Thursday, September 13, 2012

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, a Review

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies came out whilst I finished my studies at the University. I recall when the faint whisperings of such a blasphemous tale first reached mine ears, and I remember delighting in it. This was before zombies were ubiquitous in the entertainment world, and the introduction of zombies into Jane Austen’s beloved classic was twisted just enough to my liking that I could not but help declaim its brilliance. And so Seth Grahame-Smith’s alterations to Austen’s original masterpiece* made its way onto my extending TBR. 

That was a smidgen over three years ago. Since then, the glorious undead have proliferated to a shocking degree. Indeed, they became mainstream and trendy. As such, I never got around to reading P&P&Z… until now. 

In essence, this book is a bizarre alternate universe story of old England. The undead—also known as the dreadfuls—roam the beautiful countryside with unstated bloodlust. The five Bennet sisters struggle to maintain ladylike propriety due to their training in the Deadly Arts. Each of the sisters is a lethal zombie slayer, much to Mr. Bennet’s delight. Each of the sisters is unwed and somewhat uncouth, much to Mrs. Bennet’s chagrin. 

The basic plot of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies follows the original excepting a few major points (i.e., the revisions have more innuendo than Ms. Austen’s, as well as violence). Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley come into the Bennet’s lives and romance ensues. During it all, however, the threat of the undead grows. Periodic episodes of zombie mayhem arise, and the Bennets are often forced to make quick of the scourge. 

I have mixed feelings about this book. The idea is clever, methinks, but its execution quickly grew stagnant. The bizarre juxtaposition of Regency England to ninjas and zombies yielded laughs, yes, but the tension never elevated. I enjoyed all of the different nomenclatures Grahame-Smith created for dealing with the dreadfuls. I also liked the plot surrounding Ms. Charlotte Lucas. But, as I mentioned, too many things grew repetitive and dull. 

There was enough intrigue to keep me reading the book, if only to see it to the end. I kept thinking about Downton Abbey while reading the book, picturing a twisted version of the show airing on PBS. I think that I would have enjoyed Pride & Prejudice & Zombies more if the plot varied, or if there were more postulation about the dreadfuls and the scourge. Instead, as often the zombie genre does, this is left up to the Reader to accept as Fact and move on. Usually I’m okay with that, so long as the world is captivating enough. Regency England is not. 

So do I recommend reading Pride & Prejudice & Zombies? Maybe. I suppose it would depend on the Reader’s expectations. A true Jane Austen fan may balk at the disgraceful changes, but an Austen fan with a sense of humor might get enough giggles to warrant a read. Me, I can’t say that I’m an Austen fan per se. I only read the book out of mere curiosity. I had more fun imagining how the original readers of Pride & Prejudice would have reacted if Austen had actually published the & Zombies version instead of the original.

*That is according to universal acknowledgement, not which is not necessarily reflective of my own opinion.  I think perhaps calling the book a masterpiece is quite a high honor, but I'll not get into all that stuff.  It's just a "beloved classic" in mine eyes.


Anonymous said...

great review. Sean read it and I think he came away with a similar response, amused--at first.

I became annoyed by the trend that soon followed...


hope you and yours are well!


Anonymous said...

I have this book on order at the library - so I am skipping your review!

David Wagner said...

Ha, seemed like this title would be something you'd want to read. I was hoping you'd have liked it more, but I appreciate the honest review. I was vacillating on reading the book myself, now I believe it will slip down my TBR list...

Keep up the work... that's quite a string of book reviews you have going.


logankstewart said...

@L: Yes, the zombie trend is annoying. A shame, honestly, since I've been a fan of the genre since about age 5... that's another post, coming up soon.

@Anony: Okie dokie. I hope you enjoy the read!

@Dave: Most definitely let it slide way down the TBR list. I don't see you enjoying it much.

Rachel said...

I couldn't stomach this book and had to quit. I think it was a really good idea, because Jane Austen had a sense of humor, and the concept seemed funny. But it got old WAY too quickly and I felt that Grahame-Smith didn't understand the humor in the original story--he was just trying to tear it apart rather than make it funnier.

Carl V. said...

I always thought this was a fun idea that would grow stale almost immediately which is why I never bothered with it. Very clever idea and yes it did start a very annoying copy cat trend. But clever ideas generally do that.

I'm a big fan of the film adaptations of Austen's work and have enjoyed those novels of hers that I've read. I have a feeling that if she had a moment or two to assimilate today's culture that she would have found this a fun idea.

logankstewart said...

@Rachel & Carl: Sadly, yes, there seems to be a consensus that the book grew stale for most readers. Alas...