Saturday, July 18, 2009

Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

So first off, I would like to admit that I have never so much as read Pride and Prejudice. I read Sense and Sensibility for my CPU program and that was enough Austen for me. I've heard Austen's books described as "battles of wits" and great critiques of her time.

Secondly, I suppose I must point out once more that I don't come from that culture where middle-class and upper middle-class ladies sat around drinking tea, contriving to get their daughters married by attending balls and whatnot. Thirdly, I'm really not into that kind of thing. That period, for me as a woman, represents everything that is helpless for women about patriarchal culture. (Which is why I liked and hated the movie the Duchess. I just know what kind of period it's set in, and how since it's based on real events, things cannot be helped.)

Fourthly, I don't like zombies. I don't like the horror genre much, and even parodies can disturb me - Shaun of the Dead gave me nightmares. I know there's some strange metaphor that zombies are supposed to represent which a friend tried in vain to tell me once several years ago, but it made little to no sense to me so I cannot recall it enough to talk about it.

But on to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Let me say I found this book utterly charming. It takes away nothing from Austen's original writing or wit. Even the additions sound like they were written in Austen's voice.

In this version, England has been overrun by zombies for the last fifty years. The zombies running around give us another layer of complexity around the characters - it makes them physically stronger, and a little bit tougher. The plague also makes for some interesting plot twists and changes to certain characters' fates. To keep his daughters alive, Mr. Bennet has taken all five of them off to China to study under Shaolin masters in martial arts. So, not only is class an issue for Elizabeth Bennet when facing Lady De Bourgh, so is her skill in martial arts, as Lady De Bourgh's fame also lies in her considerable reputation as a warrior.

It's not a parody, since And Zombies doesn't really portray caricatures of the characters, but really sticks to their original seemings as much as possible. Nor is it satirical of anything, except maybe the tropes within zombie literature. It's not even a re-write, since the major plot points remain the same on the surface.

It's a very funny book, of course, since the inserts are placed everywhere, in every surprising place, and add a flavour to the prose which is neither too gory nor too dignified. The characters are also improved by the new aspects placed on their circumstances due to the insertions. It is also surprisingly tragic, and characters which I normally wouldn't have cared for suddenly become sympathetic in light of the changes wrought on them due to the plague. I think this version is a huge wish fulfilment for many young women who have read Pride and Prejudice in this day and age!

Nothing is overdone in this book, except for maybe the language. All the self-insertions are quiet self-effacing ones which don't stand up to demand a whole lot of attention. They don't scream, "LOOK AT ME! LOOK HOW CLEVER I AM!" but rather, simply do their job of propeling the plot further (insofar as Pride and Prejudice has a plot). It maintains the slow, plodding pacing typical of Austen. If anything is strange, it's the depiction of life with zombies running amok as perfectly normal.

Good read.

2 comments:

  1. God, a group of friends and I watched Shaun of the Dead because we'd heard how funny it supposedly was, and we spent the entire movie in dead silence, cuddling each other and quivering gently whenever someone's guts got ripped out.

    Not my brand of humor, sorry.

    As for Austen--yeah, if you're not into ladies drinking tea, she's probably not going to interest you all that much. You might want to try Northanger Abbey, though. It's a satire of Gothic novels, and it's a total scream.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I thought PaPaZ was a brilliant satire of a satire -- highlighting everything that Jane Austen herself was not fully aware of the world she was satirizing; Grahame-Smith adds so much indirect commentary about class, race and gender that I felt it have the book another dimension than just a gimmick premise. What did you think of the portrayal of the East in this book? Especially the Elizabeth fighting the ninjas? I laughed because it was so shocking offensive, yet, at the same time, if a nineteenth-century Englishwoman from a small village were to write about the East, she *would* probably portray them as something very similar... which made the book brilliant in its humor. Reminded me of Sasha Baron Cohen's style of satire that is so extreme that it makes you react, then think about why you're laughing.

    I was planning to write an analysis of this in an upcoming post, once I'm done with our essay work.

    ReplyDelete