Recently, I’ve been discussing Quirk Classics, specifically their literary mash-up genre. As the company that shot them to the forefront with Pride And Prejudice And Zombies, they’re kind of the company leading the way on this thing. I asked my friend, “You’re a lover of classic literature. When will they go too far with this trend?” Her response was simple: “When they start picking on authors I like.”
While Quirk Classic’s latest book is based off of Jane Austen’s classic novel of manners, Pride And Prejudice, it breaks from the earlier book by featuring all new content with no recycled Jane Austin. After all, it’s not necessarily about the Bennet Sisters or their zombieâkilling prowess this time around. It’s about how they become aristocratic killing machines, trained in the deadly art of dreadful disposal.
I have to say, as much as I enjoyed the idea of Pride And Prejudice And Zombies I absolutely loathe Jane Austen. I mean, the idea of 19th Century zombies being dispatched by the middle class Bennet family is amusing beyond end, as is the idea of mashing up the stereotypically girly Austen-type novel with a gory, entrails-dripping zombie gut-muncher is wonderful. In theory. In reality, Seth Grahame-Smith’s 15 percent zombie mayhem is overwhelmed at times by the 85 percent Jane Austen content, to the book’s detriment. If anything, it’s too respectful to Austen’s original work and not zombie enough.
Fortunately, Steve Hockensmith’s prequel is freed from that requirement to be Austen-y and is worlds better for it. It retains the quirkiness of the original, and most of Austen’s characters and settings, but it blasts the whole genre out of the water most efficiently, and it’s wonderful. All the work that Grahame-Smith did with Pride And Prejudice And Zombies is carried further forward here, in the all-new prequel.
The various Bennet sisters are still themselves, but the readership witnesses how they progress from the delicate flowers of womanhood they are in the original book to the combination of meek womanhood and warrior steel they are in the mash-up version. While it doesn’t quite patch over the unevenness of the first, it helps quite a bit on rereading the original mash-up.
Although, to be honest, the book needs no background in Austen to be enjoyable. It might be better without the Austen, actually. Jane and Elizabeth Bennet, as characters, are strong enough to stand on their own no matter where you might place them. The same goes for fussy Prudence and pragmatic Oscar Bennet. The new characters, from Dr. Keckilpenny and Master Hawksworth on down to Baron Lumpley himself, serve both as romantic foils for the more mannerly portions, but also as zombie movie archetypes recast for the 19th Century. (The Bennets serve as archetypes as well, of a more timeless and less zombie-centric sort.)
Hockensmith’s blending of aristocracy and hungry hordes is more even than the original book, because Hockensmith has no Austen to be faithful to. He’s free to simply write a book and the end result flows better than the precursor and is much more consistent. Also, it’s wickedly funny in several parts, while staying mostly true to the concepts of womanhood and a place in the world that Austen explored.
The 287 pages of the book flew by. When I picked it up and started reading, I didn’t want to put it down. I went from the title page to halfway through the book in one sitting at the coffee shop, stifling chuckles with my cup the entire time. The fun Hockensmith is having with Austen is second only to the fun he seems to be having with the unmentionables. The innate comedy of the concept of regency period zombies soars once unshackled from the rotting corpse of Jane Austen.
If you’d like to get your hands on a copy of Pride And Prejudice And Zombies: Dawn Of The Dreadfuls, head on over to Quirk’s PPZ: DotD website and sign up for the contest. Winner gets a copy of the book Pride And Prejudice And Zombies: Dawn Of The Dreadfuls Dreadfuls, audio books of Pride And Prejudice And Zombies and Sense And Sensibility And Sea Monsters, a password redeemable for audio chapter samples of Dawn Of The Dreadfuls Dreadfuls, the Dawn Of The Dreadfuls Dreadfuls poster, a PP&Z journal, and a box set of PP&Z postcards. That’s over $100 worth of freebies, all for popping onto the forums and mentioning where you read the review! It’s open to readers all over the world, so don’t hesitate to get your hands on some free swag!