It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single reader in possession of a good Austen zombie romance, must be in want of more. It is only a matter of time before we are imposed upon by Northanger Abbey and Vampires. Mansfield Park and Werewolves. Emma and the Exorcist.
Yes, I have succumbed to that plague sweeping the land: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which has infested so many that the book, by Jane Austen with a bit of help from screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith, is on the New York Times bestseller list.
The genius of this novel (and I use the term loosely) is that 85 percent of it is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, word for word. The remaining 15 percent is zombies (or unmentionables, as the residents of Regency England prefer to call them) and ninjas. (Ninjas? Yes, really. But then again, who could do a better job of warding off the undead?) Elizabeth catches Darcy’s fancy for the liveliness of her wit and her superior fighting skills. Darcy’s pretty good at beheading zombies himself, though not quite as much a fighting legend as his fearsome aunt, Lady Catherine.
Published this spring and billed as a book that “transforms a masterpiece of world literature into something you’d actually want to read,” Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is also illustrated with disgusting drawings of zombies and ninjas doing, well, what zombies and ninjas do.
The whole concept is appallingly silly. (Actually, I’ve always thought zombies were silly excuses for monsters anyway—why is anyone threatened by creatures that can barely move and can be easily destroyed? But I digress.) But that is precisely why it works. You have Austen’s timeless prose, seasoned with delicious bits of undead comedy:
But why Mr. Darcy came so often to the Parsonage, it was more difficult to understand. It could not be for society, as he frequently sat there ten minutes together without opening his lips; and when he did speak, it seemed the effect of necessity rather than of choice. He seldom appeared really animated, even at the sight of Mrs. Collins gnawing upon her own hand.
I’m especially fond of the Reader’s Discussion Guide at the end, which poses such thought-provoking questions as:
Some critics have suggested that the zombies represent the authors’ views toward marriage—an endless curse that sucks the life out of you and just won’t die. Do you agree, or do you have another opinion about the symbolism of the unmentionables?
This vandalism of Austen’s most treasured novel no doubt would have the author rolling in her (hopefully intact) grave. But whether with laughter or anger, who knows? At any rate, many of us still-living Austen fans think this unholy marriage of highbrow literature and lowbrow humor is a great bit of fun.