August 28th 2010
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
By Jane Austin Seth Grahame-Smith
Quirk Books/Titan publishing
Review written by Dan Collacott
I will be the first to admit that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a genius of a concept and I warmly doff my hat to author Seth Grahame-Smith for at least attempting to pull this off. My only issue is that this, as the title suggests is Pride and Prejudice, 85% of the Jane Austin's original text to be precise. This means that for every cleverly woven in zombie reference or attack you still have to plough through the endless tedium of a period drama and the type of literary fare you were FORCED to study at school or university.
The heavily tongue in cheek opening line “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains will be in want of more brains,” gives you a good idea of what is to come, as what unfolds is the very world Austen created with the backdrop of a zombie plague that is tearing through England's green and beautiful lands. In this version of events the main characters such as Mr. Darcy, Lady Catherine de Bourgh and the entire Bennet family are trained zombie killers. It is worth noting that the illustrations that accompany the action throughout the book are superb and really do enhance the humour throughout the book. To his credit Seth manages to transform most of the characters into something believable in this brain eaten alter-universe, but occasionally he takes it too far and pretty much rips the heart out of character favourites such as Mr. Wickham. But who cares right? Surely the audience for this book is zombie fanatics, what do we care about the cannibalization of the original? Well that's the main issue here, I am a zombie fanatic and having to wade through masses of tedious Austen prose just to get to the very occasional zombie related pay off - was just not enough to justify reading this book.
I actually struggled to get to the end of this work and find it now pointless to go into any great detail about it or its characters as I'm sure you've all read the book or seen the original on TV and if you haven't DON'T. But much as I laughed at the classic Assembly Ball scene ending in the characters in their tailored suits, ball gowns and full pomp and ceremony having to dispatch marauding zombies, it wasn't enough to maintain my interest throughout. I mean imagine you hated Wuthering Heights (which strangely i didn't), but Seth came along and introduced a few lycans to the moors so it wasn't just the brutality of nature and Heathcliff's wild untamable heart that Cathy had to worry about, but howling man wolves wanting to eat or turn her. Sounds quite good doesn't it? Until you then realise it is still Wuthering Heights and not that much has been added or taken away. Throwing in one new idea no matter how crazy and 'out there' is just not enough. In this case taking a conservative society obsessed with taboo and behaviour and giving them something far more deadly and disgusting to worry about other than marriage, breeding and money is a good riff to base a book on but one that has severely limited resonance.
High concept or not this in many ways feels like pure unadulterated novelty at it's worst, like a toilet book on rude gnomes or farting ducks. It really is no more than someone smashing a literary masterpiece (vomit) apart for pure cynical profit. But the fact is this WILL work as film or TV series and that is where i can at least understand why this book exists as visually Seth has a gold mine of material here! No wonder then this is due to be a 2011 movie starring Natalie Portman! The film super powers have already seen it's big dumb but pretentious potential. In the mean time Wuthering Heights with Werewolves! Yes publishing houses I am ready and waiting on that one, call me anytime - I'll even give Emily Bronte some of the credit!
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