Release Date: March 1, 2009
Publisher: Quirk Classics
In a special feature here at The G.O.R.E. Score, we’re going to spend the next week reviewing a trio of undead books inspired by the works of Jane Austen. Called “Austen’s Autopsies,” the reviews will culminate in a review of the brand-spankin’-new book “Dreadfully Ever After,” to be released by Quirk Classics on the same day we will be reviewing it, Tuesday March 22! Let’s begin Part 1 of the autopsy.
There are a lot of “zombie mash-ups” out there these days.
For those that may be unfamiliar, “zombie mash-ups” are a trend that started a few years ago, when someone takes a classic or pre-existing archetype and inserts zombies into it. Authors and filmmakers have “mashed” a wide variety of genres and characters with zombies. Some of the genres we’ve seen zombies dropped in include Westerns, Sci-Fi, Romance, Anime, and even Porn (!); zombies have been inserted into superhero comic books and re-written stories about fairy tales, The Wizard of Oz, War of the Worlds, Robin Hood, Alice in Wonderland, and Huckleberry Finn. Even The Beatles have recently received the “zombie mash” treatment.
But the mash-up that really brought attention to this unique style of storytelling and really started the full-blown popularity of this trend is easily identifiable. Seth Grahame-Smith took Jane Austen’s classic 1813 novel, give it a liberal sprinkling of our favorite monsters, and “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” was born.
According to an interview with Time magazine, Grahame-Smith was given the idea directly from an editor at Quirk Books, Jason Rekulak: “[Rekulak] called me one day, out of the blue, very excitedly, and he said, all I have is this title, and I can’t stop thinking about this title. And he said: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. For whatever reason, it just struck me as the most brilliant thing I’d ever heard.” He went on to say that the book lent itself very easily to the kind of carnage zombie fans have come to expect: “You have this fiercely independent heroine, you have this dashing heroic gentleman, you have a militia camped out for seemingly no reason whatsoever nearby, and people are always walking here and there and taking carriage rides here and there . . . It was just ripe for gore and senseless violence.”
For those unfamiliar with Austen’s classic story, it’s a tale surrounding the main character, Elizabeth Bennett, the product of prim-and-proper upbringing as the eldest of five daughters of a wealthy landowner in 19th-Century England. The book primarily follows her as she goes through her life dealing with relevant (at the time) issues like upbringing, social status, manners, moral turpitude, education, and marriage. Surprisingly, Grahame-Smith’s re-write of the story keeps much of this in place; both he and Austen are listed as the co-authors of the book, and much of Grahame-Smith’s additions to the story were simply done by inserting his writings directly into Austen’s original work (since the book exists as a “public-domain” title, he and his editors were free to do what they like with the original text without fear of lawsuit or copyright infringement).
All this talk of “mashing” is making me hungry for some potatoes, so let’s get on with the Score:
G: General Entertainment – The book itself is pretty darn entertaining, and you’ll find yourself oddly amused by reading about undead carnage written in the “Olde English” style. That’s right – Grahame-Smith wrote all of his pieces of the story in the old style of writing similar to Austen’s, and the result is so close to flawlessly-seamless that you’ll wonder where Austen’s writing truly ends and Grahame-Smith’s begins. After 319 pages, however, reading such a word-heavy style can start to grate on the average reader. 7/10
O: Original Content – Obviously, we have to give the creators of this mashed-up tale credit for going out on a limb and taking a chance, as when this book was first published the mash-up was neither a common occurrence nor a proven commodity. The book was unique and definitely opened the door for the other slew of zombie-mashed mayhem we have seen recently. The subtle addition of ninjas to the plot definitely doesn’t hurt here either. Plus, I’m not sure any zombie tale, mashed or not, had been set in 19th-Century England before this one, so even more points scored! 9/10
R: Realism – The fact that Austen’s original work was contemporary when she wrote it lends itself to the believability of some of the more “normal” things the characters do. This, in turn, makes the reader feel that it’s a perfectly normal part of the characters’ lives when their carriage is attacked by zombies and the riders have to dutifully get out and fend off the undead scourge. When the characters talk of the “dreadfuls,” you truly feel like the monsters have been a part of their lives indefinitely. 7/10
E: Effects and Editing – As mentioned in “G,” after almost 320 pages of reading the “Olde English” style of writing, I was definitely feeling like I had to work far too hard to mentally make it through this book. In addition, aside from the zombie attacks, nothing really happens in this book – the characters move around, talk to each other, a few get married, but there are no climactic battles or big surprises at the end to give the reader the sense of satisfaction that normally comes with closure of a story. I realize this is how Austen’s original story was, but I hoped that Grahame-Smith may have been able to add a little something extra for us here. 7/10
TOTAL SCORE: 7.5/10
I feel confident in calling “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” a “must-own” for every zombie lover, especially if you like very unique and different spins on your tales of the undead. Both in the original content it gives and the contribution to the genre this novel has made as the “Grandfather of Zombie Mash-Ups,” this is definitely a novel you are going to want to seek out.
And now, my friends, you know the Score!