If you've never read Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, you've missed out. Though the book has inspired centuries of romance novel dreck, it deserves its place as a classic of the English language. The story of middle class Elizabeth Bennet's mutually reluctant courtship by upper class Fitzwilliam Darcy has almost everything one could want in a novel: comedies of error, manners, and misunderstanding; a keen appreciation of class; insight into human nature that holds up despite its age; and a happy ending.
But there are three great things that Pride and Prejudice lacks: endless hordes of the Living Dead; Hong Kong cinematic violence, whether unarmed, by swordplay, or with firearms; and a lengthy discussion of the relative merits of various schools of Asian martial arts.
Those defects are remedied by Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a newly published collaboration between Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. Oh, the key themes of Pride and Prejudice are all there, as is Austen's witty and insightful prose, but Grahame-Smith has endlessly improved the novel, by placing it in an alternate history Regency England in which the British isles are afflicted by a "strange plague" that causes the dead to walk, mindlessly hungering for the flesh of the living. London is a walled city besieged by the dead, who are described as "zombies" by the lower classes, or "unmentionables" by the better sort of people. Upper class Englishmen study kenjutsu in the salons of Kyoto, while the middle gentry hope to train their sons and daughters in kung fu at the Shao Lin temple. The conflict between these schools, not to mention the conflict of society with the walking dead, is incorporated into the larger class conflicts so crucial to Austen's work.
And Austen's work it remains. None of her prose, plot, or characters are removed. Merely … rewritten slightly, with a few key scenes added. It's as though Grahame-Smith was a literary historian, who'd found an early draft of this classic, from which brutal editors later removed its heart.
And devoured it. I highly recommend Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to anyone. Whether you're a fan of the work of Jane Austen, George A. Romero, John Woo, or Quentin Tarantino, there's something here for everyone.
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