It seems I'm starting every book review off with a confession of sorts. Well, today is no exception. The only reason I read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (P+P+Z) was for work -- we've been running a fun Undeath Match with my friend Dan at Raincoast, which pits our HarperCollins book The Strain against their Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Dan's taking the side of zombies and I'm defending vampires. So trust that the review I write about P+P+Z here will be a little more balanced than the one I'll probably post over there.
Let me just say that I enjoyed Seth Grahame-Smith's literary mash-up more than I thought I would. When the book exploded over the summer, like many other literary snobs, I sort of poo-pooed the whole idea. Who would want to read a ruined version of Austen's timeless classic? Thousands upon thousands of readers, it turns out, myself included. The novel doesn't take itself too seriously, it basically follows the plot of the original, and tosses in more than a few awesome (and funny) scenes of Elizabeth battling the "unmentionables" (the zombies) throughout.
For all its clever humour, there is an underlying respect, I hope, for the original text because there's more of a film adaptation feeling to the book than anything else. Entire sections of dialogue read almost verbatim to the Keira Knightley version (yes, I've seen it enough times to know), which sort of made the whole enterprise a little more palatable for me. Grahame-Smith got quite a few things wrong too -- the shrill nature of his Mrs. Bennett doesn't have any of the savvy humour from the original, and Elizabeth seems to share a lot of her inner thoughts in ways that would have made the original Lizzie cringe.
The success of P+P+Z has spawned a sequel, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Creatures, which I probably won't read only because the original is still on my 1001 Books Challenge (shameful, I know), and I don't want to ruin the utter perfection of reading a Jane Austen novel along the way. But if you're looking for a bit of escapist, oddly engaging, and definitely funny words to pass a weekend, I'd recommend the book, even if it's just for the last fight scene. I'm not going to spoil it, but it's awesome.