Books: ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’

Courtesy of Quirk Books.

Courtesy of Quirk Books.

REVIEW — Here’s the straight dope before I stumble through this book review: I have never read any work by Jane Austen. And despite my participation in last year’s Zombie Walk, I have no working knowledge of the undead.

With that said, the 2009 novel “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” is a sweet tale of puppy love amid a zombie-infested landscape — a classic romance “now with ultraviolent zombie mayhem,” as the publisher plugs it. To be fair, the 317-page book is more 19th century sexual tension than 21st century zombie slaying. But it still works.

The story — “coauthored” by Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith — revolves around Elizabeth, a proper English lass trained by Shaolin monks to take down zombies with one swing of her Katana sword. This fair maiden has a love-hate relationship with the snooty Darcy — loves his ass-kicking abilities, hates the attitude. And he feels the same way — yea on the kungfu grip, nay on her less-than-classy family.

Their courtship goes back and forth, as does any piece of great English literature. Meanwhile, Elizabeth must contend with a slimy cousin Collins, who stands to inherit the family fortune when Liz’s daddy dies; love-sick sister Jane, who’s crushing hard for the nobleman next door; twisted sister Lydia, who shames the family by eloping with the local con artist; and her boorish mother, Mrs Bennett.

Giving brevety to this family drama are the Austen characters whom coauthor Grahame-Smith has converted into zombie slayer (the vain Lady Catherine) and zombie (Elizabeth’s friend Charlotte). The latter character adds terrific comedy to the plot, as she transcends from quaint teetotaler to raging brainivore:

“In her kind schemes for Elizabeth, she [Charlotte] sometimes planned her marrying Colonel Fitzwilliam. He was beyond comparison the most pleasant man; he certainly admired her, and his situation in life was most eligible; but, to counterbalance these advantages, Mr Darcy had a considerably larger head, and thus, more brains to feast upon.”

And that’s how they rolled in 19th century England. It was all about making the right hookup while dodging societal faux pas, and keeping one’s brains intact, far away from marauding zombies.

Despite its absurdities, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” is an adorable tale that mashes contemporary action moves with old-skool English storytelling, all without seeming anachronistic or contrived. It’s a romantic — and more importantly, intelligent — laugh.

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