So much beauty out there

April 10, 2010

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

As a big Austen fan you might expect me to come to this with my mind made up to hate it, but I was actually quite looking forward to it. The concept is a pretty clever one, taking the basic text of Pride and Prejudice, but weaving in a story of zombie killing. Unfortunately the execution doesn’t match up.
This isn’t wholly surprising, not many writers could put their prose right next to Austen and see it hold up, and Grahame-Smith doesn’t quite manage to get her tone right either. But that needn’t be a fatal flaw, and it’s really other defects that are more damaging. The major one is that there is a fundamental lack of suspense. Given that Grahame-Smith is sticking to Austen’s text, he can’t really kill off anyone before they disappear from the main plot, so the only way to have victims of the zombies is either to add characters simply in order to kill them off (which arouses only apathy) or to eliminate more minor characters. I won’t name them, but they aren’t ones you’re likely to shed too many tears for. Given that suspense is the primary reason for reading horror, this hugely undermines its rationale.
The other way that the revision could work is if it was funny. It has its moments but not nearly enough, and it has some truly dreadful knob jokes. The only really funny bit comes at the end with the Readers Discussion Guide, which is hilarious. At other times, the zombie references seem forced in, presumably because Grahame-Smith feels he’s got to earn his money.
It’s not that bad though, its certainly easy to imagine it being a lot worse. In fact the only thing that I really disliked was that the book seems to take it upon itself to wreak vengeance on the unappealing characters in the original. It just felt gratuitous, and even more counter to Austen’s style than sticking in a zombie invasion.

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