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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Lazy Reader's Guide to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

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In the spirit of using Cliff's Notes for a half-assed paper about a classic work of 19th-century English literature, I'd like to offer you The Lazy Reader's Guide to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. An "expanded edition" of Jane Austen's classic novel about social convention, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is exactly what it sounds like — the original Jane Austen text with a few brain eaters thrown in the mix courtesy of Seth Grahame-Smith.

I'm pretty sure that's all it is. I didn't entirely read the book, but I skimmed around to find the best scenes of Elizabeth Bennet kicking zombie-ass. Not that I don't love Jane Austen or zombies, but the combination is a little, well, uneven. After an earnest, failed attempt to actually read it, I have to assume that skimming for the zombie parts is kind of the point. The first line is a real winner:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.

The best moments of brain-eating in the time of English gentry are after the jump.

Zombies Crash The Party: The ball seems to go as planned, though Mr. Darcy declines any interest in dancing. Elizabeth Bennet intends to speak with him, but is distracted by a swarm of zombies crashing through the windows. Zombies catch Mrs. Long, "cracking her skull like a walnut, and sending a shower of dark blood spouting as high as the chandeliers." Bennet and her sisters form a "Pentagram of Death," beheading the large crowd of brain-eaters with "razor sharp daggers" that they've kept wrapped to their ankles. After laying waste to the zombies, the Bennet sisters return to Longbourn in "good spirits."

Elizabeth Bennet, Shaolin student: Before heading out on a walk down the road, Bennet reminds her doting mother that she is a "student of Pei Liu of Shaolin." Huh? Did I miss something during the pages I wasn't reading? This is explained a bit further when Bennet delivers a high-kick to a zombie head, causing it to explode.

Brains for Dinner: Did I mention that this book is illustrated? I got bored and flipped ahead to the next picture, which involves zombies eating the kitchen staff. Bingley is sorely disappointed to see that a table spread of fruity desserts has been left covered in blood and brains, unfortunately inedible. Before Elizabeth is able to dispatch the zombies, Mr. Darcy offers to kill them for her by saying "I should never forgive myself if your gown were soiled." Swoon.

Tea and Ninjas: Mr. Collins invites a group to his estate for an afternoon of high tea. Mrs. Collins grills Elizabeth about her Shaolin training in China, condescending to her for a lack of experience in Japan. Later, she spars with some ninjas, slicing off hands and deflecting throwing stars with her Katana blade.

Buck in the Woods: On the suggestion of their father, Jane and Elizabeth Bennet play a game called "Kiss Me Deer." The sisters quietly track, chase, and wrestle down the largest buck grazing in the forest. Then, after pinning the animal, they kiss it. The illustration for this scene is downright classic. I don't know what that has to do with zombies, but I like it.

Sunshine and Brains: No big surprise ending here — Elizabeth and Darcy do end up together — but there is plenty of zombie killing and ninja battling before it's all over. Brains are devoured. Heads of cauliflower, mistaken for brains, are eaten. I'm not sure we should expect BBC to make a six hour miniseries for this one, but it's a safe bet that this thing will be on screen before long.

Final Group Discussion: For those who may be taking this book more seriously, the author offers a "Discussion Guide" with at least one excellent question:

Some critics have suggested that the zombies represent the authors' views towards marriage — an endless curse that sucks the life out of you and just won't die. Do you agree, or do you have another opinion about the symbolism of the unmentionables?

Well, readers, do we have any thoughts?

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