Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies - Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

Phew. 319 pages finished in a day. I'm pretty proud of myself, for not having read too much recently.

Anywho, for the uninitiated, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has been described as a "literary monster mash-up". If you can't tell by the title, it's basically Pride and Prejudice... with ZOMBIES. It does not pretend to be much else, but I was delighted by passages such as this:
"...Who do you mean, my dear? I know of nobody that is coming, I am sure, unless Charlotte Lucas should happen to call in--and I am sure my dinners are good enough for her, since she is an unmarried woman of seven-and-twenty, and as such should expect little more than a crust of bread washed down with a cup of loneliness." (49)
Now, shouldn't that have been in the original? Don't all the early-eighteenth-century classics need a little more brutal honesty and a little less circumvention? Or how 'bout a dash of good ol' fashioned brutality?
"...I delcare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!"
"Spoken like one who has never known the ecstasy of holding a still-beating heart in her hand," said Darcy. (44)
But on to serious business. I was fairly indifferent to Pride and Prejudice when I first read it, and of course I was interested in a zombie mash-up. You'd have to have no sense of humor to not find it at least somewhat entertaining. I loved the way that Seth Grahame-Smith integrated the "zombie mayhem", as well as his other lowbrow humor, by making it sound as if Jane Austen herself could have written it... if, you know, she wanted to throw zombies and ninjas in for spice. It has a similar tone, and you could almost miss some of the references if you lapse into what I refer to as "Dickens mode", when you're just kind of getting the story so you can remember it later for that test. For example, he adds in a bit of lowbrow humor that I almost missed:
" 'I should like balls infinitely better,' she replied, 'if they were carried on in a different manner.' 'You should like balls infinitely better,' said Darcy, 'if you knew the first thing about them.' " (45)
Hmmm... and then later:
" '...Perhaps by and by I may observe that private balls are much pleasanter than public ones.' ' On the contrary, I find that balls are much more enjoyable when they cease to remain private.' " (73)
And again:
"She remembered the lead ammunition in her pocket and offered it to him. 'Your ball,s Mr. Darcy?' He reached out and closed her hand around them, and offered, 'They belong to you, Miss Bennett.' " (205)
As if to do a little "nudge nudge, wink wink" to less careful readers, he has Elizabeth blush at the impropriety after each exchange. And I'm not really into slapstick or really coarse humor, but I love Monty Python--so in the doses he gives his humor, it's definitely tolerable. Seth Grahame-Smith gets points on several changes he makes to the story--which I won't spoil for you--but I actually think he could have done more. The text is still 90% Jane Austen, and he didn't make any major changes (by my standards) to the storyline. From the looks of it, though, this will probably become something of a series if he has any success, so I dare him in future attempts to rip apart the classics as he pleases. Just don't touch Jane Eyre. This is my one big complaint, because I feel like I've mostly just reread Pride and Prejudice, and I just wasn't that into it the first time for me to like it much better the second time. But the zombies were an improvement.

Also, scenes like this, playing off on what I believe to be the modern readers' mutual fantasies:
"...and so she asked the two Harringtons to come, but Harriet was ill, and so Pen was forced to come by herself--"
Elizabeth presently drew her Katana and cut off Lydia's head, which fell into the open hatbox.
The others looked on in a state of silent shock as a torrent of blood sprang forth from Lydia's neck, staining their dresses. Elizabeth sheathed her blade, and in a most delicate tone, said "I beg you all forgive me, but I could stand her prattling no longer." However, when she spared another glance toward Lydia, she was surprised to see her head very much attached.
"Lord! How I laughed!" continued her younger sister. "And so did Mrs. Forster. I thought I should have died."
Elizabeth sighed. If only she could really cut off Lydia's head. (176)
Despite its failings, the book automatically gets a point for the two pages of "A Reader's Discussion Guide" at the end. This is all Seth Grahame-Smith, and it is awesome.
7. Does Mrs. Bennett have a single redeeming quality? (319)
Ah. That's better. I give it 7 arbitrary numbers out of 10.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: A Preview

So I was walking through Borders today and saw something that inspired me to start up this blog:

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

So maybe I had been forced to read Pride and Prejudice in 10th grade. Maybe I wasn't the biggest Jane Austen fan out there. But this. I had to pick it up. Curiosity would not let me put it down.

Now, I would probably have left it behind due to my small bank account, but after doing some internet-wise research in search of a review of this book (okay, maybe I am a little dubious about anything that can attach "...and zombies" to a Jane Austen masterpiece and publish it), I found out that it wasn't supposed to be released for at least three weeks. Hmm. So after some more research, it seems that there must have been some snafu with Border's release dates; I've read some comments saying that they found it in Borders and then were confused by a different release date online. Even the release dates are dubious: different sites have it as April 1st (leading some to believe it's one big fat April Fool's joke), May 13th, and June 1st. But I assure you; this is no April Fool's joke. Just a published joke. Ehem.

There appears to be a fair amount of hype over it, so I'm going to do a pre-release review of it. Wow, it's almost like having and advance copy! No, I fear it's just a release snafu. But either way, I'll read this book qiuckly so I can either quell or push forward the hype. Perhaps this release error will end soon and only a few people will actually have gotten a copy. But one of those people will be me.

I'm currently on Chapter 3, and let me say this: my initial impressions are a bit dubious. Seth Grahame-Smith hasn't really rewritten the novel so far, as much as taken the book and morphed the scenes to include zombies and such. But really, Pride and Prejudice was definitely not quite so catching without the zombies. So hopefully, the comedy will be well-placed and not just for gags. And also, I hope that some out there will pull the stick out of their ass and take the book for what it is: pure fun. Let's see how this turns out.