Book Review: PRIDE & PREJUDICE… and zombies!

PPZI came into this book with both hope and a little dread, knowing that I had some pretty big prejudices of my own to brace against. PRIDE & PREJUDICE is, by far, one of my favorite works of English literature, and I’ve read it multiple times, seen the BBC version of it twice, and cackled through BRIDGET JONES’ DIARY so often I can’t count. However, I’ve also lived the American Dream when it comes to zombie stories: I’ve hauled myself up from the murky sludge of nightmares by my small intestines and a few stubborn tendons and become an outright zombiphile. So I was eager to see what this most-bizarre mix of styles would create, hoping I wouldn’t want to dismember it and shove it back in the ground from whence it came.

I would definitely say the author was very tongue and cheek when going through this old classic with an eye for the macabre, and in some spots he did make me smile. Unfortunately, I don’t think he’s all that clever for most of the work. It’s always going to be a little odd to mix zombie fiction with Austen, but I found myself bored by most of it—including a number of the Austen parts I originally enjoyed. The insertions of the zombie scenes breaks apart the pacing of the original story, making it plunking and slow (though I’m certain some would say it was always plunking and slow), and takes away a lot of what I loved about it. But that would be completely forgivable if the zombie parts were bada$$, hilarious, grim, or anything but annoying.

The truth of the matter is that prejudice did get me in the end with this one, but not the prejudice I expected. PRIDE & PREJUDICE & ZOMBIES didn’t annoy my English Major side like I thought it might. It did, however, outrage the Asian Studies Major in me. Once I started reading about how Elizabeth had trained exclusively in China to gain her Shaolin kung fu skills, yet wields a katana… Sorry, I was gone. Besides it being painfully obvious to me (a kung fu black sash, myself) that the author had done absolutely no research on Asia at that time period and knew absolutely nothing about kung fu, every time he opened up a zombie-fight scene I just started twitching with the inaccuracies.

I recognize that not everyone will recognize these issues as readily as I might, but I suspect almost everyone knows that katanas are Japanese, not Chinese (and if you didn’t, now you do!). They did not use katanas in China as far as any of my research, experience, or training has ever revealed, and the fact that the author actually tries to make a point of there being a class difference between being trained in Japan verses trained in China just makes the sword mix-up all that much more teeth-grinding. Had Elizabeth slaughtered all of Lady Catherine’s ninjas with a vicious broadsword, or run them through with a lethal jian, we’d be in business. But as someone who has completed some training in both sword styles, I can assure you—as I’m sure any student of katana would agree—that simply because you study one form of Asian swordsmanship does not mean you know how to use all Asian swords. Thus, Elizabeth would more likely favor Chinese weaponry (of which there are so, so many brilliant choices—if Jane had used a whip chain, I would have been in heaven!).

Besides my own irks, however, I found the book an odd bag. For those who didn’t like the original, I’m not sure there’s enough zombie action in it to make it worth re-reading, since—ultimately—it’s almost word-for-word the same story as the first version for the majority of the book. And for those who love zombie fiction, there’s nothing particularly inspired about the zombie scenes, either. It comes off more as a joke a high school boy might write during English class while not paying attention to the teacher more than a work that deserves as much hype as it’s been getting. It’s unfortunately a shoulder-shrug kind of book; a novelty to skim through, but not to sit down and read in full. Which is a shame. No zombie story should be a shoulder-shrug.

(For the record: the cover of this book is FANTASTIC!)

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