“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.” – p 1
This book has become a raging phenomenon nearly since the moment of its publishing. People already adore Jane Austen, and even more so her novel “Pride and Prejudice.” But you add a new twist on this classic tale – the living dead – and you get so many varied reactions. There are the purists who are mad one could hope to ever improve on Austen. There are those who think it’s a brilliant and hilarious idea. And the purists who are mad someone would be so pretentious as to add Jane Austen to their zombies. And while to the casual observer, it may seem that the world of Lizzy and the world of zombies would never work, you’d be wrong. Here’s a rundown.
In this alternate universe of the Regency period, a plague of zombies has been bothering England for several decades. Young ladies are now not only judged on their accomplishments of the household, but are expected to learn the arts of the sword and musket, beheading, ninja stars, and to frequently travel to the Orient to learn the ways of the fighting masters. All five of the Bennet sisters, while still rather poor financially, have become renown fighters and are considered some of the King’s best assets when it comes to keeping the numbers of unmentionables down in their territory of Longbourne and Hertfordshire. When the famous zombie-slayer and gentleman Mr. Darcy comes to assist his friends the Bingleys as they move in to the recently (and rather violently) emptied Netherfield, Elizabeth and Jane find themselves the object of attention from both gentlemen. Unfortunately, as Jane is pursued by Mr. Bingley, Elizabeth finds her honour highly insulted by Mr. Darcy, and vows at the first chance to engage him in a duel to the death. But, by doing so, she will deprive the country of one of its greatest warriors, as well as incur the wrath of the celebrated assassin – Lady Catherine du Bourgh.
“A few of the guests, who had the misfortune of being too near the windows, were seized and feasted on at once. When Elizabeth stood, she saw Mrs. Long struggle to free herself as two female dreadfuls bit into her head, cracking her skull like a walnut, and sending a shower of dark blood spouting as high as the chandeliers.” – p 14
As you can probably tell, the foundations of the story are a little changed. The rules of this universe are vastly different, Lizzy and Jane being hardened warriors instead of sheltered young women. Marriage is an afterthought to everyone but Mrs. Bennet and Lydia. Marriage means turning in one’s sword and muskets and turning your attention to adding to the living population instead of reducing the ranks of the living dead. Instead, honor and the warrior’s code are the highest priority. Each encounter between Elizabeth and Darcy is less of a battle of wits than a sizing up of a rival fighter. And by the end of the book, not everyone is still alive…technically.
What was my take on this book? I was excited to read it from the moment I heard about it. And I don’t think Grahame-Smith disappoints in the least. There is a perfect balance between the Austen romance part of the novel and the gruesome horror of the zombies. And if you know me, this is high praise – considering I detest anything with zombies in it. (I even had a hard time with the sixth Harry Potter book). There are some passages which are particularly brutal and violent and even graphic in their descriptions of the undead and the consequences of fighting them. There are characters who have become much harder and less compassionate due to the universe they live in. This is not a book for someone who believes in the sanctity of Austen and is just interested to see how it’s been altered. It is an adult novel, with dirty jokes, graphic battle scenes, and blood and gore. Which is part of what made me love it. I can’t wait for the next one to come out – “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.”
“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” was written by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith and published in April of 2009.