Sunday, February 07, 2010

Year of 25 Books: #1 - Pride & Prejudice & Zombies

You might recall that about a month ago I was bemoaning the fact that I just don't read as much as I used to. It was at that time that I laid down the challenge (mostly to myself) to read 25 books this year, allowing only 5 of those to be rereads. I also pledged to blog about each book. In so doing, I managed to rope my friends P. Viktor and Bess into the act as well. P. Viktor (whose blog I have been reading since I randomly stumbled across it at the time of the release of "Hung Up" in 2005) has already managed to read and blog about two. I know that Bess has read several in January, but I have yet to see any blogging proof to substantiate this claim. ;)

I only read one book in January, which puts me behind right out of the gate. The book I chose was a Christmas gift - one I had asked for - Pride & Prejudice & Zombies by Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith. When I first heard of this book, I thought that there was absolutely no way that they could screw this up. Zombie mayhem set in Jane Austen's classic story? I've been fond of Pride & Prejudice ever since Heidi and I watched the famous BBC miniseries on DVD nearly 8 years ago. I even liked the updated Keira Knightley version that was released in theaters in 2005. Considering my love all things zombie, surely the changes could only make it that much better.

Surely, I couldn't have been more mistaken. P&P&Z starts out strong. Much remains of Austen's original story, but many things have been turned on their head. Subtle dialogue changes and the insertion of zombies into Regency England seemed clever. Making Elizabeth Bennet, one of the most beloved heroines of British literature into a slayer of the undead was an interesting turn.

Sadly, the novelty wore off very quickly. As one of my friends who tried to read it and abandoned it said, the book is like an extended joke, one that remains long after it has worn out its welcome. The longer the story goes on, the more cracks in the story telling begin to appear. It became very obvious to me where Grahame-Smith was tacking on zombie references to Austen's original passages. As the story progressed, I found that I didn't really buy Elizabeth Bennet as a zombie killer and just kind of wished I was reading the original Pride & Prejudice. It suffered a fate worse than death (or undeath) for a book: the simple act of reading it became like doing homework. I just wanted it to be done. The book felt lazy which was not what I was expecting at all.

There were parts that worked. One of my favorite parts of the original Pride & Prejudice is the appearance of Mr. Collins and his eventual marriage to Charlotte Lucas. I enjoyed the zombie take on Charlotte's "marriage of convenience" to Mr. Collins and was one of the few points at which I laughed at the turn of events. I also liked the transformation of Lady Catherine DeBourgh into a zombie killer. For some reason, that played as more believable than Elizabeth Bennet.

As I finished the book, I realized that this book really is the literary equivalent of a Weird Al song. It's clever at first, only to become annoying and make you want to listen to the original song instead. I definitely was skimming in the last 50 pages. As a fan of both zombies and the original story of Pride & Prejudice, I felt like this book barfed all over both genres in the name of making a quick buck. Zombie fans will not find enough brain-eating to be satisfied, and Austen fans will find the alteration of their beloved story abhorrent.

So yeah, I can't imagine I'll be reading the to-be-published prequel coming out in March. I might see the upcoming movie, but only at the dollar theater.


Bess said...

"As a fan of both zombies and the original story of Pride & Prejudice, I felt like this book barfed all over both genres in the name of making a quick buck." Loved that sentence, Dan!

I have, indeed, read five books so far, but have yet to blog about any of them. Perhaps next weekend I'll get a chance. Just to substantiate my claim. :-)

Dan said...

Having no furnace for several days buys you a pass on not blogging the books. I look forward to reading what you have to say as I don't doubt the veracity of your claim.

P.Viktor said...

Great post! Such a shame it sucked - I have heard only good things about this book, though I have to say I completely trust your judgement.

I should also take this opportunity to say hi to Bess. Glad you are on the book train as well.

Dan, I'm currently reading Edmund White's City Boy - a friend of mine bought it for my birthday, as I never buy expensive hardbacks myself. I'm half-way through and really enjoying it, esp. as it is about his time in New York! In case you needed some inspiration...