Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Seth Grahme-Smith)

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Seth Grahme-Smith
Read: 10 October to 17 October 2011
3 / 5 stars

This book is an exercise in damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't literary risks. Had it contained less Austen and more zombies, I'd be complaining about how the original material was trampled in an effort to cash in on those of us who love a classic novel just as much as we love seeing the undead wreak havoc on society; however, it seemed like the zombie element was more of an intermittently applied afterthought than an actively engaged central plot point, and therein lies my issue.

I realize that's the fine line books of this ilk have to walk, and I appreciate that difficulty both as a lit snob and a writer. Just like I'm keenly aware that I shouldn't be taking this so seriously. I know I should have been reading this with my tongue firmly placed somewhere in the vicinity of either cheek (and I did for the most part, with special thanks to repeated plays on the obvious dual meaning of the word "balls"). But I can't help but feel a little a little cheated by this book, just like I did with the various missed opportunities of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.

To me, if you're going to call a book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, there should be equal parts snooty British society, personal opinions shaped by erroneous assumptions and the shuffling undead. And, okay, I get it that you can't totally rewrite such a beloved manuscript without unraveling familiar storylines and creating an unorganized mess that can't be resolved. But the way this was executed felt a little phoned-in, like the zombies were just thrown in enough to be a gimmick (which, I suppose, is the intent but that's not my point). I wanted Elizabeth and Darcy's courtship to be overwrought with teeming masses of undead, not just the occasional allusion to how equally they're matched in the art of zombie slaying. Don't tell me about it -- show it to me (hel-looooooo, basic tenets of creative writing).

What I'm trying to say is that for me to have been totally impressed with this book, the zombie element would have played a much bigger part in moving the plot along. A little more effort to emulate Austen's style while weaving a thoroughly modern cultural phenomenon into a familiar tale would have tickled my demented funny bone a lot more and would have resulted in a much stronger satirical effort. The way this reads is like it's five pages of unaltered text with the "Time for more zombie hordes now!" tacked on for effect rather than relevancy. One could argue that not really mentioning the unmentionables is a nod to how the book's high society doesn't really acknowledge its brain-eating scourge; I'll argue back that it's simply lazy (re)writing.

I'm not saying that this book is devoid of any merit, humorous or otherwise. It isn't. At all. It was greatly entertaining and had me snickering quite a bit. Like S&S&SM, the recent addition of supernatural creatures had the fortunate outcome of emphasizing the hypocrisy and damnable delicacy of society that Austen has taken many a jab at. It just seems like this would have been better executed in the hands of someone with equal reverence for and knowledge of Austen's work and zombie lore, and who had the intent of adding a whole new layer to a familiar story instead of inserting the odd bit of undead mayhem here and there. My overall impression of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is that it's a prime example of a great idea that lost something in its execution.

No comments:

Post a Comment