Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance — Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!

by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation, smart reviews for modern readers on Sirius XM Book Radio. The book is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith.

I’ll be honest: for me the fact that this book exists at all makes the question of whether it’s any good or not a bit less important. From the cover, a wonderfully zombified Regency lady, to the pitch-perfect and so bitingly familiar opening line — “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a zombie in possession of brains…” — need I go on? Since I’ve already cast my lot with the pro-zombie camp, I also should freely confess that this book could certainly have been a one-note joke and still sold a great big bunch of copies. Great news: it’s not simply a gimmick.

In Seth Grahame-Smith’s version, the joke is not on Jane, does not come at the expense of her wit, her powers of observation, her straight up snideness or her affection for Lizzy and her friends and family — those deserving of affection, anyway. In this book, you run an equal risk of marrying badly as you do being attacked and eaten by the dreadful unmentionables that lately roam the countryside. In a strange way, the book seems to make more sense with the addition of the unfortunate stricken: just what were those soldiers doing wandering around? Protecting the gentry from the walking afflicted, apparently. And having the unmentionables lurking about — and occasionally crashing dinner parties — gives the characters’ unwavering good manners and rigid decorum poignancy and context. The world may be falling down around your perfectly appointed shoulders, but at least you got to dance with that handsome soldier — there are priorities after all. And in perhaps the most clever part of the mash up, poor old Charlotte, who in the original marries maybe the most insufferable character in fiction, finally is gifted with a compelling reason to tie the knot with the creepy old boor. (She’s been afflicted, poor, thing!)

Seth Grahame-Smith was just as surprised as anyone when Pride and Prejudice and Zombies spent most of the summer on The New York Times’ best seller list. Maybe between Grahame-Smith’s judicious use of ultraviolent zombie mayhem and Austen’s peerless prose, he shouldn’t have been.

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