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Pride & Prejudice & Zombies by Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith

If you look at all the reviews, you’ll see that this monster mash-up of the beloved novel has totally split opinions of those who have read it. I’ll tell you mine after a bit of explanation.

Zombies have been plaguing the English countryside for years. It’s no longer safe to venture out alone; you need to be either armed to the teeth, or have safety in numbers. The Bennets are well equipped to deal with the undead, for Mr Bennet and his daughters have been trained in the deadly arts in China and are warriors all with swords and feet alike, having their own dojo at home to keep their skills honed.

The Zombies and martial arts are all shoe-horned into Austen’s original novel, most of which is left in tact – it’s usually pretty obvious which are the additions and adaptations, although not having read the original for many years, I kept it by me so I could compare and contrast if needed. I am an expert in the BBC’s wonderful P&P series from 1995 though, which enriched this reading immensely – imagining Colin Firth as Darcy slashing and burning the undead…

Sorry, where was I?

The novel starts off really well, it had me chortling loud enough to have to read the first few lines out to my other half:-

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains. Never was this truth more plain than during the recent attacks at Netherfield Park, in which a household of eighteen was slaughtered and consumed by a horde of the living dead.
“My dear Mr Bennet,” said his lady to him one day, “have you heard that Netherfield Park is occupied again?”
Mr Bennet replied that he had not and went about his morning business of dagger sharpening and nusket polishing – for attacks by the unmentionables had grown alarmingly frequent in recent weeks.

Even from just this small quote you can see already that it mixes the new and old and rewrites other sentences to fit. Some of the adaptations are witty, and there is the added frisson of a little double-entendre introduced between Lizzie and Darcy. There’s nothing like a little smut to remind you that this mash-up is intended to entertain – some of the other write-ups I’ve read seem to have expected a more serious shock-horror treatment, but the comedy approach was fine by me.

The big problem is, that with one notably sad exception, the zombies are a mere nuisance, seemingly there to prevent travel and explain the high turnover in servants – there are missed opportunities for more zombie mayhem in more elevated circles. It’s mostly a class thing – the rich can afford warrior training and/or servants to do the zombie killing for them, unlike the working class who get devoured with relentless monotony. There is one real highlight though, appended at the end of the novel which, if you decide to read it, you too must save for the end – in which the author’s comedic credentials are exploited to the full. A neat finish, but I can’t tell you more.

So what did I make of it all?
It was a great concept, (with a fantastic cover). It was fun, but not sustained all the way through. Did I enjoy it enough to read the new title from Quirk Books – Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters co-written by Ben H Winters this time – well maybe! (6 .5 out of 10)

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