Byzantine Reality

Searching for Byzantine failures in the world around us

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Since I’ve been reading a lot of history books lately, I’m taking a short break from them for now. With that said,  I suppose it would have been difficult to pick a more mainstream or “in” book right now than today’s choice, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It’s been out for a while now, so unless you’ve been living in a cave as far as books go you’ve likely heard about it by now. Let’s see how it stacks up.

So the basic idea of the book is simple: to take Jane Austen’s classic work Pride and Prejudice and spice it up a bit with zombies. I’ve never read the original myself, but the idea I get from it is that it is both amazingly well-written and amazingly boring. How these two go together, I have no idea, but that’s what it seems to be to me. The original text is intact in this revamp, interestingly enough, and what a quick way to summarize it is that it is telenovela meets Fallout.

In the world of this book, everyone has to put up with an incredible amount of drama generated by everyone else (the telenovela part) and everyone is either a mutant/zombie or an asshole (the Fallout part). This amusing combination ensures that there will always be more drama from either zombies showing up or what some jerk did to some other jerk. Furthermore,  throughout the book everyone is shown to fall at least one of three categories: a complete bitch, an antisocial dickhead, or a moron. Yet because of this, the book is an amazing read. Everyone is flawed and it comes off as a very “real” read. Nobody is perfect, but some people are trying  to work on that (and others just don’t care).

Seth Grahame-Smith, the book’s “co-author” and revamper, knows this at heart. He knows that there’s a great story here but that it just moves a little too slow and could use a little nudge. The choice of zombies ends up being perfect since (1) zombies are very “in” right now, and (2) there’s enough of them and they’re too dumb to really shake up things too much that they make the story interesting without raising too many plot problems. Personally, I thought adding in ninjas as well was overkill and frankly just too silly. Zombies and social drama / commentary worked perfectly fine throughout the book and even though that by itself is somewhat silly, it still draws you in to its world, just to kick you out when now there are also ninjas and throwing stars and etc.

What it inevitably boils down to for this book and the original is if the drama can suck you in. History pulls me in much faster than literature tends to, but I still found this to be a very enjoyable read (especially the end). The downside is that we already have too much zombies in media right now (with more to come), and certainly not everyone can do it as well as Seth Grahame-Smith has done here.

Postscript (10/28/09): For some reason I feel like talking a little bit more about how everyone is either a complete bitch, an antisocial dickhead, or a moron. Something that really gives the characters depth is that while they overwhelmingly fall into one of these three categories, they aren’t always one of these three (that is, they flutter around a bit between them). So while Elizabeth is antisocial and blatantly uninterested in anyone in the world for most of the book, she also is a total bitch to anyone who tries to court her. Now, I can’t really blame her given the context, but from reading the story you can see how her attitude isn’t really helping these situations get any better. And by the same token, Darcy is even more antisocial. Yet what makes him interesting as well is that his bitchiness manifests as passive-aggression and not as rampant complaining or threats of murder as in Elizabeth’s case. Just goes to show how a book can get it right as far as its characters go.