In 2009 Seth Grahame-Smith came up with the cunning plan of taking one of English literature’s most loved classic novels, Pride and Prejudice and adding zombies to it. Before I even get into reviewing the product of this “scheme” I have to admit that I am not sure how I feel about the entire concept. There is a part of me that finds it appalling. First of all it takes a piece of literary brilliance and makes it into an object of fun without the original author being able to give permission, secondly it smacks of opportunistic laziness considering that the novel retains 85% of its original content. On the other hand it is getting people back into reading classic literature and zombies are pretty cool.
But onto the actual novel itself… if you’ve read Pride and Prejudice (or seen any of the film or TV series adaptations) you’ll be familiar with most of the narrative. Feisty Elizabeth Bennett is the second oldest of five daughters due to be ousted from their family home in Hertfordshire when their father dies at the estate reverts to their distant clergyman cousin, Mr Collins. This means finding husbands is pretty high priority since trying to keep five daughters with a relatively modest estate is a hefty challenge – even more so when the countryside is beset by zombies.
In these dark times, the Bennett sisters have been trained as zombie slaying warriors in China – as their mid-level breeding has allowed since only the highest echelons of society are able to afford supposedly superior Japanese training.
When Mr Bingley takes up residence in the nearby Netherfield estate the sisters, especially eldest sister Jane, are charmed by his excellent manners but less so by those of his sullen friend, Mr Darcy. Elizabeth in particular thinks Mr Darcy is a bit of a dick and she’s not afraid to say it. Her initial prejudice is in no way improved when she meets his childhood companion, an officer named Mr Wickham who tells her some pretty shocking tales of his past.
While it initially seems that an engagement between Bingley and Jane is imminent when he and his party unexpectedly quit Netherfield Elizabeth becomes suspicious that Darcy has interfered feeling that Jane is beneath his friend. Her hatred grows… as does her thirst for wiping out the undead menace and none of this is helped by an unwanted proposal from Mr Collins, who really is a complete dick.
But could Jane be completely mistaken in her beliefs about Darcy and will either of them be able to overcome their pride to realise that they have more in common than they thought possible?
Pride and Prejudice itself remains awesome because Lizzy Bennett is a total badass, Darcy is a super sexy brooding hero and it’s a tale full of twists, turns, heartache and longing. Adding zombies doesn’t change that. What it does do is make parts of it completely hilarious and also utterly ridiculous. I loved that the Bennett sisters were now not only strong, free thinkers but also able to kick the shit out of anyone who as much as looked at them funny so I have to give Grahame-Smith props there and his ability to inject humour at the right points (mostly in testicle jokes) is impressive. And so ultimately I enjoyed this… quite a lot… but 85% of that was probably because the original work is so good.
Should you read this book? It’s hard to say. I don’t really know why you wouldn’t just read Pride and Prejudice to be honest. It doesn’t need zombies to be one of the best romance novels ever written.