Wednesday, October 14, 2009

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2009) is Seth Grahame-Smith’s reworking of Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice (1813). Here, Grahame-Smith has retained the original story but has populated Austen’s world with the living dead, and has turned all the characters into ninjas. It would be good for me to point out here that I’m not a huge Austen fan, although I enjoyed Pride and Prejudice, and that I do tend to enjoy the zombie genre. Nevertheless, this book is a complete failure in every way.

Grahame-Smith changes Austen’s famous opening line, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife,” to, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.” If you are that rare sort of person who is older than fifteen and still finds such a thing terribly clever, you might enjoy this book.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is so bad as to spawn innumerable ironic references to the old cliché that Austen is spinning in her grave. And she should be – I would. But is it the concept or the execution? Obviously we aren’t taking this kind of thing seriously, and it’s not like we expect this to be, well, Jane Austen or anything. Grahame-Smith copies and pastes Austen where he can, and apes her style when he can’t. The effect is that we get all of the tiresomeness of Austen minus nearly all her cleverness, plus a heaping helping of Grahame-Smith’s own copious banality. Any fool can take someone else’s work and ham-handedly sprinkle random references to “the deadly arts” and “the sorry stricken” (not to mention kindergarten-age bathroom “humor”) all through it – but it doesn’t make it entertaining. The Austen fan may often feel, and rightly so, that Grahame-Smith just doesn’t “get” the original novel, which might not have been such a problem if the book had been the slightest bit funny, which it most certainly is not. And why are we capitalizing “katana” every time?

Much could be forgiven if the zombie mayhem was good zombie mayhem, or even mayhem of any kind. But the zombies are uninspired – they’re just there, popping up to be slaughtered from time to time for no reason other than that, after all, this is a zombie book. None of the zombie combat is particularly interesting either.

None of this necessarily means that two such disparate genres as zombie horror and eighteenth-century romance cannot be successfully combined (although it does seem unlikely as long as one’s target audience is adult). But that certainly is not the case here – Pride and Prejudice and Zombies fails utterly on every front. Spin, Jane, spin.