Fiction: “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”

Now with zombiesI finished reading PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES tonight, about four hours ago. In celebration, Sydney the Laptop has decided to play “Thriller.” Syd, I heartily approve and applaud your choice. Because there is, I swear to God, a “Thriller” reference in this book:

“What a charming amusement for young people this is, Mr. Darcy!”

“Certainly, sir; and it has the advantage also of being in vogue amongst the less polished societies of the world. Every savage can dance. Why, I imagine even zombies could do it with some degree of success.” [22]

Anyway. Seth Grahame-Smith is totally my second pretend boyfriend (after Daniel Craig, of course). He did indeed keep about 90% of Jane Austen’s original novel, and simply added some scenes of supreme zombie violence. The plot, even, is exactly the same: Mr. and Mrs. Bennet of Longbourn have five daughters, and Mrs. Bennet’s only goal in life is to see them married off, and hopefully well. Mr. Bingley and his sisters and friend Mr. Darcy arrive at Netherfield, a neighboring manse, and Mrs. Bennet pushes her eldest, Jane, into the arms of Bingley. Elizabeth is headstrong and independent, and is less than impressed with Darcy’s impertinence and pride.

The difference? Zombies.

See, England has been overrun by a plague of zombies. Mr. Bennet, therefore, trained his five daughters in the deadly arts, and they have all sworn an oath to protect England from the plague of unmentionables.

A few of the guests, who had the misfortune of being too near the windows, were seized and feasted on at once. When Elizabeth stood, she saw Mrs. Long struggle to free herself as two female dreadful bit into her head, cracking her skull like a walnut, and sending a shower of dark blood spouting as high as the chandeliers.

As guests fled in every direction, Mr. Bennet’s voice cut through the commotion. “Girls! Pentagram of Death!”

Elizabeth immediately joined her four sisters, Jane, Mary, Catherine and Lydia in the center of the dance floor. Each girl produced a dagger from her ankle and stood at the tip of an imaginary five-pointed star. From the center of the room, they began stepping outward in unison — each thrusting a razor-sharp dagger with one hand, the other hand modestly tucked into the small of her back. [14]

I’m not going to continue with the plot; I’d hope that y’all had to suffer through the original Pride and Prejudice in high school. I think what Mr. Grahame-Smith has done is simple wish fulfillment, and it works on a lot of levels. I know there are a lot of people out there who claim Pride and Prejudice as one of their favorite novels. I know there are quite a number of Jane Austen devotees throughout the world. I am not one of them, even though I did read all six of her novels last year. I actually detested Pride and Prejudice in high school, and had huge problems with the characters of Mrs. Bennet and Lydia, to name a couple of things. I didn’t understand what the fuss was with marriage being the only goal for women. And of course I didn’t understand; I was looking at the book from the wrong perspective.

After my first reading of P&P, I wanted to smack Lydia for her idiocy, hurt Lady Catherine de Bourgh for being evil and snotty, and strangle Mrs. Bennet with my bare hands. I also wished there were more exciting scenes, because talking about walking in gardens and having tea and playing piano and dancing at balls was boring.

Seth Grahame-Smith made Pride and Prejudice infinitely better. And not just because of the zombie violence; that’s just the first step. By throwing Austen’s beloved characters in the face of zombie violence, it actually made them even more distinctive. Elizabeth’s independence, cleverness, and headstrongness is directly tied into the fact that she is the best warrior of the Five Bennet Sisters – she’s level-headed, fearless, and her wit is as sharp as her daggers. Jane is almost as good as Elizabeth, but she’s nearing the age where a woman must lay down her sword and beget the next generation of warriors. Lydia is getting distracted from her studies by the regiment of soldiers in town (to help control the zombie population, naturally – in Austen’s original novel, the reason why the soldiers were stationed in Meryton was never explained. This makes perfect sense).

But Grahame-Smith also adds characteristics to characters that fulfill the desires of readers further. Yes, Mr. Collins is completely annoying and daft, but here, he’s also hideously fat. Charlotte latches onto Mr. Collins’s proposal not only because she’s ‘nearly seven-and-twenty,’ but also because on her way home one day she was bitten by a zombie and infected with the plague; at least, by marrying Mr. Collins, she’ll have been married before dying. And to add to Mr. Collins’s horrible traits, he’s also blind to the fact that Charlotte has turned into a zombie before his eyes.

But my favorite addition to characteristics is, surprisingly for me, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. She is the premiere zombie killer in England (now retired, naturally), and she travels with ninjas:

In describing to her all the grandeur of Lady Catherine and her mansion, which had received considerable improvements, including a grand dojo, and new quarters for her private guard of ninjas… [61]

Other forms of wish-fulfillment: the ability to decode what Jane Austen may have actually wanted to say. For example:

“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]

Also: doing bodily harm to characters that I desperately have wanted to smack since high school. For instance, Lydia. You know, I was going to quote it, but it was so awesome, I don’t want to ruin the surprise. It made me sit up in bed while reading it, and I don’t want to take that satisfaction away from anybody. It’s on page 176, if you’re interested.

In the end, the characters all end up paired accordingly, and Wickham actually gets what he deserves in this alternate reality. And Lydia is still so stupid that she doesn’t see it for the hardship it is.

Other things of awesome: Mr. Darcy’s actually a man of my own tastes, in that he would probably enjoy the phrase “That’s What She Said!”

“I should like balls infinitely better,” [Miss Bingley] 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.”

Elizabeth blushed and suppressed a smile — slightly shocked by his flirtation with impropriety, and slightly impressed that he should endeavor to flirt with it at all. [45]

[Elizabeth] remembered the lead ammunition in her pocket and offered it to him. “Your balls, Mr. Darcy?” He reached out and closed her hand around them, and offered, “They belong to you, Miss Bennet.” Upon this, their colour changed, and they were forced to look away from one another, lest they laugh. [205]

I give it five stars, which is very high praise for me; this is the first book to break four stars since I started this blog. Anyone who has ever read Pride and Prejudice should read this, whether they liked Austen’s novel or not. But here’s why I didn’t give it six stars: I didn’t find myself putting the book down to prolong the story, as I had to with The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. Which, Kerri totally needs to return to me. I will read Pride and Prejudice again, both with and without zombies. But while there were parts where I giggled incessantly, it didn’t draw me in quite as much as Beekeeper’s.

Grade for PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES: 5 stars

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