Marital Meets Martial Arts 

Jane Austen Returns from the Dead in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

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If given half a chance, I would've majored in Jane Austen with a minor in horror, so it was pretty much the best day on Earth when I heard about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Seth Grahame-Smith takes Jane Austen's classic novel of Regency manners and throws in the brilliant addition of thousands of shamblin' "unmentionables" who roam the countryside in search of brains, "still clad in their tattered finery, but possessing none of the good breeding that served them so well in life." There are also ninjas.

Dear old Jane's story is fully intact, with all its class-consciousness, financial woes, and "Oh, I hate Mr. Darcy—never mind, I mean I love Mr. Darcy." But with Grahame-Smith's zombies and Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters being trained in the deadly arts, there's now some sweet action to go along with the stuffy parlor air. Just as in Austen's book, Elizabeth haughtily refuses Mr. Collins' marriage proposal, but now it's not just her womanly code of honor that's offended—it's also an affront to her warrior's code. "She was horrified at the thought of marrying a man whose only skill with a blade was cutting slivers of gorgonzola." Then there's the ass-kicking she gives Mr. Darcy after he asks for her hand in marriage. Hot! And while the violence makes for a pulpy read, it also surprisingly adds more depth to the characters, basically giving them something to do with their hands when they're feeling awkward.

Grahame-Smith's zombification of Pride and Prejudice works on many levels: the sexual innuendo is hysterical (the word "balls" is repeatedly used to great effect); zombies and ninjas invigorate the English countryside; and it's refreshing to see the lively Elizabeth get to be really lively (cutting out hearts, catching throwing stars, disemboweling, and so on). Yet Grahame-Smith has a puzzling tendency to be nasty to the characters throughout—I can understand his need to cripple the smarmy Mr. Wickham, but why make Elizabeth's aunt, her one good relative, kind of a slut? The level of abuse that is directed at Elizabeth's best friend, Charlotte, is nearly despicable. It just seems bewildering and mean-spirited. But it's a relatively minor complaint. Overall, Zombies transcends its gimmick to add some (undead) life to Austen's classic in a well-suited match of marital and martial arts.

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