Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
In reading this novel, or any of the author’s work (this applies most particularly to his work in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter), you have to be aware that there is going to be some ridiculousness involved. And, to be sure, there is a lot to be found here of that. There are, of course, a few warnings that need to go into a book like this. If you are going to enjoy this book you are going to need to have an interest both in Jane Austen’s wit (and the other author’s attempt to imitate it) as well as high body counts and gruesome destruction of the undead and the living. This particular book has a high body count and the author makes some of the subtext of Austen’s novels into actual text, including providing a plausible reason why Charlotte Lucas would marry the odious Mr. Collins and a fitting fate for that man as well as for Lydia and Mr. Wickham. Reading this novel with tongue firmly lodged in the cheek is strongly advised if you want to read this. This is not one’s normal Austen reading experience, to be sure , but it is not without enjoyment for all that.
This novel works best if you see it as a loving pastiche of Austen’s original work. For the most part, the text remains that of Jane Austen’s, as does the basic plot. However, there are some deviations because of the addition and transformation of various episodes relating to an England that is under siege from an undead menace that is given various names and dealt with in various ways, like burning and beheading, learning Far Eastern martial arts, and hiring ninjas as bodyguards. The novel itself exists on multiple levels, part of it dealing with the frustrations of family drama and the divides of the Bennet family, part of it dealing with the romantic plot, and part of it dealing with the obligations of the Bennet girls to, until marriage, to fight on the front lines of England’s efforts to rid itself of the zombie menace, described in vivid language and with a considerable amount of humor. This is a novel that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and you are probably best off if you do not take it too seriously either.
This is the sort of novel that is designed to appeal to a niche audience, and the author seemed somewhat surprised that the niche ended up being as large as it has. Basically put, fans of this novel can place themselves in at least several camps. For one, there are Jane Austen fans who don’t take themselves (or the novel) that seriously and are willing to appreciate a lighthearted homage to Jane Austen that is translated into a different novel with its overall tone lowered a bit. The other are those who are fans of zombie literature who are willing to read that literature expressed in a Regency idiom. Given Jane Austen’s own fondness for Gothic literature, noted in the book’s afterword, it is likely she would have appreciated this book and perhaps demanded a large share of the profits. Even so, this is a novel that certainly tells an entertaining story and encourages one to take the novel more seriously as well, to see how deeply the parallels lie. The author is clearly having a good time here, and it is best if you read this book or listen to it or read it in translation that you look for a good time as well.
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