Friday, December 4, 2009

Book Review: Zombies and Ninjas and Balls, Oh My!

"Pride and Prejudice and Zombies", by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

In 2001, or thereabouts, I took a trip from Glasgow down to Oxford to meet up with some high school friends. I was horribly hungover, but luckily the first train I took was relatively quiet. By the time I changed trains in Birmingham, I was feeling a bit better. This was lucky, because the two trains ahead of mine had been cancelled, meaning that three train-loads of pissed-off commuters were crammed into the two carriages. The aisles were packed, and there were even two or three people standing in each bathroom, necessitating much reshuffling of people whenever anyone needed to go. I found myself a seat - cross-legged under a table, with one other traveller - and cracked open my book.

It was "Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason".

I couldn't help myself. I laughed out loud a couple of times, interspersed with loud snorts through my nose. Curious faces appeared under the table, saw what I was reading, and disappeared, laughing and relaying the news to other travellers. One woman two tables down happily proclaimed "I loved that book!"

I haven't had that kind of reaction to a book since. Until, that is, I started to read "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" on the beach in Varadero. I caused several people on neighbouring beach chairs to look over to see what I was reading, and even inspired Mr E Man to pick it up when I'd finished.

The book is a riot. The very simple premise is that this is the familiar P&P story, but set against a background of a plague of "unmentionables" (I love the period language euphemisms) who are infesting the English countryside. All the original elements are there, with large chunks of the original text intact, but the five Bennett sisters have been trained in the deadly arts by Shaolin monks, and Lady Catherine has her own ninjas. ("Wady Caferine very respectable... sensible woman"). Oh, and there are some double entendres from Mr. Darcy that surely would have made Ms. Austen blush fire engine red. I'll even forgive the description of a chipmunk in the English woods (Americans! Honestly).

Marriage is, of course, still the chief object for the young ladies of England, despite the recent unpleasantness. One such lady states, "all I ask is that [...] I be permitted a husband who will see to my proper Christian beheading and burial", and all the original balls, schemes, and other shenanigans are in place (although some of them are interrupted by the untimely demise of the kitchen staff).

The book's kind of gory, but if you can deal with that, then I highly recommend it. The illustrations are also a hoot, and even the Readers' Discussion Guide at the end made me laugh. I've read the original novel many times, and can quote large chunks of the BBC adaptation by heart, and I think this added greatly to my enjoyment of the zombie version. However, Mr E Man has only seen bits and pieces of the BBC adaptation, and found my comparisons to the first Bridget Jones novel more useful in getting the relationships straight in his head. And he still enjoyed this book, and made a few curious heads turn towards his own beach chair. I do think that I appreciated the book more, though!

SPOILER ALERT

(Actually, is it a spoiler if I tell you something that didn't happen? Anyway, read on at your own risk)

My one gripe with the book is that the zombie story was never resolved. Some events that happened on Elizabeth's journeys to and from Charlotte's place, and some other hints, made me think that this narrative thread was building into some kind of climax. I even imagined that there might be a massive battle at the wedding, leaving Jane and Elizabeth as the sole surviving Bennetts, and thus removing any objections that Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley might have about their low connections. But no, the book ended with the plague still unresolved and continuing to bother the good people of England.

Perhaps a sequel is brewing?

Mr E Man and I came up with some ideas:

"Romeo and Juliet and Werewolves"

"War and Peace and Witches"

(Vampires are so cliche)

Anyway. Highly recommended for a silly, light-hearted read. Read in public at your own risk.

6 comments:

  1. Ooooh, sounds like fun. Can I borrow it when Mark is finished?

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  2. There is now Sense and Sensibility and Seamonsters, too. I have to read both!

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  3. I read the first chapter or so on-line and I am dying to read the rest. I love P&P and the small bit of P&P&Zs that I read was hysterical, at least in my opinion. I was going to wait until I finished my current book (which I am HATING), but now I don't think I can.

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  4. Mermaid, I think he's done! If we ever manage to arrange a coffee or lunch date that doesn't get double-booked, I'll bring it for you

    IS - sweet! Maybe Santa will be good to me!

    MXX, I hate getting stuck in a bad book. I just don't feel capable of letting go and not finishing. I read P&P&Z in 3-4 days, in the middle of reading a much more challenging (but good) novel (next review) - so maybe you could do the same?!

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  5. Oh, I hope I can enjoy it as much even if I don't know the original as much.... but I do know zombies ;) It's next on my list, after that paper....

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  6. I don't think you actually need to be able to quote vast tracts of the BBC adaptation in order to enjoy this version! I hope you like it and aren't too scared of the zombies ;)

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