THIS BOOK WAS NEVER MEANT FOR SOCIAL COMMENTARY. But I think a huge opportunity was missed. Jane Austen was all about the social commentary. And that’s another thing that kind of irritated me: Because zombies were roaming the countryside and the Bennet sisters had jobs–zombie hunting for the government–it minimized the original problems of the novel. In Pride and Prejudice, the Bennet sisters face a bleak future of poverty and social ruin, something that’s hard for us to understand today, when women can go out and get jobs and take care of themselves. One of the reasons Jane Austen’s work is culturally important is because she gave a voice to these issues. Women had few options in those days, and if Jane and Elizabeth hadn’t pulled the family’s butt out of the fire, they could have ended up in the streets (More likely living as dependents of their lawyer uncle, though).
But that seems unimportant when the undead roam the countryside.
Okay, there. I’m done being unreasonable.
I enjoyed many, many parts of this book, including the fact that the best zombie hunter in the land was Lady Catherine deBourgh, that the Bennet sisters got attacked by zombies pretty much every time they left the house, Mr. Darcy eating sushi, London being divided into sectors… I’m glad I read it because of these things. They were cool. Buy the book. Enjoy the book. Then re-read the original.
I’ll share my thoughts on why zombies are tapped into the zeitgeist of our modern society sometime soon–every age has its monster, and zombies are an appropriate symbol of our current underlying fears. For now, go watch this preview of the next book by the publishers of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I have to say I’m so uninterested. And now I sort of feel that they’re picking on Austen. (Plus, why Sense and Sensibility? Half the cast of Persuasion was in the navy. It would have been a way better fit. I guess they wanted to use the ‘and’ joke again. And also because so many people have read Jane Austen. But maybe a Tale of Two Werewolf Cities might have been in order. How about Huckleberry Finn vs. the Pod People?)
I hope the stuff about Willoughby’s being a sensible man not easily swayed by emotion was meant to be ironic. Because that would mean that they mistook both the character of Willoughby and the definition of the word ‘sensibility’ as Miss Jane Austen meant it. Sensibility refers to a romantic sensibility–Marianne’s nature (and also Willoughby’s, and to some extent, Colonel Brandon’s). Sense refers to being logical–Elena’s actions, and Mr. Ferrars’.
Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters
by Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Deluxe Edition
By Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
The deluxe edition has extra text written by Grahame-Smith, and a couple more illustrations in color (they look like they actually fit the time period).
Live-action demon-hunting on Wednesday!