Sunday, March 5, 2017

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

I am back from the longest hiatus ever, and the first book I'd like to share about is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Seth Grahame-Smith (and, of course, our friend Jane Austen).  I'm pleased for this to be the first book I review coming back, as it's one I truly enjoyed.  

A mysterious plague has befallen the nation, so rather than the Napoleonic Wars, the country is battling against the rising dead; the sisters Bennet are trained (and well proficient) in the deadly arts, and although they studied in China rather than the more fashionable Japan, their prowess is nigh incomparable, and they are tasked with the defense of their home at Longbourn and the surrounding neighborhood - until such time as they each marry, as upon taking a nuptial vow, their duty will shift from crown to husband.

I don't think this book needs much more introduction or explanation of the premise than that, since it has been made into a movie, so let's just get right to it, shall we?  As with Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, when I originally bought this book, I wasn't sure whether I'd be going into it with mixed feelings or what, but after having read that, I went into this with much more enthusiasm from the start.  Even though the two novels have different authors, they have a very similar feel, and both Grahame-Smith and Winters have done an equally commendable job of weaving the new elements in with the original stories in a way that makes these books hold their own:  you don't need to have read the original works to understand or appreciate these as stand-alone novels (although I highly recommend that you do read Austen's, because she was a treasure and her collective work is a gift).  
Fans of Austen's original Pride & Prejudice will not be too disappointed, I think, with Grahame-Smith's off-beat re-telling, so long as they also appreciate either the absurd and/or zombie stories.  Rather than being praised in the countryside for their beauty alone, the elder Bennet sisters are renowned for their skill in dispatching of the unmentionable menace; Mary is still a pragmatist with interest in the spiritual, but her skill is also to be admired, and the younger sisters are as flighty as ever - despite their own skills, they tend to forgo properly sparring in the interest of showing off to the officers encamped about Meryton.  Mrs Bennet's nerves treat her as ill as in the original work, and Mr Bennet's character is also what one would remember from Austen.

As for the romantic heroes - Bingley and Darcy - their characters also hold up to the original work, however, Darcy is not merely the wealthy, brooding heir to the Pemberley estate, but an esteemed fighter.  Bingley is no martial expert, but a proper gentleman nonetheless, and still a perfect match for Jane Bennet.  One thing that's been added to the narrative with regard to Elizabeth and Mr Darcy is an element of what feels like sexual tension; there is a bit of innuendo thrown into the dialogue, but if that isn't your thing, you can rest assured that it really is more fleeting than a focus of any kind, and social proprieties are still considered.  

The side characters are where things get a bit more dicey for me:  I actually really enjoy the thought of Lady Catherine as a formidable warrior, as it fits her original demeanor very well.  Wickham in this is fairly true to his original character as well, and I think he gets a suitable end, which, if you've only seen the movie, you won't understand, because the book is basically 100% different from the film adaptation.  Charlotte Lucas, however, is done so dirty in this book that her fate is the one thing I can honestly say I do not like about it.  Charlotte is a sweet young woman whose future was bleak enough in the original story, and Grahame-Smith just took that and made it infinitely worse.  I would much rather her ending in this had gone to Lydia, but it is what it is.  

When it comes to the story overall, I enjoyed both this and the film, but just be aware that they are not at all the same, plot-wise.  You will either be disappointed in one or the other, or you will have to do as I do, and treat them as separate entities altogether.  If you're a bit on the squeamish side, also be aware that Grahame-Smith can be quite descriptive, so the zombie bits are appropriately full of blood and guts and related general grossness.  I enjoy that in a book like this, but it's certainly not for everyone.




Film Adaptations: