Thursday, August 09, 2012

Elizabeth Bennet, zombie killer

If you haven’t already guessed by the post title, I finished reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies this morning.

Wow, that made me laugh so much. And I took probably half a dozen double takes when a well-loved (and well-remembered) quote got changed up to fit with the zombie gag:

“A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages; she must be well trained in the fighting styles of the Kyoto masters and the modern tactics and weaponry of Europe. And besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions…”

See? Spliced in there, brazenly, without the second author batting an eye. I picture him sitting there at his laptop keyboard, gleefully thinking up how many silly zombie references he can cram into the narrative without obliterating the original story entirely.

All in all, it was a hilarious book. I did not read it as serious literature, and I don’t think it was meant to be taken that way. As a matter of fact, when I put it down I thought “steampunk lit” exactly described the genre to which it belongs. An anachronistic, hallucinogenic mix of the Victorian and the modern. Where else could you comfortably fit a book that features a heroine like the zombie-killing Elizabeth Bennet?

A few observations that contain SPOILERS:

  • He (the author) killed off Collins! It was a very summary move on his part, but for mine, I was pretty content to be rid of the guy. Although, once I knew Charlotte was going to die, I was definitely expecting a period of mourning followed by Collins’ return to Longbourne to make an offer of marriage to Mary.
  • On the other hand, they made Mary much less of a bookworm and more of a girl obsessed with training to fight zombies. I was sad to see the change, but maybe that’s why he didn’t go that route.
  • The zombies mucking about Hertfordshire made it much easier for people growing up in the present generation to feel like it really was an impropriety/danger to go walking about alone, as a woman, whereas the original arrangement where Jane rides over to Netherfield and catches cold, then Elizabeth walks over by herself to keep her company, required a pretty good understanding of the social norms. I can see why people who don’t like Pride and Prejudice might enjoy this silly adaptation, despite the preponderance of Austen’s original material. (The book is probably 97% Austen, 3% Seth Grahame-Smith.)
  • Nice splice of making Jane’s cold (mentioned in the point before this) play into Darcy’s decision to separate Bingley and Jane! He thought she was succumbing to the dreadful torment! I applaud you there, ridiculous author.
  • I think I would rather have seen Wickham and Lydia killed off by zombie virus than Charlotte. I liked Charlotte, even if she didn’t really add to the story after the visit to Lady Catherine’s.
  • Steampunk zombie illustrations! ‘Nuff said.
  • I’m highly amused at the fight scene that Elizabeth’s first rejection of Darcy’s offer became. Dialogue almost pristinely exact to the original, but some of its meaning changed by context – and the mental images thoroughly altered by the narrative of their sparring.
  • I feel like the beginning sentence – “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains” – is not entirely devoid of the satirical air that its predecessor in Austen’s original carried.
  • I really did laugh out loud at the “discussion questions” following the text. My favorite: “Does Mrs. Bennet have a single redeeming quality?” And another good one: “Some scholars believe that the zombies were a last-minute addition to the novel, requested by the publisher in a shameless attempt to boost sales. Others argue that the hordes of living dead are integral to Jane Austen’s plot and social commentary. What do you think? Can you imagine what this novel might be like without the violent zombie mayhem?” Eminently chuckle-worthy.
  • Lots of the gags/jokes didn’t fit in with the Victorian-era sensibilities of virtue and polite society – Darcy makes a couple off-color comments – but, again, I think it’s that strange mix of the antique and the modern coming in here.

OK, I’m done rambling nonsensically about this book. But if I ever find it at a library booksale, I’m buying it, if only because I intend to become the state’s most authoritative amateur “expert” on the various iterations of the Bennet-Darcy story.

P.S. I think I kinda like steampunk. Maybe I should put together a steampunk wardrobe the next time I wander through Goodwill.

4 comments:

Abby said...

Your definition of Steampunk is what exactly?

Wesleigh Mowry said...

I really enjoyed that book, too! I thought the mash-up of genres was pretty ingenious. I actually convinced Dr. Wilkes to let me write a paper comparing it to the original for Brit Lit II, which was fun! You should also try Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters - instead of going to London, they stay in a city in a large undersea dome and people are often chased after by things like narwhals. Not quite as good as P&P&Z, but still interesting!

Guitarlady said...

So what exactly is your idea of a Steampunk wardrobe?

Sarah said...

Abby: Steampunk is basically anachronistic Victorian. The "steam" is from the age of the steam engine, and the "punk" is the anachronistic part. It's basically Victorian meets bohemian.

Wesleigh: I think first I want to read Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. Same author, same silliness, and I thought the movie was hilarious.

Mom: This should give you an idea: http://steampunkcostume.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/steampunk-4.jpg (except I wouldn't go for the striped pants) I also love this dress: http://steampunkcostume.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/steampunk-4.jpg