Book talks for readers at Chisago Lakes Middle School.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: the Classic Regency Romance-Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem by Jane Austen and Seth Graham-Smith

Those familiar with the original story know that Mrs. Bennett is obssessed with finding husbands for the Bennetts' five daughters. Life could be difficult for an unmarried woman in 18th century England. So, Mrs. Bennett's singular purpose in life is to train her five girls in the arts of conversation and civilized manners, making them more desirable to prospective suitors.

However, the story immediately takes on an unfamiliar morbid twist. Mr. Bennett of course is annoyed with his wife's incessant efforts to marry off his daughters. In contrast with his wife, his main concern is their survival-to train them in the arts of self-defense. The reason: a plague has stricken the land causing the dead to come back to zombies. In polite, civilized, cultured company the proper term to refer to the living dead (zombies)is to call them an unmentionable or one that is a member of the unfortunate scourge.

Instead of dreaming about boys, Mr. Bennett prefers his five girls to think about applying themselves to the deadly arts. Only by training them in the martial arts and the proper handling of lethal weapons will he guarantee his main mission in life: to prevent his family from joining the ranks of the living dead.

News reaches the Bennett household that two young gentlemen have arrived to visit at a nearby estate. Both are extremely rich, and available. The Bennetts are invited to a ball where there will be dancing, but more importantly, where introductions will be made. Mrs. Bennett hopes her girls will compare favorably on the opinions of the two visiting young gentlemen.

At the ball one of the prospective suitors, named Mr. Bingley, comments to his friend, Mr.Darcy, that he has never met with so many pleasant girls in one place in his whole life. It doesn't go unnoticed to Mrs. Bennett that Mr. Bingley dances twice with her eldest daughter Jane. Everyone immediately takes a liking to Mr. Bingley, especially Jane. However, the same feeling is not equally shared about Mr. Darcy. Even Mrs. Bennett herself thinks Mr. Darcy to be the proudest, most disagreeable, man in the world.

Both Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy wistfully remark to each other at how beautiful Jane Bennett is. Unfortunately, Mr. Darcy also comments to his friend that Jane's sister, Elizabeth, is only tolerable, and not pretty enough to interest him.

Elizabeth overhears Mr. Darcy and "her blood turns cold." She has never been so insulted in her entire life. She impulsively reaches down by her ankle where she secretly keeps a dagger hidden under her dress. She means to threaten Mr. Darcy with bodily harm when suddenly a scourge of unmentionables shatter the windows and crash into the ballroom.

"Unmentionables poured in, their movements clumsy yet swift; their burial clothing in a range of untidiness...Their flesh was in varying degrees of [rot and decay];the freshly stricken were slightly green and pliant, whereas the longer dead were gray and brittle-their eyes and tongues long since turned to dust, and their lips pulled back into everlasting skeletal smiles."

In the mayhem, Mr. Bennett shouted orders he knew would be received by five sets of highly trained ears:

"Girls! Pentagram of Death!"

The five girls pressed their backs against each other in a fighting formation that looked like a five-pointed star, pleasing their father no doubt as they confronted the deadly horde of party crashers. In one graceful motion, the girls reached for their daggers with one hand, and politely placed their free hands behind them in the small of their backs. Lunging with extended dagger thrusts, the girls worked in harmony as they beheaded the swarm of attacking zombies.

As the story continues, we later learn that Jane is involved in another fracas with the zombies, and has possibly been bitten by one of them. As Elizabeth risks her life to be by Jane's side, she is ambushed by three of the unmentionables. All three with arms extended, mouths locked wide open, would make anyone pause to reflect on a "universally acknowledged" truth about all zombies:

"A zombie in possession of brains mut be in want of more brains."

The questions I leave you with are almost baffling in themselves considering what Seth Graham-Smith has done to a story that many consider a masterpiece of world literature.

Will Elizabeth Bennett survive the ambush?

Does Jane Bennett transform into a zombie?

What will Mr. Bingley think of Jane then?

And, what about Mr. Darcy? Did Elizabeth catch his eye with her display of eloquence, grace, and deadly accuracy as she lifted a zombie by the scalp and thrusted her dagger into its neck?

Find out in this genre-defying classics-shattering adaptation by Seth Graham-Smith that might even cause Jane Austen to disturb her grave with laughter; may she rest in peace.

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