First published back in April of 2009, Quirk Classics’ literary mash-up ‘Pride And Prejudice And Zombies’ was the first of its kind – comprising of Jane Austen’s original novel, with gratuitous scenes of zombie violence literally inserted into the text by US author Seth Grahame-Smith.

The novel proved to be an unprecedented hit, spawning a number of similar literature mash-ups.  In March of 2010 a prequel to ‘Pride And Prejudice And Zombies’ was published.  Penned by US author Steve Hockensmith, the novel detailed the earlier life of Elizabeth Bennet et al and was entitled ‘Pride And Prejudice And Zombies: Dawn Of The Dreadfuls’ (2010).  Hockensmith later went on to write a sequel to ‘Pride And Prejudice And Zombies’ entitled ‘Pride And Prejudice And Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After’ (2011).

Along with the follow-on novels and the other similarly themed literary mash-ups, a graphic novel version of the original mash-up was released entitled ‘Pride And Prejudice And Zombies: The Graphic Novel’ (2010) as well as an interactive ebook version entitled ‘Pride And Prejudice And Zombies: The Interactive Ebook’ (2011).  A video game of the original mash-up was further released in June of 2010.

In October of 2009, an expanded ‘Deluxe Heirloom Edition’ of the mash-up was published which included thirty-percent more zombies within the original text, along with thirteen full-colour illustrations  by Roberto Parada, an afterword by Dr Allen Grove of Alfred University, and a reader’s discussion guide – all within a handsome leatherette binding. The following review is of this expanded edition.

DLS Synopsis:
The English countryside is awash with the undead.  An unmentionable menace dragging poor souls off the road and on to their doom day and night.  To mitigate this wholly disagreeable situation, those who can afford to, train hard in the arts of combat and weaponry.  For venturing outside alone is now a deeply dangerous pastime.

Fortunately, Mr Bennet saw fit to have his five daughters trained up from an early age in the deadly arts.  As students of Pei Liu of Shaolin in China, Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty and Lydia Bennet have all become quite a force in zombie annihilation.

Armed with their weapons of choice – Lydia with her shooting irons, Kitty her quarterstaff, Mary her longbow, and Jane and Lizzy with their Katanas – the Bennet sisters are able to live in relative safety at Longbourn, their countryside estate, together with their mother and father.  And because of their excellent fighting prowess, Mr Bennet is quite happy with how his daughters have turned out.  However, Mrs Bennet has other ideas.  She wishes to see all five of her daughters married off to wealthy and respectable bachelors.  And the sooner the better, now that they are all of an age fit for courtship.

And then as if by fate, a very eligible young bachelor by the name of Charles Bingley moves in to Netherfield Park, nearby to the Longbourn estate.  A ball is soon arranged by way of an introduction to the area, of which Mrs Bennet insists her daughters must attend.

At the ball Mr Bingley proves to be a most gentlemanly and good-willed individual, pairing off with Jane Bennet from early on.  However, Bingley’s close friend, Fitzwilliam Darcy from the Pemberley estate in Derbyshire is less well-received.  Indeed, Darcy is seen by all five sisters to be quite a disagreeable man, who disgusts them all with his god-awful pride.

However, the ball is rudely interrupted by the sudden appearance of the undead who attack all those present.  Luckily the Bennet sisters are quick to respond to the walking dead’s arrival and soon make short work of the sorry stricken menace.

In the wake of the quite eventful ball, Jane Bennet travels to Netherfield Park to visit Bingley’s snobbish sister Caroline.  However, on her journey to the Bingley residence, Jane picks up an illness which forces her to remain at Netherfield Park.  Fearing the strange plague has taken hold of her sister, Elizabeth goes to the Bingley estate where she begins to get to know Darcy a little better.

Meanwhile, Mr Bennet’s clergyman, William Collins, comes to stay at the Longbourn estate in the hope of finding a wife amongst his cousins - the Bennet sisters.  Early on he selects Elizabeth as his possible wife to be and duly proposes to her.  But Elizabeth has other ideas, and much to her mother’s annoyance, rejects Collins and all the wealth his hand in marriage would have brought.

But Collins is a man who, despite his disagreeable appearance and demeanor, is nevertheless quite the eligible young bachelor, particularly as he is heir to the Bennet estate.  And on the rebound from his rejection, the robust clergyman proposes to Elizabeth’s close friend, Charlotte Lucas, who accepts.

However, the undead menace is still plaguing England, and it will have its hand in the events to come.  Despite the arrival of the a militia who have come to help combat the zombie threat, the undead presence still tears away at their lives; infecting young Charlotte Lucas when she is bitten whilst inspecting an overturned chaise and four along the countryside roadway.  But with the militia comes the charming young officer, George Wickham, who manages to form quite a relationship with Elizabeth Bennet.  And with that, things seem to be beginning to change for the better for Elizabeth.

However time is running out for Charlotte Lucas before she too will join the ranks of the undead.  Furthermore, renowned zombie-killer Lady Catherine de Bourgh seems to have overlooked the signs of Lucas’ gradual demise.  And as with Lucas, it seems that not many are truly as they first seem.  Although the Lady Catherine has quite a name for herself, she proves to be far from the most hospitable of women.  And behind the prejudice that one might harbor against another, is often a deep and regrettable falsehood…

DLS Review:
So here we have it, the first classic literature mash-up, where zombies and ninjas are quite literally inserted into Austen’s original regency romance.  The end result is a strangely co-written tale that in no way takes itself seriously.  Indeed, author Seth Grahame-Smith goes so far as to inject a further element of comedy, with many a risqué double-entendre adding even more joviality to the story.

The original version of the mash-up reportedly has around fifteen percent of material added to Austen’s original text.  As such, for those who are only interested in reading strictly a zombie novel and not a regional romance, then this is maybe not for you.  Even the latter deluxe version with the additional thirty-percent increase in zombie action is still nevertheless more of a regency romance than a zombie tale.

Indeed, rather than the hordes of the undead having a particularly prominent role within the plot, instead they are very much on the side line as a sort of violent inconvenience to the characters.  That said, the overall presence of the undead is always there, whether referenced in dialogue, used in a witty comparison, or merely inserted as the reasoning behind something going badly wrong.

With his numerous additions, Grahame-Smith has worked hard to maintain the style, prose and tone of Austen’s original; allowing the changes to blend into the storyline almost seamlessly.  Indeed, Grahame-Smith’s additional passages include plenty of the flowery wordplay and witty dialogue-jousting that Austen is well-known for – although more often than not with an additional lighthearted tongue-in-cheek layer spread over the top.

It has to be said that at no time does any of the added action feel in any way forced or grotesquely out of step with the rest of the novel.  As strange as it may sound, Grahame-Smith has done a truly sterling job in keeping the flow of the novel together, maintaining the absolute core aspects of the original story and merely building around it with additional pieces to the regency-cum-zombie-menace jigsaw.

Grahame-Smith clearly has a flare for dramatic exhibitions of fighting, with ninjas and oriental weaponry built into the tale alongside highly-trained fighting styles and other such shows of energetic imagination.  Indeed, in just the first few chapters, with the arrival of the undead at the ball, we see the Bennet sisters fighting alongside each other is an elaborate combat technique dubbed ‘The Pentagram of Death’.  Luckily such indulgences into over-the-top action is a recurring theme throughout Grahame-Smith’s additions.

Sadly the added zombie action dwindles away to almost nothing not long after the half-way mark is reached.  Indeed, the latter quarter of the novel seem barely touched by Grahame-Smith’s blood red pen.  However, this is where the storyline for the original tale really begins to heat up, and so as it turns out, the lack of much zombie input for this latter portion isn’t too sorely missed.

All in all this odd mash-up reworking of ‘Pride And Prejudice’ (1813) actually seems to work.  With tongue-firmly-wedged-in-cheek, this rebirth of the classic regency romance has brought a new undead life to the tale; injecting in a mix of colourful zombie shenanigans, wildly over-the-top fighting and a light sprinkling of pun-heavy smut.

Admittedly not a novel for everyone…but for this reviewer at least it proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable and quite an imaginatively witty read.

The novel runs for a total of 353 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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