I just finished reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies a scant ten minutes ago, and I have to say, having loved the original, I enjoyed this remake a good deal more than I was expecting.
Spoilers below the fold.
Much of the original book remains intact, though while the physical form of the book and its plot resembles that which it once was, its very nature is changed fundamentally, much like the victims of the mysterious plague within its pages, which has afflicted England for the past fifty-five years. If you had problems with the language of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, you’ll find precious little in Zombies to recommend it to you outside of a few bawdy references to musket ammunition as “balls” or the addition of Mrs. Bennet and others vomiting frequently. If you are capable of reading at so high a level as to have enjoyed P&P, and you do not flinch at such reimaginings, you’ll assuredly find something that will make you laugh.
The England of Zombies has every bit the social drama and aristocracy you might remember, only in this England, His Majesty the King asks all who are able to do as much as possible to combat the “armies of Satan”, the “unmentionables” that have risen from the grave to feast on the brains of the living. All five of the Bennet daughters are trained in the Orient in the deadly arts by Master Liu, and are amongst the countryside’s most capable warriors.
The daughters retain their personalities — Kitty and Lydia are flirtatious and frivolous, Mary an introverted bookworm of little consequence to the story, Elizabeth whom the story follows is headstrong and impertinent, and the eldest, Jane, is sweet and good. The eldest two daughters, Jane and Elizabeth, are both intelligent and fierce fighters in equal measure, and while not dispatching the undead, engage in chess-like games of wits with the objects of their alternating affection and scorn and the relations that surround them.
Some of the major high points of the story include Mr. Darcy being turned away by Elizabeth on his first failed attempt to propose, via a kick to the head that sends him sprawling. Charlotte Lucas, Elizabeth’s best friend, is bitten by a zombie prior to marrying Mr. Collins, and slowly “turns” while in the company of her parson husband and their benefactress, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. de Bourgh herself is transformed into a Japanese-trained ninja, who keeps a small army of ninja at her disposal; by the climactic scene where she demands of Elizabeth to refute her engagement to Mr. Darcy, the war of words escalates into a full-out ninja battle in which more than one ceiling rafter is shattered. Mr. Wickham in the original is never adequately delivered his comeuppance — the reimagined novel rectifies this oversight by Darcy delivering such a beating as to render him lame and incontinent for the rest of his life, forcing Lydia to forevermore be his nursemaid (to which she is more than happily resigned owing only to her excitement at being married first in the family). Even the army regiment’s being stationed near Longbourn has added meaning in this novel, what with the living dead’s constant advances. In the original they always seemed to be there for nothing so much as to attend balls and to flirt with the youngest Bennets.
All in all, while much of the original novel remained, there were enough new scenes and reworked dialogue to make it well worth a read, especially if you have any kind of attachment to your old English literature classes in school. For you zombie lovers, however, there was only one zombie attack on an enclosed space during the course of the book, which was quickly dispatched by the Bennets, so much of the suspense and horror of traditional zombie stories (granted such by the relentless advance of an enemy that wears you down with sheer numbers) is missing in this novel. At times the zombie related additions feel slightly gratuitous, in fact. But if you’re willing to overlook this for the delicious absurdity of Elizabeth Bennet proving her skills by standing first on her hands, then on one hand, then on one finger, you’ll likely enjoy this book nonetheless.