Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame–Smith
Quirk Classics 2009
Yes, I finally caved and read this book. I have been turning my nose up at it for years, but now that the film version is on its way – have you seen the awesome trailer? – I figured I should probably give it a go, just so I know if it’s actually any good or not.
You know what, I haven’t been snobbish for no reason. HUGE disappointment. Huge.
It’s not that I expected much of it in the first place, but the movie trailer made me expect a little more. Don’t get me wrong, this books is sort of entertaining, and a couple of things in it did make me laugh and one in particular gave me the sort of deep satisfaction that comes from seeing something happen that you wish for a character but that never happens.
However, the amusement derived from this book was very, VERY superficial. The zombies are very superimposed, and serve no thematic purpose whatsoever. Mostly, the book is just Pride and Prejudice (I say just, but there isn’t really anything just about Pride and Prejudice), occasionally interrupted by a fight scene. The zombies change nothing about the way a courtship is carried on, next to nothing in how the characters speak, nothing that would actually make it believable or interesting.
It is at some point mentioned that the zombies have been around for about fifty years, and I made a conscious decision to let that be the validation for the violence the characters felt was natural and a-okay. It’s not really an explanation, and this violence only comes out when the author has considered it somehow “cool” or “hilarious”, but after a few of these occasions I started to find the physical fights tedious. I would have preferred the zombies to either be a minor inconvenience and therefore affect the courtship plot very little, or to be made the central thing and change the whole make up of the novel. As it is, the result is messy, badly balanced, and just simply lazy.
This probably doesn’t need saying, but I’m appalled to have heard that when the book came out, people were delighted because finally Jane Austen was made “interesting”. I remind you again that I’m a Janeite, and as such I take exception to comments of that sort. First, there is nothing in this book to make it actually interesting. I kept looking for a spark of intellect, something, anything, that would tell me the author had actually done some work and thought things through. It’s simply not there. It’s just so lazy, and despite finding some moments amusing, I would much rather have been interested. Second, I find Austen amusing, and sometimes the zombies strip off her original wit or underline it so as to take away the intellectual pleasure of it. That is both a shame and a pity, although I understand that for many people Austen’s ironies and snark can be hard to see. Perhaps these people prefer the zombies and the ninjas, and I’m not going to judge them for it, but it’s not for me at all.
I’ve given the book two out of five stars – it’s occasionally amusing, although the novelty wears of rather quickly, and I suppose if you take it for what it is it’s alright enough. However, it’s simply so lazy that I find very little true amusement in it. The film trailer contains some excellent feminist notions that are absent in the book, which was a great disappointment, but raises my hopes that the movie will be good fun. So I will go see that and hope it rids me of the bad taste this book left.