For months there’s been buzz about the book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. How unexpected! How au courant! How funny! I snatched up a copy as soon as I saw a sign for it in the window of my closest indie bookstore.
I’m thrilled the original Jane Austen book is in the public domain and that, as such, Seth Grahame-Smith was able to take his liberties with it. Unfortunately, that’s where my happiness with the book ends. Simply put, it’s terrible.
Grahame-Smith really did eat the brains out of this book. He cut much of Austen’s original descriptive prose but left the rest, and by so doing accomplished two things. First, he removed much of the context of the story, and, further, he left the remainder feeling like a stilted anachronism with zombies thrown in. It’s artless and lacks imagination.
If he’d so wanted to cut out the descriptive prose, he should have rewritten the story in his own words. Instead, the old-fashioned language seems choppy, awkward, overly formal, and the zombie bits just seem unsophisticated. Writing-wise, that is. It’s not like I think zombies need to be sophisticated. It’s just that this particular plague of living dead has done “unmentionable” things to the classic tale.
I’m not at all offended by his messing with such a beloved book. The more beloved, the more fabulous such a messing-with could be, I say. Mostly, I’m disappointed because this book is like one, giant, hyper-buzzed missed opportunity. Its success rests on the cleverness of an idea that failed to thrive in the hands of the writer, and on cover art and a fabulous blurb that encompass all the genius of the concept that isn’t fleshed out (heh) within. We’re missing out on something that could have been wildly entertaining. And it’s too bad—now if someone else is inclined to work mash-up magic with this tome (or any other classic, I imagine) they’ll play second fiddle and will seem a copy-cat. We’ve been robbed of greatness that could have extended well beyond the pages of this one book, and that’s the horrific tragedy.