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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Zombies on the Brain

Some purists may be annoyed that someone has had the cheek to add zombies to Jane Austen's classic novel of manners, Pride and Prejudice. Other readers may wish the author, Seth Grahame-Smith, had added more of them. He has stayed true to the plot line, while using the zombie threat to inject humor and enhance our understanding of the characters. I particularly enjoyed his exaggeration of the silliness of Mrs. Bennet and the youngest Bennet daughter, Lydia, the additional sarcasm of Mr. Darcy, and the unpleasant fate of some of the more disagreeable characters.

The author sticks close to the script, sometimes just tweaking Austen's words a bit, such as in the opening sentence:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.

Most of his additions are low-key, gentle reminders of the situation, such as:

Elizabeth most thankfully consented, and a servant was dispatched to Longbourn to acquaint the family with her stay and bring back a supply of clothes, and at Elizabeth's request, her favourite musket.
Battles with the zombies are, of course, an addition to the original tale:
Elizabeth knew that she and her present party were all doomed to slow deaths if the horses should fall into Satan's hands, so she sprang skyward, firing her musket as she flew through the air, her bullets penetrating the heads of several unmentionables. She landed on her feet beside one of the horses, and with her sword, began cutting down the attackers with all the grace of Aphrodite and all the ruthlessness of Herod.
Another gem:
What remained of Charlotte [who has been bitten by a zombie] would have liked to have believed this change the effect of love, and the object of that love her friend Eliza. She watched him [Mr. Darcy] whenever they were at Rosings, and whenever he came to Hunsford; but without much  success, for her thoughts often wandered to other subjects, such as the warm, succulent sensation of biting into a fresh brain.

I particularly enjoyed the Reader's Discussion Guide supplied at the end with questions for not-so-serious contemplation, such as:
•Is Mr. Collins merely too fat and stupid to notice his wife's gradual transformation into a zombie, or could there be another explanation for his failure to acknowledge the problem?

•Some critics have suggested that the zombies represent the author's views toward marriage––an endless curse that sucks the life out of you and just won't die. Do you agree, or do you have another opinion about the unmentionables?

•Vomit plays an important role in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies . . . Do the authors mean for this regurgitation to symbolize something greater, or is it a cheap device to get laughs?

•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?
Not any more!

What would Jane think? (WWJT)

I think she would be delighted that the independent Elizabeth Bennet is a ferocious fighter capable of killing ninjas and zombies alike with ease, while still retaining good sense and sensibility. Having experienced the repression and limitation of women in British society of the time, Jane may well be delighted at the self-sufficiency of the Bennet women and the further confirmation of the uselessness of silly people in this version of her story.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is an amusing read, especially for anyone familiar with the story, and all in good fun. Hopefully, the addition of zombie hordes will attract more readers to this classic tale.

There are 20 illustrations in the book, done in the style of the original illustrations of the original 
Pride and Prejudice (sans zombies).

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