Needs more zombie?
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains…
So begins Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a parody cum tribute to Jane Austen’s original. Officially this is a mash-up, taking two seemingly incompatible materials, and merging them into a new and original artwork.
Musical mash-ups require talent – having an ear for what might work, then mixing them together seamlessly, a triumph of technical prowess and musical imagination. The literary equivalent is played for laughs, but does it require much in the way of talent and originality?
I am currently reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and I’m enjoying it. I enjoy Austen, Pride and Prejudice is my favourite of her books, and if you know me then you’ll know that zombies appeal to me – this book ought to be a winner with me.
And so it is, on its own. Much of the original Austen text is untouched, and all the classic elements of zombie stories are included. There is a measure of talent in knowing what of Austen could be cut out so that the inclusion of the zombie elements did not confuse, or overburden the book by doubling its length. The zombie plague now feels like an essential setting for the story of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy, rather than an awkward bolt-on.
But that’s only a small measure of talent and originality. This is very much a book of the moment, and somewhat divisive. You will either love it, or consider it a literary travesty. I fear that as time passes, the willingness to read this will wane, and I dread to think that this might be the vanguard of a new literary genre, [Classic Novel] + [Monster of the Week] = Bestseller, because I think people will quickly grow weary of it.
Already, Pride and Prejudice and Zomebies 2 is available for pre-order (although since Austen never wrote a sequel this may be a more original piece of work). The movie is slated for release in 2011, by which point I think the concept will have jumped the shark – not that this will necessarily stop the “flog a dead horse brigade” in Hollywood, who are rumoured to already have Pride and Predator in the works.
I hope that this will be all we get of the monster-lit mashup market, before it seems less like a quirky and funny idea, and more like a juvenile prank that becomes more tiresome with repetition. The concept of fusing classic drama with sci-fi and horror is hardly new, having been done twice in my memory on British television – the sketch show Dead Ringers had Jane Austen meets The Terminator, and in the mid-nineties comedian Harry Enfield speculated on what a Terminator film from Merchant Ivory would look like.
Still, if any zombies want to invade the interminably boring Wessex of Thomas Hardy’s novels, then I would be delighted to see that happen…