Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
First Edition Cover, 2009
|Genre||Comic novel, Historical Fiction, Horror, Thriller, Comedy|
|Published||April 1, 2009 Quirk Books, Philadelphia|
|Media type||Print (Paperback)|
|Followed by||Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters|
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a 2009 parody novel by Seth Grahame-Smith. It is a mashup combining Jane Austen's classic 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice with elements of modern zombie fiction, crediting Austen as co-author. It was first published in April 2009 by Quirk Books and in October 2009 a Deluxe Edition was released, containing full-color images and additional zombie scenes. The novel was adapted into a 2016 film.
1. Quirk Books editor Jason Rekulak developed the idea for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies after comparing a list of “popular fanboy characters like ninjas, pirates, zombies, and monkeys” with a list of public domain book titles such as War and Peace, Crime and Punishment, and Wuthering Heights. He turned the project over to writer Seth Grahame-Smith.
[Rekulak] called me one day, out of the blue, very excitedly, and he said, all I have is this title, and I can't stop thinking about this title. And he said: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. For whatever reason, it just struck me as the most brilliant thing I'd ever heard.
Grahame-Smith began with the original text of Austen's novel, adding zombie and ninja elements while developing an overall plot line for the new material; "you kill somebody off in Chapter 7, it has repercussions in Chapter 56". According to the author, the original text of the novel was well-suited for use as a zombie horror story:
You have this fiercely independent heroine, you have this dashing heroic gentleman, you have a militia camped out for seemingly no reason whatsoever nearby, and people are always walking here and there and taking carriage rides here and there . . . It was just ripe for gore and senseless violence. From my perspective anyway.
In early 2009, awareness of the forthcoming novel rose due to attention from Internet bloggers, newspaper articles, National Public Radio, and even on TWiT's MacBreak Weekly Podcast. In response, the publisher increased the initial print run from 12,000 to 60,000 copies, and moved the publication date to April 1.
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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies describe the "stricken", "sorry stricken", "undead", "unmentionables", or just "zombies", the deceased ancestors of England are generally viewed by the characters as a troublesome, albeit deadly, nuisance. Their presence alters the original plot of the story in both subtle and significant ways: Messages between houses are sometimes lost when the couriers are captured and eaten; characters openly discuss and judge the zombie-fighting abilities of others; women weigh the pros and cons of carrying a musket (it provides safety but is considered "unladylike").
Elizabeth Bennet and her four sisters live on a countryside estate with their parents. Mr. Bennet guides his daughters in martial arts and weapons training, molding them into a fearsome zombie-fighting army; meanwhile, Mrs. Bennet endeavours to marry the girls off to wealthy suitors. When the wealthy and single Charles Bingley purchases a nearby house, Mrs. Bennet spies an opportunity and sends the girls to the first ball where Bingley is expected to appear. The girls defend the party from a zombie attack, and attraction sparks between Mr. Bingley and the eldest daughter Jane Bennet. Elizabeth clashes with Bingley's friend, the haughty monster-hunter Fitzwilliam Darcy.
The Bennets are shaken when Bingley and his companions suddenly abandon his country home and return to the walled fortress city of London with little explanation. When the local militia arrives in town to exhume and destroy dead bodies, Elizabeth becomes friendly with one of the soldiers, George Wickham, who tells Elizabeth that Darcy cheated Wickham out of an inheritance.
Elizabeth's dislike of Darcy intensifies when she learns that Darcy plotted to separate Bingley from her sister Jane. Elizabeth vows to avenge the slight to her family by killing Darcy, and she is afforded that opportunity when he appears unannounced at the cottage where she is visiting her newlywed friend Charlotte (who has been secretly bitten by a zombie and is slowly turning into one herself). Before Elizabeth can fetch her katana and behead him, Darcy surprises her by proposing marriage. The scene culminates in a vicious verbal and physical fight, in which Darcy is wounded. He escapes with his life and writes a long letter to Elizabeth explaining his actions. He separated Jane and Bingley out of fear that Jane had contracted the "mysterious plague" and with regard to the allegedly wronged soldier Wickham, Darcy explains that Wickham had attempted to elope with Darcy's younger sister to take her considerable fortune – this was the "inheritance" that Wickham had claimed. Elizabeth realizes that she has judged Darcy too harshly and is humbled. Darcy realizes that his arrogant nature encourages people to believe the rumors about him and resolves to act more appropriately.
Elizabeth embarks on a trip around the country with her aunt and uncle, fighting zombies along the way. At Pemberley she encounters Darcy, who repels a horde of zombies. Darcy's changed attitude and mannerisms impress Elizabeth and lead her to consider reconciling their relationship; her hopes are dashed when her younger sister Lydia elopes to London with Wickham. The Bennet family fears the worst but receive word that Wickham and Lydia have married, following an "accident" that has rendered Wickham an incontinent quadriplegic. After visiting the Bennets, the couple adjourns to Ireland. Elizabeth discovers that it was Darcy who engineered the union, thus saving the Bennet family from ruin. Meanwhile, Mr. Collins who previously married (the secretly-plague-stricken) Charlotte Lucas, realizes she has turned into a zombie, and hangs himself after beheading and burning Charlotte.
Darcy and Bingley return to the countryside, and Bingley resumes courting Jane. Elizabeth hopes to renew her relationship with Darcy, but his aunt, the Lady Catherine, interferes, insisting that her daughter Anne is a better match for her nephew. Lady Catherine challenges Elizabeth to a fight to the death, intent on eliminating the competition, but Elizabeth defeats Catherine and later her cadre of ninjas. Elizabeth spares Catherine's life. Darcy is touched by this gesture and returns to Elizabeth. They cheerfully wipe out a dozen zombies (their first battle as a couple), are married, and begin a long and happy future together, insofar as the ever-present threat of zombie apocalypse permits it. In other words, the writer Jane Austen shows the power of love and happiness to overcome class boundaries and prejudices in the marriage.
Entertainment Weekly reviewed Pride and Prejudice and Zombies favorably, giving it a grade of A−. Library Journal recommended the novel "...for all popular fiction collections". The AV Club gave the novel a grade of A, commenting that "(w)hat begins as a gimmick ends with renewed appreciation of the indomitable appeal of Austen’s language, characters, and situations..." The New Yorker's Macy Halford, however, called the book's estimated blend of eighty-five percent Austen's words and fifteen percent Grahame-Smith's "one hundred per cent terrible"; while she admitted that the mashup may have accurately identified a subtextual theme of "mystery and menace" in the original novel, she still found Grahame-Smith's writing to be awful, singling out a passage in which Elizabeth Bennett prepares to kill Mr. Darcy over an overheard slight.
As of April 9, 2009, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was number three on the New York Times bestseller list. On the same morning, the book moved on amazon.co.uk's bestseller list from the 300s to 27th place. Before the book was published in the United Kingdom, the book required a second printing.
The success of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has led to several other mash-ups pairing classical works or historical figures with modern horror themes such as Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
In October 2011, an interactive ebook version produced by PadWorx Digital Media Inc. was released.
In June 2010, a video game based on Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was released for iPod Touch and iPhone. Digital development specialist Freeverse is behind it, and describes the title as "a rollicking action title with the perfect blend of zombie slaying action and touching romance narrative".
A film adaptation has been in talks since February 2009, when the British press (The Sunday Times) reported that Hollywood was bidding to turn Pride and Prejudice and Zombies into a blockbuster film. At a book-signing held at California State University Fullerton on April 23, 2009, Grahame-Smith said the novel had officially been purchased by an undisclosed major film company to be produced as a feature film.
The film was originally planned to be financed and distributed through Lionsgate, with Natalie Portman in the lead role, but she later reconsidered and decided instead to serve as a producer and David O. Russell would direct. O. Russell left production due to scheduling conflicts. Mike White was hired to direct the adaptation, but he left the project in January 2011 due to scheduling conflicts. Craig Gillespie finalized a contract to direct the film on April 18, 2011, but left the project in October.
On May 2, 2013, Lily James confirmed that the film was still in the works and announced that she would star in the film as a leading role. The project is also set to feature extensive involvement from Burr Steers. On August 4, 2014, it was announced that filming would begin in September, with Lily James as Elizabeth, Sam Riley as Mr. Darcy, and Bella Heathcote as one of Elizabeth's sisters. Jack Huston joined the cast as Mr. Wickham. Douglas Booth joined the cast as Mr. Bingley. Matt Smith joined the cast as Mr. Collins, with shooting scheduled to begin on September 24. On September 23, 2014, it was announced that Game of Thrones' Charles Dance and Lena Headey had joined the cast, and that Screen Gems purchased the rights to release it in the United States.
On October 30, 2009, Quirk Books announced that the third book in its Quirk Classics series would be a prequel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls. The prequel was published on March 30, 2010, and explored how Elizabeth Bennet became such a seasoned zombie hunter and dealt with her early martial arts training and her unfortunate early romantic experiences before the events of the first novel. Seth Grahame-Smith did not write the prequel, as he was engaged in writing Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. Instead, Steve Hockensmith authored the work.
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