pride and prejudice and zombies PPZAnd Now For Something Completely Different

Author: Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.” And so it begins, this tongue-in-cheek, bone crushing, carnage splattering homage to Jane Austen’s most memorable (and universally acknowledged) sensitive romance of social station and the higher meaning of pure love. What is better than a Mr. Darcy who carves his way through the zombie hordes, musket smoke curling around his dark, fine locks, to proclaim fidelity for the woman he is unfortunate enough to kind of like? What couple’s spat could be more soul wrenching than the highly trained Elizabeth Bennet, Shaolin Master, and Mr. Darcy facing off over an undesired proposal and literally bringing the house down.  What conclusion could be more moving than to see Mr. Darcy beat Wickham into a continual bed soiling cripple in remuneration for his former forbearance and in anticipation of a happily ever after ending for a wayward Bennet sister? It’s truth, and love, and blood and guts, and Victorian propriety, and cannibalism, and social tête-à-tête, and zombies, and piano forte, and everything good and true and mortifyingly, shambling-ly undead. It’s a classic – with guts.

If you’re ready to see everything you have ever held securely to your bosom, everything in Jane Austen that has ever made you starry eyed with hope, overcome by the power of romance thwarting society, everything that bespeaks long gowns, good grooming, and ladylike manners, diabolically broken into double entendre and bone crunching glee, then you’ve come to the right place, my friend. Stationed between an overly silly culture all up with the balls and the high society and rituals of propriety, arrival of the “unmentionables” in Victorian England means that grand ladies must be able to serve tea and slay the undead – all with decorum of course. Everything absurd about Pride and Prejudice gets bumped up to a whole new level, especially those elements which Austen herself was already making some snide commentary about (such as the insipid and shallow Mrs. Bennet and of course, the ever detestable Mr. Collins). But, of course, there’s a lot more than just a little bit of sarcasm. It’s time to profane the world of good, old-fashioned romance with some sword fights and musketry and scenes of unfortunate party goers getting chowed on by their newly turned hosts. Is it memorable? No. Is it a hell of a lot of fun? Oh yes. Is it essential for quirky Austen fans with a taste for the dark side? Undoubtedly dear ladies and gentlemen and all you genteel ghouls out there.

Ok, so what’s the low down especially in relation to the immensely successful PPZ movie? I started as a fan of Austen, doing my thesis on Sense and Sensibility and Austen’s subtle roles of rebellion against the society to which she both mocks kowtows. Pride and Prejudice is basically everyone’s favorite because of the tantamount emotions of the tale and the strong female heroine with her sardonic ways and her ability to see through society. The book, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is surprisingly true, running parallel with all storylines and happenings in the book, interrupting them a little, spicing them up some, but leaving the original story still very much there. The movie, on the other hand, is a brilliant re-imagining and uses the Elizabeth and Darcy story (and Lydia’s escape) as the basis while changing everything else to better suit the scenes for the comedy inherent within what is depicted as an oddly spooky and brilliantly hilarious, laugh-out-loud adventure (which is why I paid $30 to pre-order the DVD to add to my miniscule collection of DVDs – it was just that good.) Ironically, friends who hated the PPZ book avoided the movie because they thought it followed the book, but let me assure you, love or hate the PPZ book or premise, don’t expect the movie here but something less genius, more reliant on the original words, and yet unique to itself and ultimately enjoyable.

The scoop is, that pretty much line by line here (right up until the ending) the story liberally cuts and pastes Jane Austen’s actual words, making some tweaks here and there to bring out the humor and to, you know, add some zombie action. The humor is more subtle than the movie and the mood and writing style true to the original novel, making this a very snide mockery at a line level. While sometimes readers wish the tale would feel comfortable and open its wings, soaring on its own unique take more fully, it’s still amusing and while you don’t laugh out loud so much as during the theater experience, you definitely titter. The entire Wickham as rouge zombie entangled with the Church of Lazarus from the movie is not here, and the angle follows the original Austen novel to a T eventually breaking away for some more drama and going a little solo with Wickham’s lameness caused by the most ferocious (and enjoyably over-romanticized) beating.

Throw in a Dojo and the precepts of martial arts training, including the high ritualization of the Bennet ladies (such as applying the seven cuts of shame) and you have yourself a fun, weird little book combining martial arts, traditional zombie lore, and everything Jane Austen. The book furthers your sense of enjoyment with the art-work which is included (such a plus) especially my personal favorite picture with Elizabeth and Darcy standing, swords drawn, hand-in-hand over a slough of zombies who mistook a crop of cabbages for fresh brains. It doesn’t get any better than this folks!

So indulge yourself some. No, it’s not the greatest thing in the world (were you really expecting literature here – really?), and it isn’t as brave as the movie or as amusing, but it’s still a fun, non-serious, making-a-stab-at-everything read that captures all you loved about the original Jane Austen with all that good zombie feeding time frenzy thrown in to boot.

–        Frances Carden


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Frances Carden
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