It’s the reaction of a big baby to whine that something isn’t what I expected. Jane Austen’s posthumous co-author and zombie wrangler Seth Grahame-Smith is a creator and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies doesn’t owe me anything. But even so, there he and I were.
The place is Netherfield Park. The party is assembled. Mr Darcy says to Caroline Bingley, “You should like balls infinitely better if you knew the first thing about them.” And I realize that the super cool Pride and Prejudice zombie novel I was hoping for is still waiting to be written.
Pride and Prejudice and Terror
Pride and Prejudice was always a novel about fear. The Bennet sisters are too poor to buy themselves any security in their society. They will never own property. They exist in a perpetual girlhood that can only be broken by becoming a wife. The stakes could hardly be higher for Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia. Pride and Prejudice is a fizzy romantic fantasy built on a foundation of stone-cold existential dread.
So in my alternate universe, that was what Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was going to be: Pride and Prejudice‘s no-second-chances female competition for the means to survive turned into a literal blood and guts war against creeping death. It isn’t that. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is isn’t anywhere near smart enough to be that.
“Does the author care?”
The question I asked myself most often while reading was, “Does the author care?” The world we are presented is radically different from our late 1700s, but treated as if it was business as usual until 25 years ago (or maybe 55 years ago). Does the author care? If this is our reality into which zombies are introduced, it matters that, for example, both Japan and China were closed to Europeans during this period. But if this was never our reality, it needs to be established as a fantasy world and isn’t. Does the author care?
Elizabeth Bennet is depicted as rude, coarse, and stupid. This feels like it will be a problem, considering that the plot needs her to be Darcy’s moral equal, but it isn’t. Why isn’t it? Because Mr Darcy is rude, coarse, and childish. They are united in a willingness to murder other humans (allies in the actual war going on against zombies) that suggests English society has no brains left for the undead to feast on. Lizzy and Fitzy are assholes and they deserve each other. That is a problem. Does the author care?
More isn’t better
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies seems to be trying not to be Pride and Prejudice while definitely being Pride and Prejudice. The plan, as far as I can tell, was just to keep adding things. There are zombies, yes. But there are also ninjas, scenes of sexual harassment, rewriting of conversations to make them more unpleasant, and literal buckets of vomit. None of that stops the novel from being Pride and Prejudice and none of it makes Pride and Prejudice and Zombies entertaining to read.
There’s still a good horror novel in Pride and Prejudice. A horror novel with consistent characters and coherent world-building. A horror novel with a female lead and male lead that we don’t kind of hope will get beheaded in the first act. But we’ll have to keep waiting for it.❤
DNF. Read to page 143 and scanned the rest.