Thursday, December 24, 2009

Cannonball Read Book 5: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Okay, this one is a bit tricky for me.  I really wanted to love this one.  Aside from the fact that the author is a friend of a friend (Ooooooh...), the book was basically a combination of two of my favorite things.  It says so right in the title.  Jane Austen + Zombies = Awesome.  Right?

I think the first problem may have been that I psyched myself out.  I mean it had been praised to the moon and back by people who share my taste.  Given the concept, I was absolutely giddy with anticipation until I could get my hands on a copy.  In that time, it's very possible that I worked out a certain set of preconceived notions regarding what the book would offer.

As many people have said before me though, the concept doesn't have that much horsepower.  It's brilliant and funny, no doubt.  In order for it to work, however, it must be carried with consistency throughout the story.  As a result, the book's humor plays out like a long series of variations on the same musical theme.  It may be interesting on a certain detached level, but it's not particularly moving.  There were certain elements I enjoyed, such as the woman who marries for security over love becoming a zombie.  Sure, it's a bit obvious, but it stays true to one of the original author's central themes.  I'm sure even Ms. Austen would have been pleased.

Now that I think about it, my main problem with the book is probably my own damn fault.  I'm not a purist to the extent that I can't see one of my favorite authors tinkered with, but it is important to me that the book stay true to the themes that were key elements in the author's work.  Something I particularly love about Austen's books is the empathy you feel for characters trying to gracefully maneuver their way through a broken sociocultural system without sacrificing their integrity or individuality.  When Zombies and Shao Lin training are added to the mix, this theme gets tossed out the window. 

The Bennet sisters, Elizabeth in particular, are not just warriors, they're almost sadistically blood thirsty.  Seriously, it's enough to make Beatrix Kiddo look like Little Bo Peep by comparison.  Rest assured I do "get" the the joke, and the concept of black comedy as a whole.  There was nothing offensive in the book's violence as far as I was concerned, but I just didn't find it all that satisfying.  I relish seeing Austen's heroines rely on subtlety, resourcefulness and wit to resolve their conflicts.  Elizabeth ripping out a still-beating heart and taking a bite just seems, well...dull by comparison. 

Maybe it's because our culture is so chock full of violence and yet deficient in wit.  The thing is, while I can enjoy a well choreographed fight scene (I really did enjoy the Kill Bill movies), and swords and guns and 'splosions and such, their use in entertainment is undeniably commonplace.  Seeing young people deal with universally recognizable idiots, misogynists, and hypocrites with admirable intelligence and grace...not so much.  I've seen it happen, but not as many times as I've seen an impressive martial arts showdown. 

So when Austen's subtlety and innuendo was tossed aside in favor of gun blasts and beheadings, it just felt watered down to me.  I wasn't offended or appalled, just...disappointed.  I undersand the author has a Lincoln-related story in the works.  That may appeal to me more, because I think more liberties can be taken with an iconic President of the United States than a specific piece of literature.  Or maybe that's just me being a book whore.  My God.  Maybe I have turned into my freshman literature professor.

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