Pride & Prejudice & Zombies – Cannonball Read #5

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

The premise of this book is incredibly hipsterific. Pride and Prejudice with zombies!  Awesome! Elizabeth Bennett, expert zombie killer? How cool will that be?

Not very.

This book was written because the editor, Jason Rekulak, came up with the title and couldn’t get it out of his head. He tasked Grahame-Smith with writing the book to go with it.  It was as entertaining as a book trying to justify a cool title could be. The premise was thin to begin with and doesn’t stand the comparison with the vastly superior source material.

Pride and Prejudice is the best romance novel ever written. It is funny, sharp and smart. Austen requires no weapons to skewer anyone. Grahame -Smith’s prose never really blends with Austen’s and his additions made the book less enjoyable. For the first half of the novel every insertion is glaring not so much because of the zombie references but because his writing isn’t as good as hers. He hits his stride later in the book but falls prey to an extremely modern style of third person narrative. He is constantly describing how the color is rising in one person or another’s cheeks or how they look or feel.  It’s a style of writing that seems designed for adaptation into a movie but that doesn’t mesh with Austen.  In fact it reminds me a lot of Stephanie Meyer.

The beginning of the book iss exceedingly slow. Besides the clumsy insertions, there isn’t much difference from the original and I found myself wanting to find a copy and read that instead.  P&P&Z is shorter than Pride and Prejudice and I definitely noticed the abridgment. If the author was going to amend or enhance the original story why did he make it shorter? The book is targeted at those who have read the source book but as a member of that demographic I felt gipped that he had trimmed it down instead of beefing it up. For those who haven’t read Pride and Prejudice I think there will be some confusion as Grahame-Smith has edited out significant details that are only mentioned later in the book that may confuse people who aren’t steeped in Austen already.

My enjoyment grew in the later chapters as the author’s changes started to take over the narrative. The more zombified it became, the happier I was with it. There were a few laugh out loud and gross out moments. Charlotte’s reaction to dinner at Rosings actually made me throw up in my mouth a little bit. The fates of some of the characters seemed designed to gratify the wishes of fans of the book but came off as stilted and kind of dumb. I hurried through the last few chapters to see what clever alternate resolutions Grahame-Smith came up with; for the most part they left me feeling cold. This book is a long step down in both quality and enjoyability from the original.

I felt that rather than reading an adaptation of Austen’s original novel, I was reading a modern movie parody of the excellent 1995 miniseries adaption with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. I think the upcoming movie version could be absolutely hilarious, especially for a die hard Austen fan with a macabre sense of humour.


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