I’ll start this by saying that I have an extreme phobia when it comes to zombies. Alien chest-huggers don’t bother me. Vampires don’t bother me. Werewolves don’t scare me.
Zombies scare the crap out of me. Things that behave like Zombies scare the crap out of me. When friends watched 28 Days Later, within the first 5 minutes I decided that I’d prefer to spend the next 2 hours in my computer room with headphones on.
To give you an example of how far this goes, I still haven’t seen Shaun of the Dead.
I’m not quite sure what lead me to buy Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Perhaps it was the special hardcover edition that promised cheekily “30% more zombies!” on the back, or perhaps it was a good logical step in trying to get over my fear of the stupid things. Opening up the hardcover to see the corny picture plates reminiscent of 1950’s publications may have helped too.
Finally, it was certainly aided by my love of Pride and Prejudice. I find myself permanently torn between naming Pride and Prejudice or Catch-22 as the book that I’d name “best of all time”. (Perhaps I should finally give in and declare them equal winners.)
And so, I knew I was at least in for a fun ride when I opened up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and read the new starting paragraph:
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains. Never was this truth more plain than during the recent attacks at Netherfield Park, in which a household of eighteen was slaughtered and consumed by a horde of the living dead.
The adaptation of the book is written by Seth Grahame-Smith, but appropriately, the author byline lists “Jane Austin and Seth Grahame-Smith”. Regardless of the (extensive) changes that Seth has made to the content of the book, the principles and structure of the original remains very much preserved. Regardless, a retelling of the original story cannot be told without acknowledging the brilliant original author.
I don’t want to make this a detailed review. It would be unfair to give too many details and spoil the book, so I’ll restrict myself to the absolute basics.
The story is set in the same timeline of the original book, with the exception that approximately 50 years before the events of the book England (and perhaps other countries) started to become afflicted with “unmentionables” – zombies. These were the stupid, slow moving kind, rather than the even more terrifying fast moving monsters becoming more common in new fiction. English society adapted. Everyone had to at some level become proficient with weaponry and self defence, and many became skilled warriors. Due to the terrible times, even many women became warriors. This, as you might gather, adjusted some attitudes in society and has changed some of the characters within the book in quite interesting ways.
Fear not, reader. Mr Collins remains the same wonderfully annoying idiot in this adaption as he does in the original.
The changes necessitated by living with a zombie plague in an otherwise genteel England are logically carried throughout the book, making the changes to various characters entirely understandable and enjoyable.
There are, at times, elements of slightly crass humour in this adaption. Vomit for instance features readily at times. Yet, this is forgivable since if I were in a position where I just watched someone have their head cracked open and brains eaten, I’d probably want to throw up more than a little myself. Seth Grahame-Smith acknowledges that the most crass humour likely originates from the times he was tiredest when working under a deadline for the completion. Even knowing that, you can still enjoy that humour with a 21st century approach in the context of the altered book. Or to put it another way: If you’re the sort of person offended by a bit of crass humour, you’re unlikely to ever buy such a wildly tilted adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.
The book keeps the original love story with all its ups and downs; the pride is still there, the prejudice is still there. If anything at times, it’s intensified by that warrior spirit, and all the more enjoyable when the revelations start to filter through. It’s just got a lot of extra fun built into it thanks to some well placed zombies, warriors and warrior women.
And that bit everyone loves in Pride and Prejudice, when Lady Catherine de Bourgh confronts Elizabeth in the “pretty little wilderness”? Well, make sure you’re sitting down for that. It is, quite simply, beautifully adapted to the changed storyline and packs even more punch. (Probably best to have an empty bladder, too.)
We now have rumours that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is to be turned into a major motion picture, and Natalie Portman is meant to be playing Miss Eliza Bennet. If this happens, based on the fantastic book, I’ll likely be not only seeing my first zombie movie, but paying to do so at the cinema.
If you liked the original, and you have a good sense of humour, I’d recommend it heartily.
Even if, like me, you’re scared witless of zombies. 5 out of 5!