Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is an enjoyable book. Zombies are fun to read about. So putting them together should make an interesting, exciting read, right?
Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is described as Austen’s novel expanded to include zombie scenes. That’s sort of true.
Instead of keeping Austen’s writing, it is written as a summary with only the key quotes left intact. Any richness or subtlety from the original story is lost as Grahame-Smith provides his own interpretation of the characters and plot. Reading it is like rewinding back in time when in elementary school students read simplified versions of classics.
Zombies, meant to enliven the old text, make the book repetitive and tedious. Elizabeth Bennet, her sisters and many of the other characters are trained in martial arts in China or Japan before returning to England. Zombie killing is treated as a mundane but necessary chore each time Elizabeth travels. It makes one realize how excessive travel is in Pride and Prejudice. There is nothing innovative or exciting about these added scenes.
For a parody to work, there needs to be enough of the essence of the original work present so that when a change occurs it’s unexpected and original. There are a few funny places but not enough to recover the rest of the book. The whole reason to read a book like this is to laugh, but the added passages were not comical. Grahame-Smith just stretches the same joke out over 319 pages.
Yes, there are zombies. We get it. Ha ha.
Another disappointing aspect of the book is the lack of social commentary. Austen’s novel criticized society’s customs and women’s lack of options. Many of the restricting expectations for women are no longer an issue today. It would have been an engaging and interesting read had Grahame-Smith used the zombies as a metaphor or social commentary of our modern culture.
Alas, the closest Grahame-Smith gets to social commentary is literary criticism of Pride and Prejudice. In the mock Reader’s Discussion Guide at the back of the book, he asks, “Does Mrs. Bennet have a single redeeming quality?” In the text Elizabeth imagines ripping off her sister Lydia’s head because she’s so annoying. The only reason Charlotte would be stupid enough to marry Mr. Collins is if she was turning into a zombie.
His surface interpretations show that he hasn’t plumbed the depths of this book, so he should leave the literary criticism to scholars and concentrate on the parts he’s supposed to be adding to the novel.
Frankly, these are the most boring zombie scenes I’ve ever read. There’s no emotion, no passion. The action is predictable and choreographed like a bad B-movie. Since readers who know Pride and Prejudice know that characters live through the end, there’s no suspense whether a zombie will kill them or not. Even if a zombie-induced death would disrupt the original tale, it would be difficult to care since Grahame-Smith’s characters are underdeveloped and two-dimensional.
The drawings are probably the most artistic part of this book and they are scarce and amateurish, as though a high school student drew the sketches with a ballpoint pen during a teacher’s lecture.
Lately I’ve read some poor quality books but Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is by far the most unimaginative piece of garbage that I’ve read in a long time.