Thursday, August 13, 2009

Book Thirteen: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

Note: My reviews of recent works are appearing at first. My review for this book was featured on the front of the books section!! Please visit there and feel free to comment as well (they'll think I'm important).

If ever there was a good reason for eternal copyright laws this book may be it. Seth Grahame-Smith, free from such legal restrictions, takes much of Austen's masterwork, reproduces it, throws in some clumsily inserted sections with zombies, and gets a best seller. Seriously folks, we can do better!

While I am an unabashed fan of Austen, I'm also an unabashed fan of humor so the combination of zombies and Elizabeth Bennet sounds like a recipe for (some strange) success. But what this reminds us of is a Saturday Night Live skit someone decided to make into a movie -- a short dose is fine, but the extended version is predictable, repetitive, and boring. Indeed, the best humor is still Austen's work, and Grahame-Smith would have done better by replacing more of her work with his so he would suffer less by comparison.

His major fault is not being daring enough. He takes too few liberties with the plot or characters themselves, instead resigning himself to interrupt a walk in the countryside with the killing of a few zombies, and then back to Austen again. While he makes the Bennet sisters martial arts experts, he does too little with this twist. The strongest part of his work is his rewriting of the Charlotte/Mr. Collins episode, and while I'll avoid giving away the plot, suffice it to say that it differs greatly from Austen. This section could serve as a model for what he could do with other characters, but for some reason he hesitate. Grahame-Smith needs not be afraid of changing the plot since he has already decided to enter zombies in the picture.

But without a doubt the most frustrating aspect of the book is that too often he takes Austen's work verbatim, and then throws in one line about zombies. It rarely flows and only makes the reader wish he would jump into his plot or leave us to Austen. At other times his attempts at humor fall a bit short, such as his comment that Miss Darcy draws nude pictures of the male form. Again, do something with that angle or leave the single line out.

In short, this book does not go far enough in building off of Austen's plot to create a whole new book. Good advice for any writer -- be not afraid!

Reading Challenges

I thought this would be a tough week to get reading in, but an enjoyable book. Reverse that. Had the book finished by Thursday because I was in a hurry to get through the pain. I knocked off about half this book in one evening and can recommend it as an easy read (since I cannot recommend it as a good read).

Next Up

Going the non-fiction route with Robert Glennon's "Unquenchable: America's Water Crisis and What to Do About It." I'm on a committee creating a symposium on water this fall -- Glennon is someone we want to get in sometime during the semester even though he cannot come during our actual symposium.

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