“It is a truth universally acknowledged,” begins a less-famous but much more current novel, “that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.”
That, in a nutshell, is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Seth Grahame-Smith’s postmodern rendering of the Jane Austen classic. It is not, strictly speaking, a very good book. If we are to speak strictly, however, then we must also admit that a “good book” was probably never the idea.
Like any good mash-up, the beauty (for lack of a better word) of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies isn’t in its content but in its style. At the same time, this isn’t James Joyce-esque stylistic beauty. This isn’t something you can marvel over for decades. This is, as the title suggests, Pride and Prejudice – plus zombies.
There’s really nothing else to it.
Sure, the New York Times has tried to link the zombie phenomenon in popular culture to the rise of the term “zombie banks” to describe pretty much every American financial institution active today. But the
New York Times is just a little too late.
The revival of the American love affair with zombies predates the worst of the current financial crisis and, if anything, seems to more accurately reflect the credit-driven consumer culture that dominated American life way back when Paul Krugman was just another pessimistic fuddy-duddy.
But back to the book: as I was saying, there’s not much here. Granted, it’s tremendously appealing to the zombie-loving subculture (which is not quite as creepy a group as the re-emerging vampire subculture, mostly because the zombie-lovers seem largely to have surpassed the age of consent and aren’t necessarily a hyper-sexualized group) and holds a fair amount of interest for Jane Austen admirers with a good sense of humor.
For most readers, however, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is just a really long joke. If you’re still laughing after 25 pages, you get it. If you’re fed up after 15, there’s probably no point in continuing. If you’re already planning to book opening-night tickets to the Elton John-funded Pride and Predator movie (exactly what it sounds like, by the way), this might help warm you up to (or turn you off from) the idea.
This is not, in short, a book I can recommend on its literary merits alone.
It doesn’t really have any, you see. Or at least I hope you see. If you don’t yet, then this book will probably fit you to a T. That’s the thing: someone who likes Pride and Prejudice and Zombies will probably love Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Everybody else will, at varying stages of their reading, lose interest.
To be fair, I wasn’t exactly riveted by the original Pride and Prejudice. I respect Austen, but I’m no admirer. She’s no Raymond Chandler.
But I don’t think my feelings about Austen have anything to do with my feelings about Austen-plus-Grahame-Smith. (Incidentally, this is only the second time I’ve mentioned Grahame-Smith in this review, a fitting tribute to his fairly minor role in the creation of this work.) I don’t, to be honest, really have any feelings about Austen-plus-Grahame-Smith. I read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies because I have a job to do. If I didn’t, I would’ve set it down after 100 pages or so and resumed my ongoing epic trek through the complete works of Alan Moore (I may not be totally into zombies, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still a huge nerd).
As reviews go, I suppose this one is rather lackluster. It would’ve been nice to go out with a little more of a bang (this is, by the way, my last column with The Temple News) – but we must, alas, play with the hand that fate has dealt us. And fate has dealt me Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: not a hand I’m likely to win on but not totally worth folding over, either. Mediocrity incarnate – unless you’re just really into zombies.
Peter Chomko can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.