Saturday, May 30, 2009

Everything Really Is Better With Zombies

Completely unable to resist the allure of the evil undead, I bought “Pride And Prejudice And Zombies” recently. While it was somewhat jarring reading, overall, I quite liked the book. And zombies really do make everything better. In full post, there are many spoilers as I discuss the changes that I liked and (a few) that I didn’t.

Overall: Worth reading if you enjoyed the original and don’t mind some gore.
(Slight aside: I can't believe I didn't have a "zombies" tag until now!)

Changes I Really Liked:

1) Wickham really got his and voluntarily too! Lydia still gets off scott-free and totally delusional (as in the original – oh how I long for a story where she becomes more than a caricature).

2) Mr. Bennett is made into the early nineteenth century version of a gentlemen survivalist nut. When zombies take over, every gentlemen in England apparently went flocking to the Orient to learn proper beheading skills in order to protect their families. Bennett however, decided the best way to protect five daughters was if they could protect themselves (“Girls, Pentagram of Death!” - hehehe). Of all the changes, this felt like the most natural progression from the original novel.

3) Lady Catherine & her ninjas – making her a legendary zombie-killing bad-ass was a really good call. Without that, the new Elizabeth’s toleration of her behavior would have been completely out of character. Plus, I really liked how completely disposable those ninjas were. No matter the problem she had, Lady Catherine always just threw some ninjas at it. Don’t like Elizabeth? Goad her into dueling your ninjas. Angry Mr. Darcy won’t marry your daughter? Send your ninjas to invade Pemberly. So very in keeping with her personality.

4) Mary was a lot more interesting as a dedicated warrior who never married (but still developed a few relationships with the soldiers protecting the countryside). I especially liked how when it appeared that Wickham had kidnapped Lydia, both she & Kitty swore to kill him and then spent the whole debacle in the dojo devising slow, painful ways to fulfill their oath. Mary was still utterly embarrassing but somehow more sisterly than I remember from the original.

5) They gave Darcy a sense of humor, especially when having to deal with Miss Bingley. While it was done with some ribald jokes, they managed to show that the only way a Mr. Darcy trained in combat could NOT kill Caroline Bingley where she stood was to make fun of her without her knowing. That the author gave Elizabeth just enough knowledge of sex to get the jokes actually helped justify her change of mind later. In the original, this always seems a little abrupt but here, where no matter her opinion on Darcy she at least respects his fighting skills and his ability to toy with Miss Bingley without her catching on, it works.

6) Whatever Mr. Collins’ other flaws, he did care for the woman he married and was devastated by the act of killing her to spare her becoming a full zombie. I liked how it was done off screen and the characters were caught up enough in their own drama that they didn’t dwell on it. In a world overrun by zombies, it is just one more tragedy.

7) They managed to make Jane a 100% believable zombie-killer while changing absolutely none of her personality as a generally good, kind-hearted person. Prior to reading this book, I would have never believed this possible.

8) The fact that zombies, driven mad by hunger for brains, easily mistake cauliflower for their favorite organ and can be trapped thusly.

9) The “Literary Questions” at the end of the novel were hilarious! Just like re-printed classics which try to spur on classroom discussion with talking points, these questions for the most part focused on the strange, dual nature of the characters as zombie killers and members of the English gentry. Although, my favorite: "Does Mrs. Bennett have a single redeeming quality?"

Changes I Did NOT Like:

1) In a book where the deprivations of the undead are universally condemned, not the least for eating human flesh, I could have done without Elizabeth taking a bite from the heart of Lady Catherine’s ninja that she killed while dueling and dreaming quite so specifically about drinking blood from Mr. Darcy’s skull as vengeance for his wrongs against Jane. It did little to distinguish her from her friend, Charlotte’s descent into zombie-dom.

2) They made Mrs. Gardiner unfaithful to her husband for no reason whatsoever. In some respects, the Gardiners are supposed to be the foil for the Bennetts, everything that the latter couple is not. This is both to represent that Elizabeth does have a clear example of a successful marriage nearby and to demonstrate to Mr. Darcy that not all of the Bennett relatives are embarrassing. By making Mrs. Gardiner so careless, they undermine the importance of that marriage in being both a catalyst and a standing example for Mr. Darcy’s & Elizabeth’s burgeoning affections.

Still, these two are fairly minor quibbles in a quite satisfying book.

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