by Steve Hockensmith
Illustrated by Patrick Arrasmith
Quirk Books; March 2010; $12.95
A year ago, Seth Grahame-Smith and Quirk Books initiated the
Quirk Classics series with the bestselling Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which
blended the text of Jane Austen’s classic [[[Pride and Prejudice]]]with new scenes.
The result was part romantic comedy of manners, part over-the-top action
thriller in which the bloodthirsty Bennet sisters used their highly trained
martial skills to confront zombies and ninjas, in between searching for
husbands. Other authors in the series moved on with[[[Sense and Sensibility]]] and [[[Sea Monsters]]] and the soon-to-be published [[[Android Karenina]]]. Mr. Grahame-Smith has since moved on to other undead pursuits, but here is author Steve Hockensmith to take up the slack with this prequel to P & P & Z, set four years before those fateful events.
After a lull of many years, zombies (or, as they’re known by
the more genteel, the “dreadfuls,” “unmentionables,” or the “sorry stricken”) have
once again infested England. When Mr. Ford, Meryton’s apothecary, sits up at
his own funeral and begins a frantic search for brains, Mr. Oscar Bennet renews
his once forsworn vow to be a zombie-slaying warrior, and attempts to fulfill
his broken promise to raise his daughters in that tradition.
The five Bennet daughters, previously brought up to be
ladies, not warriors, show some initial resistance to their father’s decision.
Almost immediately, they confront social ostracism; however, they also gain
self-confidence under the harsh tutelage of the handsome, mysterious Master Geoffrey
Hawksworth, who rapidly (somewhat too rapidly, if truth be told), turns these
untried girls into katana-wielding fighters. Putting aside her previous distaste for violence, Elizabeth begins to discover the true spirit of the
warrior within herself and her sisters. She must also sort out her feelings for
Hawksworth as well as the extremely odd Dr. Keckilpenny, who believes that
zombies can be “cured” through behavioral modification. (The reader, of course,
knows from the outset that both of these men must be wanting in at least some
respect; how else will Elizabeth have a free heart for Mr. Darcy?) Meanwhile, Jane
finds herself in the unwelcome role of bodyguard to the lecherous, lazy, and
cowardly Lord Lumpley, the owner of Netherfeld (the future residence of Mr.
Bingley). Lumpley has decidedly unsavory plans for Jane, and is concealing an
unpleasant secret of his own.
The original P & P & Z was an amusing satire, and
for the most part, the violence was played for laughs. In contrast, Hockensmith
chooses to explore in greater depth and with a certain amount of seriousness an
issue I brought up in my review of the original book: how does one maintain an
appropriate balance between the strictures of social propriety and the development
of killer instincts, required if the zombie invasion is to be defeated? Although
there are substantial touches of farce, the book is surprisingly poignant in
many places, and truly seems to mourn Elizabeth’s and Jane’s loss of innocence as
these two girls leave their sheltered life and face danger and heartbreak for
the first time, becoming strong women in the process. He even manages to make
Lydia somewhat more sympathetic by the end, which I didn’t think was possible.
Hockensmith has clearly read both the source material and P
& P & Z carefully, and it shows; actually, his attempt to provide a
background for a throwaway joke in P & P & Z (the Bennet daughters’
pastime of catching a deer and kissing it) drags on for far too long. He does introduce a glaring (but intriguing) inconsistency: he makes it
possible to prevent someone from becoming a zombie by chopping off the bitten
extremity, which leads to some freshly absurd scenarios. However, if that were true in P
& P & Z , than why doesn’t Charlotte Lucas consider amputation when a zombie
bites her on the leg, rather than succumbing to the twin scourges of becoming
undead and wife to the tedious Mr. Collins?
He also suggests that zombies are only a problem in England.
That being so, why is it that the best methods of combating them are sourced in
Japan and China? And given the zombie plague is so pervasive that it outweighs
any danger posed by Napoleon, how is it that the Bennet daughters can be spared
to travel to China for training, as they clearly do between the two books?
But such quibbles are only for the most avid of nitpickers,
who might also question the need for this volume at all, given that it has
strayed substantially away from the initial conceit of mashing up a classic
text with new scenes. Why not put aside such foolish qualms, sit back, and
enjoy the gory ride?
P.S. Visit the Quirk Classics message board, mention that
you read a review of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls at
ComicMix and link back here; you’ll be entered to win one of 50 Quirk Classics
Prize Packs, which include an advance copy of the book, a poster, audiobooks of
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, and
Amy Goldschlager is an editor and reviewer.
would like to submit books for review should contact ComicMix through the usual
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