Thursday, 30 April 2009

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains."

I've perused a few parody novels before and found them to be pretty lacklustre thing: someone injecting 'funny names' and abbreviating the sequence of events that was present in the original work, while the reader supposedly chuckles at the antics. Nothing wrong with that per se, everyone's got to earn a living, but not my cup of tea.

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies is different, because it quite literally takes Jane Austen's classic as the starting point, complete with love stories, deceptions and characters, and then weaves in the story of an England under threat for half a century from zombies. Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters have been trained in the mysteries of Shaolin, all the better to beat back Satan's armies. They are great warriors, but their heads can still be turned by more than the moan of a 'manky dreadful' and soon we have the familiar story of Messrs Collins, Wickham and Darcy, all familiar and yet all cleverly re-interpreted in this parallel England.

When I heard about the book I laughed out loud, such a simple idea, the title alone could probably have sold many copies even if the story had been badly written. The great delight of it all is just how well it works, the balance that Seth Grahame-Smith achieves in juggling the original storyline and prose and the descriptions of herds of zombies and the fate of poor Miss Lucas.

Finally, a nice 'Easter Egg' at the end are questions for book groups, which start off funny and slightly off-beat (as with the rest of the book) and culminate in this fantastic final question for readers:

"Some scholars believe that the zombies were a last minute addition to the novel, requested by the publisher in a shameless attempt to boost sales. Others argue that the hordes of living dead are integral to Jane Austen's plot and social commentary. What do you think? Can you imagine what this novel might be like without the violent zombie mayhem?"

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