Pride and Prejudice and Zombies unknowingly changed the world of books when it was published in 2009. What started as a random idea by Quirk Books editor Jason Rekulak turned into a literary phenomenon. “Mash-ups” became the new hit thing with this particular novel spurring a prequel (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls), sequel (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After), a graphic novel and upcoming feature film of the orignal Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
Regency England has become overrun with dreadfuls (zombies) and it’s up to Mr. Bennet and his warrior daughters to protect the residents of Meryton. Keeping in line with Austen’s original work, The Bennets attend a ball in town where they meet with their new neighbor Mr. Bingley, his sisters, and the haughty Mr. Darcy. Darcy’s “she is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me” comment is overheard by Elizabeth just as in the original, but instead of walking it off, she vows that she will slice Darcy’s throat to avenge her honor. As she begins to prepare for his death zombies break through the windows scaring the townsfolk attending the ball. It’s up to the Bennet sisters and their mastery in the deadly arts (a combination of ninja skills and the martial arts) to save everyone. Darcy, while watching Elizabeth, realizes that he has never seen a woman with a more beautiful set of eyes and skill at wielding a blade. The book continues along in this style staying true to the original plot while infusing it with zombie attacks: Bingley still has a ball at Netherfield, Lydia runs away with Wickham, and Darcy’s failed proposal at Rosings. All these events joyfully still happen, there just happen to be zombies in the mix.
While the idea behind P&P&Z is an incredibly clever and innovative one, it falls flat in its execution. The mash-up at times seems very forced and was far from seamless. The book is literally Austen’s work with a word changed here or there and a sentence about zombies added in. Had Grahame-Smith taken away the original wording of Austen I think the idea might have worked better. In my opinion I think having complete creative control with the book would have made it read less like a disjointed novel and more like a new creative venture. I understand that to be a mash-up it must have both the original work and new wording, but it didn’t seem like Grahame-Smith even tried to stick with sounding Austen-ish.
What I did like about the novel was its humor. Imagining Lizzie and her sisters performing the “pentagram of death”, a martial arts move to dispatch those pesky zombies, made me laugh out loud especially when juxtaposing it against Jane’s normal demure attitude. Austen purists, stay far away from this book. It is filled with sexual innuendo and double entendre that while funny, would make purists cringe and throw the book half way across a room. The humor won me over enough for me to finish the entire novel. I like to think of myself as someone who’s open to reading anything at least once, this book however will stay as just that, a one time read for me.
3 out of 5 Stars