Tuesday, March 22, 2011
In Which Trai Reviews 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After'
The Book: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After
The Author: Steve Hockensmith
How I Found It: Those of you who have been following this blog for a while know that I heartily support Quirk Books, and they've been awesome at letting bloggers in on their books. I participated in the blogsplosions for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls and Android Karenina, and here I am again! :) Thanks, as always, to Quirk for providing the advance copy.
The Review: As we all know, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was the unexpected hit of 2009. It was exactly what it said on the tin: Pride and Prejudice with the addition of zombies, ninjas, and gore. And as most of you who follow this blog know, hi, I'm Trai and I'm a helpless Janeite. As someone who has a twisted sense of humor and an appreciation for the macabre, I follow the mashup trend, and was more than happy to review this one for Quirk, especially after reading and enjoying the first two books. This is the conclusion to the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies trilogy, and for a man tasked with giving the story a beginning (Dawn of the Dreadfuls) and an end (this book), he's certainly done an admirable job.
When the book opens, Elizabeth and Darcy have been married for four years, although not quite as happily as we might have expected from PPZ's couple-who-slays-together-stays-together ending. Elizabeth, as a gentleman's wife, has been forced to retire her katana and stay idle, something that dampens her happiness at life with her husband. Having seen Jane through the birth of her newest child, Elizabeth is also beginning to realize that perhaps she doesn't want children. As she and Darcy are trying to talk through this matter, the unexpected occurs: Darcy is bitten by a zombie.
As Lady Catherine was the one who helped Charlotte Collins when she was bitten in the original novel, Elizabeth and Darcy are forced to turn to her for help. Darcy is taken to Rosings and Elizabeth is tasked with obtaining a cure--but not in a way she ever wanted. It is rumored that a Scottish physician working at the notorious Bethlem ("Bedlam") Hospital has made a successful cure, but to get it, Elizabeth must pose as a widow and seduce him. Failing that, her sister Kitty must go after the doctor's son. Throw in Mr. Bennet, Mary, a ninja named Nezu, and the mysterious man-in-a-box Mr. Quayle, and, well, we've got one hell of a time on our hands!
One thing I will say right off is that I think I enjoy Hockensmith's work a bit more than Grahame-Smith's original because there is no Austen to work off of. Hockensmith can use his own interpretations of the characters, which makes this no different than other types of Austen paraliterature (variations, sequels, retellings, etc.) other than the fact that it has zombies. Hockensmith is very funny and has a way with writing zombie literature, and it's just good fun if you're looking for action and gory zombie battles.
I found it easier to forgive, this time around, quibbles I'd had with Dawn of the Dreadfuls. The expressions used are sometimes modern and somewhat Americanized, but it's for the sake of humor, and I'm not sure anyone reading this is going to be really uptight about what's proper. There are a few editing mistakes (Jane is referred to a few times as "Mrs. Bingham"?) but that kind of thing happens.
People who come into this looking for Lizzy/Darcy interaction will, admittedly, be disappointed. They really do spend the majority of the book apart; they are only together at the very beginning and very end. What I liked most about this book, though, was that it focused on Kitty and Mary. One of the things I pointed out in my review of Dawn of the Dreadfuls was how much I liked the glimpses into Mary's thoughts, and I was very pleased to see that expanded upon greatly here. Other paraliterature authors focus on Elizabeth, Jane, and Lydia, as they're the three sisters that are most important in the original PPZ, so it was great to see Kitty and Mary get some screentime.
Actually, I think this one is worth it alone for the attention it gives Kitty and Mary. Kitty's characterization in particular felt very real and almost touching. With Lydia married off and no longer around to give Kitty purpose, Kitty feels very lost and is coming to the realization that others view her as frivolous. As the book goes on, she seeks to assert herself and prove that she's really worth something, and I found myself cheering her on. Mary, meanwhile, is obsessed with Mary Wollstonecraft's feminist texts and is seeking independence of her own. Both subplots felt very plausible and true to the characters they concerned, and I was really happy to find that, considering I went in expecting a novel about Lizzy. We do get a lot of Lizzy, too, but mainly it's her concern for Darcy and the situation she must put herself and her family in.
One thing I felt was a bit too distracting was the number of romance subplots. We have Kitty's attempts to seduce Bunny, the doctor's son, even as she begins to notice Nezu, the ninja who has been sent to accompany her, Lizzy, and Mr. Bennet. We have Mary and the mysterious Mr. Quayle, and then we have Darcy and Anne de Bourgh's attempts to snare him, even though he is married. The number of romances made the book a bit topheavy, and I could have done without the Darcy/Anne subplot, if I had to choose something to cut, although it did give Darcy something else to do. My judgment, though, is probably clouded by all the paralit I've read recently where Anne shows not a whit of interest in Darcy, who returns the favor by not loving her romantically, either. Lizzy's concerns about seducing Dr. Macfarquhar were addressed and suitably examined; she resigns herself to doing whatever she has to in order to save Darcy. Even if Lizzy and Darcy barely interact, their love for each other is still palpable here.
Besides all the romance and characterizations, we come to the other point: is the zombie stuff well-written? Are the fight scenes worth reading? Admittedly, I'm not the right one to ask--I'm never a huge fan of action scenes--but there is more than enough gore here to satisfy the interested reader. Zombie mayhem is abundant and it's always funny to read about the proper Bennet girls beheading and slicing their way through hordes of undead.
Overall, this book was really entertaining and fun, and one element had me wishing it had a book all to its own (the adventures of Quayle's dogs, Ell and Arr, please? I'd pay good money, seriously). Those who are looking for a fitting conclusion to the wonderfully fun Pride and Prejudice and Zombies series won't be disappointed, and I know I wasn't. Recommended to fans of the series (those who haven't read the previous two books are advised to start with those).