rating: 4 of 5 stars
The latest Austen reincarnation isn’t an imagined sequel to Pride and Prejudice, the often revisited 19th Century novel, but a parody. Grahame-Smith chose not to rewrite the novel; the original text is left for the most part, unaltered, save for those turns of phrases or choice paragraphs that were better suited to a Mad Libs-like copy and paste for Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem! Like the title itself, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Grahame-Smith’s contributions are quirky additions to a beloved novel that, dare I say, enhance the experience to a level never had before.
The zombie and ninja additions to the cast are punctuated with black and white illustrations neatly labeled and addressed in the table of contents so a curious reader can quickly flip to their favorite scene of violence and displays of martial prowess between familiar characters and the “sorry stricken.” There’s even a reader’s guide at the back of the book with thought-provoking questions for the more humorously inclined.
I had a fun time reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. From the start it promised to be a delightful mash-up of original and innovative text and dialogue. Albeit the corresponding visual guides aren’t exactly true representations of period costume, they’re entertaining depictions that highlight the off-the-wall humor Grahame-Smith brings to Pride and Prejudice with triumphant smirks plastered across Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy’s faces as they wield muskets and strike deadly poses in victory over their twice dead zombie companions.
The new dialogue and narrative were at times awkward and painfully at odds with Austen’s prose. I struggled in my frustration, oscillating between wanting a completely blown-out parody or just the original text before I found a comfortable rhythm between the two. It’s not a novel to be taken seriously; stalwart Austen fans be warned. If the thought of her original text being chopped and reworked by another hand makes you cringe, stay away. But if you think you can handle some light hearted infusion and aren’t too preoccupied with the silliness of it all, you might enjoy Pride and Prejudice and Zombies!
If anything, it made me want to reread Pride and Prejudice or at the very least, rewatch one of the DVD adaptations. The back of the book may claim (tongue-in-cheek) that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies will be the version most likely read, but I actually think it might turn into more of a gateway drug for anyone even remotely curious about Jane Austen. With the majority of the text unaltered, even the non Austen fans will have trouble enjoying this solely for the zombies since the reader has to “slog through” a lot of her own writing before they even get there--Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was definitely written for Austen fans and those hovering on the sidelines, daunted by what could be seen as archaic, intimidating prose. The tentative are rewarded with quick and bloody zombie-killing action.
If you can imagine taking a movie adaptation and altering the video for a YouTube type of mash-up, then you can imagine the laughs that might be had reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The jokes are only funny (or I should say, funnier) if the reader is familiar with the novel already or understands Austen’s narrative enough to keep up with events and can therefore appreciate some of the more vengeful acts taken or ruminated upon by the characters and co-author. After all, it wouldn’t make any sense to have one of the most annoying literary characters ever commit suicide without understanding why he or she (for the sake of avoiding spoilers, a bit) is annoying in the first place. Nor would it make sense to have random fight scenes unless they accentuate an already tension-heavy moment and did in a comic-like fashion what was originally handled solely in dialogue.
Bottom line: if you enjoy this book, you will probably enjoy the original if not more than before. I recommend this to anyone willing to suspend all serious contemplation of Pride and Prejudice in favor of a fun vacation into an alternate, silly universe of Shaolin warrior daughters.
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