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Cook: Updated version of a classic lets you love zombies, too
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‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’
By: Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
Price: $12.95
Rating: Four out of five bookmarks

Most of us are familiar with the classic novel “Pride and Prejudice.”

It is hailed as one of the greatest romantic stories of the Victorian age, along with other Jane Austen favorites such as “Sense and Sensibility” and “Emma.”

The journey of the feisty Elizabeth Bennet as she deals with family loyalties, heartbreak and love has been recreated as various film and theater adaptations over the decades. Yet only Seth Grahame-Smith thought to himself while reading this infamous tale: “You know what would make this story even better? Zombies and ninjas.”

That thought spawned what is certainly the most bizarre — but also the most hilarious — adaptation of Austen’s classic: “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.”

The basic plot of Grahame-Smith’s version is the same as Austen’s, keeping much of the same text and dialogue. It is still a comedy of manners, with Elizabeth struggling with her feelings towards the arrogant and proud Mr. Darcy. But now she is also a katana-wielding, kung-fu-fighting zombie slayer out to rid all of England from its unfortunate plague of brain-munching “unmentionables.”

Several of the other characters have a horror-genre makeover as well, including Elizabeth’s friend Charlotte, who undergoes a mortifying yet humorous transformation into one of the undead. And Lady Catherine, the self-righteous elderly matron, is England’s most infamous dispatcher of zombies alongside her brigade of ninja bodyguards.

At first, the zombie scenes seem haphazardly thrown in alongside the initial plot, mainly to allow the reader a few bits of random cartoonish gore. Yet I was impressed that the language of the text remained fairly consistent throughout, keeping with the tone of the original author. It even made moments like yanking a man’s heart out through his chest seem appropriate (and symbolic).

As the story progresses, the zombie-slaying fits with the character’s emotional state at the time, and I began to have trouble remembering how the original story progressed without the undead running amok. Elizabeth’s independence and aggressive nature toward the living society — particularly that of Mr. Darcy and others who would threaten her family — is paralleled by her violence toward the zombie hordes. As she gradually becomes more sympathetic with those people whom she misjudged, she also begins to show more mercy toward her undead opponents.

Who knew zombies could give one a better perspective of the living?

This novel has already led to the reimagining of another Austen classic,  “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters,” and I’m sure we will see several more classics evolve into horror parodies in the future. While this version is certainly no substitute for the original — and I would recommend getting acquainted with the original novel first, for the majority of the humor comes from comparing the original to the parody — it is enjoyable and good for several laughs.

Alison Reeger Cook is a Gainesville resident whose Off the Shelves book review runs every other week in Sunday Life. Know of a good book to review? E-mail her to tell her about it.