Jane Austen, one of the most prolific writers of the Georgian era, has recently been presented in a slightly alternative manner. One that includes a lot more violence than the author may have intended her books to possess. ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’, by Seth Grahame-Smith, published in 2009, follows the fiercely independent Elizabeth Bennet, along with her sisters, defending their home from the marauding creatures. Although slightly contrived, as it would have to be to incorporate science fiction into Georgian England, the book undoubtedly has positive elements. For example, the reference to zombies as ‘unmentionables’ seems perfectly fitting of the era, and the unexplained sudden appearance of ninjas near the novel’s close add to its humour, although cause some confusion.
Elizabeth Bennet, along with her sisters and parents, resides in a countryside estate with their parents, just as the original text describes. However, in this book, the undead also happen to wander though the countryside, viewed as a nuisance rather than anything else. The girls’ father, Mr. Bennet, routinely trains them in marshal arts and weaponry, whilst the worrisome Mrs. Bennet is utterly determined to marry them off. Aside from the deadly monsters, the novel progresses in a roughly similar order to the original; Mr. Bingley moves into the area, bringing his friend Fitzwilliam Darcy with him. Elizabeth scorns Darcy’s haughty nature, and befriends the soldier George Wickham. However, after Wickham tells Elizabeth that Darcy betrayed him, instead of simply hating the man, she swears that she shall kill Mr. Darcy the next time she sees him. Whilst these alterations to the novel certainly exaggerate the comedy of some situations, there are some cases where they remove from the poignancy of a situation.
The idea to combine ‘trashy’ science fiction with classic texts was formulated by “Quirky books” editor Jason Rekulak, who looked at combining novels such as ‘War and Peace’ and ‘Wuthering Heights’, with pirates, robots, ninjas and monkeys. The project was turned over to Grahame-Smith, writing began, and soon the book was published. A highly positive reception lead to a graphic novel series and gaming app being produced. However, the most exciting development to date has been talk of a movie. The possible film has been cast, and re-cast, beginning with Natalie Portman (Black Swan, Thor) as Elizabeth Bennet, who later decided to produce instead, leaving the role for Lilly Collins (The Mortal Instruments, Mirror Mirror). Such actors as Matt Smith, Lena Heady and Charles Dance have also announced their involvement, providing the future blockbuster with a highly talented cast.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is both an authorial experiment and a reader’s experience. Both the nuanced and obvious changes aid in forming a more action-packed, exciting story when compared to the original. For a deeper appreciation of the book, I suggest reading Austen’s original piece first. Although a little tacky and little Hollywood in its style, on the whole, ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ is certainly an entertaining read.
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