Many of you should know or recognize the story of Pride and Prejudice, one of the true classics of literature. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy are icons that will always be relevant in some way, and their love/hate story is a heart-pounding and often hilarious read. Elizabeth is a young woman from a family of five sisters, she being the second oldest. Her mother and younger sisters can think of nothing but marriage and money, but Elizabeth and her oldest sister, Jane, have managed to become ladies of respect and intelligence despite this. One of her only serious problems is her tendency to jump to conclusions and form immediate prejudices against or for certain people.
Mr. Darcy is a reticent man, full of pride for his station and that of his friends. Taken advantage of in the past, he is determined now to let none into his confidence, and to protect his friends’ interests with a will, even if that comes at the cost of someone else’s happiness. Darcy and Elizabeth of course clash immediately, and a serious enmity is formed between them. This being a well known story, it won’t shock you to learn that things turn out quite differently from what they first expected.
Pride and Prejudice in itself is a seriously captivating read, and honestly one of my all time favorite books. Elizabeth’s wit and sharp tongue make me laugh out loud, and her determination to live her own life, while trying to maintain the honor and respect of her family are incredibly admirable, especially for the time this was written. Mr. Darcy is just about every woman’s dream, a talk, dark, and handsome man with a penchant for brooding. He’s the strong, silent type that bottles up his feelings until they come spilling out unexpectedly and all over the place, as when he declares his love for Elizabeth, shocking her.
Now add zombies, and stir.
This is what Seth Grahame-Smith has done. Taking a beloved classic and spicing it up, we end up with the five Bennet sisters, still genteel or rambunctious as their personalities dictate, but also trained rigorously in “the deadly arts”. A strange plague has gripped England, causing the dead to spontaneously rise from their graves and seek the brains of their living countrymen.
Elizabeth and her sisters not only attend balls and flirt outrageously with the local militia officers, they take sword, dagger, and bow to the undead menace. This added dimension to the story is hilarious and extremely well done. Some may think it sacrilegious to change such a classic, but I think the zombies merely add an extra chance for Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy to show their stuff.
The story remains basically the same, although a few slightly significant changes do take place, such as the fates of Elizabeth’s friend Charlotte and the rascal Mr. Wickham. There is also a quite amazing scene between the warrior Elizabeth and Lady Catherine De Bourgh, wherein they fight hand to hand, although I will not reveal the outcome. The Bennet sisters are seen as somewhat unladylike because of their warrior ways, but they also command respect for their skills in combat. The terms Grahame-Smith uses to describe these new aspects of Pride and Prejudice are also very clever and very properly English, such as “the deadly arts” and referring to zombies as “unmentionables”.
There were a few things I had problems with, though. Firstly, that the warriors were trained in China or Japan I find somewhat frustrating. Instead of pre-empting someone else’s traditional teachings and warrior culture, I’d have preferred to see a more staunchly English tone to the fighting. Zombies, I can handle and even thoroughly enjoy, but the addition of ninjas to the equation nearly put me over.
Secondly, the level of vulgarity and innuendo in this newer version is a bit higher than I thought necessary. Mr. Darcy’s new penchant for naughty humor and sly-eyed asides, while usually funny, is also not very much in character. I found his humor at times even slightly offensive, something the original incarnation would never have done. But I suppose if I can accept and even cheer for the Bennet sisters as fabled zombie slayers, a little dirty talk from the leading man isn’t that bad. I just think there were better ways to make jokes for Darcy than through bad puns.
A strong stomach is a requirement, as the other main characters are in fact brain eating zombies, and there are plenty of scenes where they do carry out their single-minded desire. I think one of my favorite additions to the book, though, was the use of cauliflower as zombie bait, since the white clusters do so resemble a human brain. The book really was well done, and I recommend it to anyone with a love for the original and a tolerant sense of humor. It definitely breathes new life (or unlife) into a classic.