Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith.
Summer reading for me has always been a mish-mash of bestsellers and literature. Maybe it's a holdover from my mom yelling at me to stop reading junk as a child, when the summer days were slow and my mind was moving glacier speeds down a winter's landscape. She ruthlessly tossed me into the worlds spun by W. Somerset Maugham, Leon Uris and a host of very depressing Russians. She commanded me to find something substantial with some 'meat' to it. Her words -- not mine.
Economic times being what they are, I find myself picking up less of the new best-selling hardcover novels, and I am stuck with paperback or trade-sized books to feed my reading addiction. The paperback shelves are all stuffed with the books I read a year or two ago in hardcover, so I find myself buying more and more of the trade-sized novels. I find them not as cumbersome as the thick hardcover books yet not quite as conveniently sized as paperbacks, which readily fit into purse or pocket. But an addiction of books must be fed, since I no longer sit at the breakfast table and read the back of the cereal boxes.
A friend sent me books for my birthday, including a box of trade-sized books that I've been slowly meandering through. The Time Traveler's Wife, soon out in the theaters, was a romp, dashing along the lines of "what if" about love and growing up. Plenty has been written on the novel; suffice to say, it's no more predictable than you'd think.
In my stack of books I found a crossover between my literary reading pursuits and my love of the basic horror and pulp. Quirk Classics brought out a new stab at Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice. The novel is appropriately titled Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Seth Grahame-Smith joined Jane Austen in this new take in the era of such quaint notions as how proper English women conducted themselves once presented to society.
The work keeps the flavor of Jane Austen's characters intact while Seth Grahame-Smith tosses the ladies and gentlemen into the fray of defending England from the 'dreadfuls'. The 'unfortunates' or 'unmentionables' are dispatched rather graphically by the Bennet women trained in the arts while the main character, Elizabeth Bennet, tries to be a good girl while still meeting the social needs of her time.
Mr. Wickham was the happy man toward whom almost every female eye was turned, and Elizabeth was the happy woman by whom he finally seated himself; and the agreeable manner in which he immediately fell into conversation, thought it was only on its being a wet night, made her feel that the commonest, dullest, most threadbare topic might be rendered interesting by the skill of the speaker.
Austen's drama and trauma was first and foremost in the newly revamped tale. The mysterious plague that created the mass exits of bodies from the ground and graveyards is never fully detailed. But then you gather from the aside remarks that jolly old England just has her customary 'stiff upper lip' and persevere in the face of the deceased dragging their gory corpses over the landscape. Servants and low class citizens are gobbled up with minor inconveniences to the main characters like delays in mails and lost packages. The zombies love brains but are cunningly trapped by cauliflower at times. That alone made me giggle aloud.
The best way for me to explain the novel is Jane Austen meets Quentin Tarantino's cast from Kill Bill. The women are remarkably sage at tender ages having undergone their Shaolin training under Master Liu. He is greatly admired by Elizabeth even as she mentions the brutal training in China. One conflict arises with the character, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who is caustic in her remarks to Elizabeth about her inferior training at the hands of the Chinese. Elizabeth lets her martial arts skills speak volumes in more than one fight passage. She even goes so far as to battle blindfolded against the Lady de Bourgh's personal trained ninja guards.
Elizabeth is proud of her work for England and that proves to be her point of pride and she freely declares her state of mind at one point.
"He could be still amiable, still pleasing, to my uncle and aunt, when he was in town; and why not to me? If he fears me, why come hither? If he no longer cares for me, why silent? Teasing, teasing, man! I will think no more about him. I am Death's betrothed, after all. Sworn to honour and obey only the warrior code and my beloved Master Liu."
The story carries on and she finds what she was looking for while still hacking away at the Zombies. Enjoyable and a different read for summer. But at least it was a classic -- sort of.