Jane Austen's classic novel Pride and Prejudice is a classic of English literature and the template for much of the romantic comedies that followed, but even its most devoted followers and academics cannot deny that it lacks both brain-devouring undead and ninjas. These have been added, in ample supply, in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance -- Now With Ultraviolet Zombie Mayhem by Seth Grahame-Smith.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies follows the characters and plot of the original very closely, but with a few exceptions. In this version of Regency England, zombies have been returning to life and roaming the countryside so much that they've become commonplace. The Bennett sisters have become deadly martial artists after studying in China, with Elizabeth the most deadly, making her "Defender of Longbourne, Heroine of Hertfordshire." And while their father is focused on their lethal skills, their mother wants her daughters wed: "The business of Mr. Bennett's life was to keep his daughters alive. The business of Mrs. Bennett's was to get them married."

Enter Mr. Darcy, proud, stubborn, aloof -- and a formidable slayer. His friend Mr. Bingley is attracted to Jane Bennett, and he is nice even if not a formidable combatant. Lady Catharine de Bourge has a reputation as the deadliest warrior in England, and she openly considers her Japanese training superior to the Bennett's Chinese tutelage. All the other characters from Pride and Predudice appear as well, in one form or another (and sometimes suffering grizzly fates).

Given how closely Grahame-Smith's comic novel follows the original and often quotes directly from it (so much so that Jane Austen is listed as co-author), Pride and Prejudice and Zombies succumbs to being a one-joke novel: What if the events of Pride and Prejudice happened amidst martial arts duels and zombie attacks? There are plenty instances of dark humor -- from Jane Bennett given a decidedly bloodthirsty streak to a character whose gradual transformation to a zombie doesn't stop her from marrying and enjoying society -- and one or two off-color jokes towards the end certainly would have brought a blush to Austen's cheeks. By and large, though, it's as if references to undead, ninjitsu, and Japanese culture were inserted into the original.

That one extended joke can prove pretty amusing, though, and fans of the original work may indeed get a kick out of this novel of manners colliding with Night of the Living Dead. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is hardly deep and won't surprise anyone who has read the original, but it is an amusing, extremely violent take on a beloved classic.

Overall grade: B-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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