5.12.2011

Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies - Dreadfully Ever After, by Steve Hockensmith

Quirk Classics has performed a task that only a handful of women would generally commit to: create an Austen "what-if" novel (with a pretty polarizing "if"), and then write bookends: a prequel and then a sequel to that text. Now the first part of that task was relatively simple: Seth Grahame-Smith used the story and much of the original dialogue from Austen's Pride & Prejudice and put it all in a world riddled 
with zombies.

Like W. Bill Czolgosz's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim, the dreadful reanimation is caused by a cholera of unknown origin and, unlike in Czolgosz's novel, many of the living have gotten the necessary training (based in Asian culture) to defend themselves. That's all explained in Steve Hockensmith's prequel Dawn of the Dreadfuls, which I haven't yet read. But given the source material, a prequel would I think be relatively simple: throw together what you know about the canon characters, 
and what you know about the added "if" and give them a plot line to follow to those ends. Done.

A sequel on the other hand, is decidedly more difficult. Not only do you have to master the pre-written characters and be able to carry them forward in Austenesque fashion, and not only are you mixing the Austen plot with Seth Grahame Smith's plot and then adding the pieces from Dawn of the Dreadfuls, but you are also challenging the assumptions of every young woman (or, for argument's sake, young man) who has read the original, and who has invented the rest of the story. Tales do not always end just because the author has said "the end." No, these stories continue in the minds of the reader - a type of post-literary fantasy. It's where fanfiction comes from. It's where all of those Pride & Prejudice sequels following the lustful lives of the newly wedded Mr. & Mrs. Darcy come from.

It is in the spirit of curiosity that Steve Hockensmith has created the finale to the Pride & Prejudice and Zombies trilogy in Dreadfully Ever After. The story goes that after 4 years of marriage, Mr. Darcy is bitten by a Dreadful (don't worry, I promise Elizabeth notices... not like in that idiotic Mr. Darcy, where it took Lizzy 239 pages to figure it out...). All hope seems lost until Lady Catherine, still as hateful as ever of Elizabeth, concocts a shameful plan (let's just say it's something Jane could have easily written in her youth) for his salvation. Of course, given the zombie addition, there are endless parades of zombies 
and ninjas in the way of success, but those Bennet girls are wily - trust 'em to find success eventually.

The story is well executed and definitely makes for a quick read, especially if you can't bring yourself to read the gorier parts - it's not exactly for the faint of heart. But I have to say, for something written so specifically for the blood and gore, I actually enjoyed it. It stays true to all accountable versions of our beloved Austen characters, and even introduces some original flavor in Sir Angus and Bunny, and it's always nice to see an Austen villain get her comeuppance now and again.

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