I’ve never read Pride and Prejudice, nor have I ever seen The Walking Dead, but now, after reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, I don’t think I have to.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is basically exactly what you’d expect: everything you loved from Pride and Prejudice—the struggles that revolve around social class and marriage (so I’m told)—with a touch of zombie. In a way, the zombies in this book are the salt and pepper you put on your scrambled eggs in the morning—they’re not the meal, but they definitely add some flavor to it.
The plot itself can be summarized without even mentioning zombies. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet have five daughters, none of whom can take possession of their estate when their father dies because they’re all women and early 1800’s Britain was crazy like that, so they have to try to find husbands—rich husbands as their mother wants—as well as face other obstacles like dealing with social classes and being lady-like and stuff. No zombies needed.
The zombies are not a major plot point in the story as one might think. They just add to it. Instead of having to fear bandits and wild animals and such while traveling from place to place, the characters must fear zombie attacks while on the open road. This isn’t much of an issue, though, because instead of being all frail and dainty and (insert another negative stereotypical womanly adjective here), the five sisters are all warriors, trained in the Shaolin arts and masters with a Katana blade.
The zombie aspect of the book would imply horror and the warrior sisters would imply action, and both of which are included in the story, but I would argue that the greatest flavor these additions bring to the table is that of humor. Just thinking about zombies running amok in 19th century England is somewhat funny, but then you think of the specifics. The sisters aren’t worried about being eaten by zombies—they’re worried about who they’re going to marry! The sisters are badass warrior women who can literally destroy anyone who manages to “dishonour” them (Elizabeth even kills three of Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s highly trained ninjas), but they’ll leave the destroying to the men if, in that situation, their dresses might get muddied or stained. Grahame-Smith introduces this odd, yet hilarious juxtaposition between how these characters should act in the time period and how they do act that really really works for this novel.
And he does it in the same tone of voice that Austen used when she originally wrote the book in 1813 (which makes the telling boring and hard to follow at times, but gives authority to some of Grahame-Smith’s more unbelievable additions).
And speaking of unbelievable additions, aside from all the “balls” jokes (Grahame-Smith likes to use the word’s double meaning quite a bit), one of the funniest parts of this novel is when one of the characters actually turns into a zombie—but, except for Elizabeth, literally no one notices. Her skin turns gray and she stops using utensils at dinner and she keeps trying to eat people and no one notices. The scenario is so ridiculous, and yet, the way in which it’s written makes it seem completely serious. This addition is really well done.
This novel was a fun read—even if it did take me a little longer to finish. It was smart, witty, humorous, and inventive, which is saying a lot for a satirical rewrite of a 203 year old novel. Zombies just seem to make everything better.