Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: (Jane Austen Ate Our Brain Long Ago) – A Review

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith (2009)We’ll confess all right up front. We don’t quite understand what the fuss is over Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Jane Austen ate our brain long ago and we have been an Austen zombie ever since, attentively working away for 200 years for her cause in pursuit of more brains to initiate into the holy sect of The Gentle Reprove and Witty Banter Society. Our diligence has paid off. Pride and Prejudice is the most popular book in print short of the bible, she is the darling of scholars and Hollywood, Internet websites and blogs herald her charms, and even other authors flatter her by attempting to emulate her style. The assimilation plan has been successful. It was never a hard sell. Quality rarely is. 

We were mildly amused when the frenzy erupted in the media after the news of the publication of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was announced. Some social climbing author out in Hollywood had hitched his wagon to her star lifting 85% of her text and mixing in bone-crunching zombie mayhem into her genteel story. *Yawn* He claims he has transformed “a masterpiece of world literature into something you’d actually want to read.” Oh really? Given that Pride and Prejudice has more editions in print than any other novel, it appears that several people have wanted to read a masterpiece of world literature since its first publication in 1813. We shall see if author Seth Grahame-Smith will need to retract that statement, or throw down the gauntlet and meet us at dawn with swords. 

And so Gentle Readers take heed. A mysterious plague has befallen Regency England killing the living and reviving them back to life as the undead who must feed on the living to survive. The conflict in town is fierce, spreading to the countryside and into the village of Meryton where Elizabeth Bennet and her family reside nearby at Longbourn. Mr. Bennet extricated from his library has dedicated himself instead to training his five daughters from an early age in the deadly arts, traveling with them to China to attend Ninja finishing school with a Shaolin Master. His business in life was to keep them alive. The business of Mrs. Bennet’s was to get them married. When Netherfield Park is let at last, Mrs. Bennet is hopeful that the new resident Mr. Bingley and his friends might marry one or another of her daughters. When Meryton society finally meets Mr. Bingley, they agree that he is was good-looking and gentlemanlike, but his fine friend Mr. Darcy with his noble mien gave immediate disgust even though he was reputed to have slaughtered more than a thousand unmentionables since the fall of Cambridge. After he slights Elizabeth, claiming her to be only tolerable and not handsome enough to temp him to dance, the warrior code in her demands she avenge her honour and open his throat with her dagger. Her warrior duty delays her instincts as the dance is suddenly invaded by a maraudring horde of unmentionables who break through the windows, attack the guests, and devour the head of Mrs. Long. Elizabeth and her four sisters rip out their razor-sharp daggers and make short work of beheading all the sorry stricken. Darcy watches in wonder, knowing of only one other woman in England who could match her accomplishments. The spark has been ignited. The love zombie story begins. 

It is now “a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.” (Usurper! That is our campaign slogan. I guess we should ™ trade mark it.) We continue along in this manner following Jane Austen’s plot interjected with Grahame-Smith’s fanciful parody of zombie bedlam. It appears that anyone who is not a ninja warrior is a target for zombie destruction, so if there is a character from the original plot ripe for reproach, then it is sure to happen. Brains and vomit seem to go hand and hand. We see Elizabeth Bennet as the defender of Longbourn and the Heroine of Hertfordshire battle zombies, spar with Mr. Darcy and literally kick ass in an ultimate ninja throw down with the officious Lady Catherine de Bourgh. If the concept of Jane Austen’s refined country gentry and gory zombie destruction are in conflict, think again. Like the warrior Bennet sisters who have refined their deadly skills into an art of precision and style, Grahame-Smith knows his zombie lore, skillfully incorporating a genre wholly at odds to the context of Jane Austen’s elegantly refined prose, yet working within its strengths to achieve his goal to have fun with a literary classic, and well, lets face it, make money. Given the fervent response by the public and the media to the book’s announcement last January, we are not surprised that there is a bidding war underway with major movie studios for film rights. Even though this high concept parody is amusing in print, we doubt very much if it will be buffo box office. Given the passions of thirteen year-old boys for gore and goo, we may stand to be corrected.   

So who will like this book? Certainly not the Austen purist without a sense of humor. They will not even get past the gruesome cover. Not zombie fans, who will be annoyed having to trudge through a masterpiece of world literature to get to the scant zombie action. So that leaves the rest of us. Those loyal and devoted members of The Gentle Reprove and Witty Banter Society who, like Jane Austen, enjoy a good campy and gory Gothic novel, recognize tongue-in-cheek humor, and have been happily doing so for over 200 hundred years. 

Laurel Ann 

4 out of 5 Regency Stars 

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
Quirk Books, Philadelphia, PA (2009)
Trade paperback (319) pages
ISBN: 9781594743344

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(Jane Austen ate our brain ® is a registered catch phrase by Margaret C. Sullivan)

39 thoughts on “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: (Jane Austen Ate Our Brain Long Ago) – A Review

  1. Pingback: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Review of a High Concept Parody « Jane Austen’s World

    • I agree Vic. Zombies are slow and stupid. Why are they a mennace? LOL! Since I know next to nothing about zombies, can we assume that all of the dead turn into zombies? If that is the case, why not burn all corpses? Oh well, not important, but just another loophole in the genre. Even though many Janeites will be put off with this mashup, I still liked the goofy humor. I was in the mood for a good laugh. Anyone who thinks that Jane Austen fans are sticks in the mud, well, we are not. Jane had a wicked sense of humor and that is one of the reasons why this book worked for me. If Seth Grahame-Smith had chosen a tragedy like Hamlet I don’t think it would work. What’s funny about Hamlet?

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  2. I’m a Janite with a sense of humor and like comedy and spin offs. But this book is wrong in so many ways… :/

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  3. I am horror-struck! This looks like a caddish attempt to take the most lovely of authors and link up her most popular work with the wretched pop culture fascination with zombies – or vampires, witches, werewolves, sorcerers or the like. Miss Austen is Miss Austen…she is not Anne Rice nor Bram Stoker nor Roger Corman and she is fine enough in her own right. She does not need to be chained to some horror film trend to be ‘relevant’ or contemporary or interesting. To expand upon Miss Austen’s work often produces delightful results, as with ‘Lydia Bennet’s Story’ – but to corrupt her work is a very different matter.
    This of course is my opinion. I do not plan to read the book.

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  4. Oh. My. ……
    This sounds really horrible. So the Bennetts go to china, eh? And learn to be zombie killing ninjas. That sounds….

    like the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard ;)

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    • Heather – so glad your not affraid to give your opinion so decidely! I admit, the concept sounds insulting to Austen’s masterpiece. It is a parody, and as taken as such it is well done. I was in the mood for a good laugh and it fit the bill. I am not a zombie fan and know very little about the modern horror genre except for the classic 18th & 19th century Gothic novels. If you like Saturday Night Live parodies on cultural icons, you might like this also. It is not for everyone, and I cetainly respect your choice not to read it. Thanks for stopping by today. Cheers, Laurel Ann

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  5. I was skeptical, but was won over by the author’s observation (I think it was the author, in an interview) that there must have been some reason for a regiment to be stationed in Meryton, other than as a vehicle for the girls to flirt with. The soldiers should have been off fighting Napoleon. But the reason, of course, was the presence of zombies in the neighborhood. I’m sure if we read between the lines we must all come to the same conclusion. So I do intend to read the book now.

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    • Actually, the regiment in Meryton was a militia regiment–a domestic force by definition. They wouldn’t have left the country to fight. The regular army did that. The militia was left behind to defend England from possible invasion. They were exactly where they were supposed to be. And as they were more or less untrained local boys–notice Wickham was hired literally off the street–they probably wouldn’t have been much good against zombies anyway. Good thing Wellington kept Boney’s troops on the other side of the Channel. ;-)

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  6. Thanks for this post – now I don’t need to read the book. But I was interested enough to want to know what it was about and it does sound amusing, even though zombies are not my cup of tea.

    What would Jane think, I wonder?

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  7. Time Magazine on the web has an article about Seth’s madness for zombies. As the article stated, “no one is untouched.”. Article touches on the recent releast of PandP Zombies.

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  8. I first came across Austen through a Penguin Books version of Pride & Prejusdice I bought on sale on vacation when I was 13, since then I have been in love with her books, my favorite still being P&P.

    The first time I came across the book was in a technology magazine, I could be called a Jane Austen purist but I believe that in this world Jane would be not be offended by what seems to be fun parody of her work, in fact I imagine she would laugh at the descriptions of Lady Catherine and Miss Bingley.

    Although to this I must admit so far I have only read reviews, and even those insistent on disliking the author and hating the concept, cannot hide the fun they had in reading the book. This lack of ability to actually dislike the book makes my curiosity grow and I have already ordered it. I must add I also consider it an excellent way to introduce a younger audience to Jane Austen in a world where reading isnt exactly encouraged over playing with your PlayStation.

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  9. Margaret from BooksPlease expresses my sentiments–your review gives me enough so that I don’t have to actually spend time reading the book.

    >Jane Austen ate our brain long ago and we have been an Austen zombie ever since

    Lovely!

    >Those loyal and devoted members of The Gentle Reprove and Witty Banter Society who, like Jane Austen, enjoy a good campy and gory Gothic novel, recognize tongue-in-cheek humor, and have been happily doing so for over 200 hundred years.

    Lovelier still…you are quite the Jane Bennet, I think, in ability to let all under the umbrella.

    I might get it as a novelty for the Austen bookcase, however. I still don’t have the action figure, though it’s on my Xmas wish list.

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  10. WWJD? What would Jane do?
    After referencing my bible, I have come up with a solution.

    “She told the story however with great spirit among her friends, for she had a lively, playful disposition, which delighted in anything ridiculous.” – Pride and Prejudice

    I will read this book. I think Jane would appreciate parody.

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  11. An example of this author’s dry humour is on the back cover “JANE AUSTEN is the author of Sense&Sensibility, Persuasion, Mansfield Park, and other masterpieces of English Literature. SETH GRAHAM-SMITH once took a class in English literature. He lives in Los Angeles.”

    As a rabid fan of anything Jane Austen-esque and Stephanie Meyers supernatural novels, I thought, with not a little hesitation — why not — I’ll give this a try. Surprisingly, I did laugh throughout. I doubt I will need to read it again though — but I read it and survived. I read some passages aloud to my husband and he was the one who turned up his nose, put up his hand and said, “Enough, I really am not interesting in hearing about pus and vomit — especially mixed in with Jane Austen. Really Christina, I’m surprisd at you.” Really? He obviously is taking himself too seriously. Like Laurel Ann said, its all very tongue in cheek. Kinda fun & quirky actually.

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  12. I absolutely hate this book.
    I tried to read it, but I had to stop at ‘the pentagram of death’. It’s just too much, too disgusting for me.

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  14. As a huge fan of Miss JA, I laughed when I spotted this one in my local bookstore. I bought it, read it and found myself chuckling out loud throughout. Yes it’s gory, so you’re never going to be a fan if you don’t like zombies and horror. But for those of us JA fans who also carry a torch for horror, I have to admit this is a pretty funny read. The concept of Elizabeth as a deadly, zombie killing, Master of Chinese martial arts, I did find very amusing. I am a JA devotee, but I’m not so precious that I can’t see the humour in this and it has been done very “tounge in cheek”. Those revolted by the idea of a bit of pus and vomit, then steer clear. Very unlikely to ever be a repeat read but definately a recommended read for those with a stronger constitution!

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  15. I, too, was curious when I first saw the cover online whilst Googling images of regency attire for an art project. At first, it disgusted me, and then my curiosity was piqued.
    You review of the book mades me chuckle, and I find myself wondering who the unfortunate zombie victims were… Mr. Collins? The Bingley sisters?
    Was Lady Catherine a brain eating zombie?
    And I was almost tempted to write a scene myself, where Bingley asks Darcy why he isn’t attacking the delicious looking Miss Bennett, and Darcy replies:
    “She’s tolerable, I suppose, but not appetizing enough to tempt me (to eat her brain).”

    So, in short, I think I will give this book a try. Should I thank you in advance, for changing my mind, or wait until I’ve finished the book? ;) LOL

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