In Want Of More Brains | A Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Review
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains, must be in want of more brains.”
With such a self evident beginning, one might not hold out much hope for 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,' a book written by Jane Austen, a woman who wrote almost exclusively on marriage, but never married herself, her only suitor being a boorish and boring chap of sufficient means but insufficient brains; and Seth Graheme-Smith, a man who once took a class in English literature.
One might imagine that the addition of zombies to Austen's great tale of a smart young woman who finds love at last in the arms of an upstanding, though outwardly caddish fellow (and they hassle Stephenie Meyer for writing romantic wish fulfillment novels,) would ruin the classic story.
Fortunately, it does not, if anything it adds a delightful touch of stylized danger to the dry back and forth that was the life of courtship in the late 1700's. To give example, I refer you to the scene in the ballroom where Mr Darcy completely ruins any chance Austen may have had of finishing her novel quickly by insulting the heroine, Elizabeth, who is not dancing at the ball. In the original novel, this scene is marked by rapier cold wit, in this updated version, rapiers must be at the ready:
'“Which do you mean?” and turning round he looked for a moment at Elizabeth, till catching her eye, he withdrew his own and coldly said, “She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me; I am in no humor at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men.”
As Mr Darcy walked off, Elizabeth felt her blood turn cold. She had never in her life been so insulted. The warrior code demanded that she avenge her honor. Elizabeth reached down to her ankle, taking care not to draw attention. There, her hand met the dagger concealed beneath her dress. She meant to follow this proud Mr Darcy and open his throat.
But no sooner had she grabbed the handle of her weapon than a chorus of screams filled the assembly hall, immediately joined by the shattering of window panes. Unmentionables poured in, their burial clothing in a range of untidiness.
Some wore gowns so tattered as to render them scandalous; others wore suits so filthy that one would assume they were assembled from very little other than dirt and dried blood. Their flesh was in varying degrees of putrefaction; the freshly stricken were slightly green and pliant, whereas the longer dead were grey and brittle – their eyes and tongues long since turned to dust, and their lips pulled back into everlasting skeletal smiles.
A few of the guests, who had the misfortune of being too near the windows, were seized and feasted on at once.'
Fear not, purists, though the original novel has been decorated, it has not been essentially changed. The story line remains the same, the characters just as sympathetic, pathetic or detestable as they were in the original. The action is simply livened up now and then by the consumption of the living by the dead, and by frequent references to the Bennet sister's warrior training, much of which took place, as all good warrior training does, in China and Japan, as exclaimed by dear Elizabeth when turning down the marriage proposal of her father's cousin:
“You forget, sir, that I am a student of Shaolin! Master of the seven-starred fist! I am perfectly serious in my refusal. You could not make me happy, and I am convinced that I am the last woman in the world who could make you so.”
Lovers of the classics may be tempted to shy away from this novel, but I can assure them that it is a most excellent and highly entertaining read. It's like an ugly old friend that had an extreme makeover and now wants to take you out on a little walk under the apple trees. You'd be mad not to go, but if you do, you could be infected with the zombie sickness.