Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: adding much-needed zombies to the Austen classic

I don't often give books mixed reviews here on Boing Boing. If I don't like a book enough to wholeheartedly recommend it, I generally pass on it -- after all, there's no shortage of books that I love, so why make note of the flawed ones?

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is the exception to the rule, because there's so much to like about this book, even if it didn't actually do it for me.

Here's the pitch: Seth Grahame-Smith has taken Jane Austen's classic, beloved novel Pride and Prejudice and, by means of cunning textual insertions and deletions, changed the story so that it takes place in the midst of a Regency England that has been plunged into chaos by a plague of the living dead. It takes surprisingly little work to do this, and the book ends up feeling substantially like the classic mannered novel that so many adore. Except with zombie mayhem. The execution is flawless, often hilarious, and just plain clever.

So, what's the problem? Well, the problem is Jane Austen.

Can't stand her.

Never successfully read Pride and Prejudice. Bored to tears by it. I'm not proud of the fact. Plenty of smart people have the utmost respect for the book, and I'm perfectly willing to stipulate that the problem is with me, not with Austen.

But P&P&Z has just too much Austen and not enough zombies. I found myself skimming, skipping larger and larger chunks of text to get to the zombie sequences, desperate to escape the claustrophobic drawing-room chatter of Austen's characters with a little beheading, disemboweling and derring-do.

I couldn't finish it. But I expect if you were the kind of person who loves both Austen and zombies, this book would just plain knock your socks off. And Quirk Books, the publisher of P&P&Z, was kind enough to give us an exclusive link to the first three chapters online for free, so you can make up your own mind. I understand they're planning on doing more books on these lines, and I'm really looking forward to them. It's a great way to celebrate the public domain, to bring classics to a new audience, and to undermine the gravitas with which we often approach "difficult literature." Which Quirk book would you like to see?

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance - Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!

First three chapters of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies


  1. I really liked Pride and Prejudice (which totally surprised me), and like any red-blooded American I love zombies. And yet I’m still deeply skeptical. I don’t imagine the former would be much improved by the latter, especially if the one doing the adding is much less talented than Austen (which is to say, basically, anyone). This is a premise that seems more suited to an SNL sketch or a high school English student’s notebook than a novel I would actually want to read. But is it funny that it exists? Yes.

  2. i will probably buy this just to leave on my shelf and confuse people. i remember my parents bookshelves as boring lifeless collections. I’m making sure my daughter has a better time when she’s old enough to read. this will make a fine addition and i look forward to the day she take it to english class

  3. Mark Twain on Jane Austen:

    “Jane Austen? Why I go so far as to say that any library is a good library that does not contain a volume by Jane Austen. Even if it contains no other book.”

    I believe Twain and I could make an exception for this one. Maybe. Biiiiiiiiig maybe.

  4. Not at all a fan of Jane Austen myself, and if the changes don’t involve zombies killing and eating all the boring characters and breaking up the subtle Victorian wit, I’m not going to read it. I can still see where Cory’s coming from of course. I’m sure there’s an audience out there that loves this.

  5. Any Jane Austen is just like the movie “Scream”, without all the really scary crap.

  6. “I believe Twain and I could make an exception…”

    I have some sad news for you. Mr. Clemens passed away. Like, almost a hundred years ago. Surprised you didn’t hear about it, since apparently you were close enough to speak for him.

  7. I believe the problem is your defective chromosome, you know, the one shaped like a ‘Y’. Don’t worry, it’s an affliction many of us have.

  8. Jane Austen was always a drag for me too. She was the bane of my grad school existence. I’d take novels by George Eliot or Thomas Hardy over hers any day.

  9. “Clemens is not dead… he is UNDEAD!”

    But he only rises from the grave when Halley’s Comet is visible.

  10. I really liked Pride and Prejudice

    Um, movie or book?

    /Stopped halfway through Du Coté de Chez Swann probably for the same reasons that I suspect Cory can’t get through Austin.

    I suspect that if you consider Stieglitz’s Equivalents series groundbreaking, deep, meaningful work instead of just adolescent, what’s the word…masturbation(?), um no, experiments (yeah, much more acceptable)…, then Proust comes across as a genius.
    And so does Austin, no matter how rooted in an era and a culture and a mindset you have to be in order to find her work meaningful and illuminating.

    Or to misquote Babbitt: “You know, culture and such.”

  11. “Which Quirk book would you like to see?”

    Any classic book could be improved with a few zombies around. Charles Dickens seems a natural for that (Zombie versions of A Tale of Two Cities or Oliver Twist practically write themselves). Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights would be great too (Catherine coming back as a zombie! Mr Rochester keeping his zombie wife locked in the attic!).

  12. “Um, movie or book?”

    Ha. Haven’t watched any of various movie versions, as I expect it wouldn’t translate well to the medium. I’m just picturing a tedious period romance (which is all that most people manage to get from the book anyway), that probably could benefit from the addition of a zombie horde or two.

  13. If only there were more works like this, I wouldn’t have had to pretend to read books in grad school. All the classics could use a dose of brain-hungry zombies.

  14. Perhaps a few more modern books could also be improved by zombies. I recall wishing for such a plot twist during the shipwreck scene of ‘The Heart of the Matter’ (which actually turned out to be a good read).

    I believe that zombies can improve the quality of any story, with the exception of cliché horror films, which are of course are devoid of any story at all (as entertaining as they may be). Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is now on my reading list.

    I think there’s a market for an entire range of “.. and Zombies” books.

  15. some of the stuff on this site is so strange, you can never be sure whether its an April Fools Joke or not……

  16. Not just zombies. You clearly need vampires for Dickens, and werewolves for Hardy:

    “When Farmer Oak smiled, the corners of his mouth
    spread till they were within an unimportant distance of his ears, his eyes were reduced to chinks, and diverging wrinkles appeared round them, extending upon his countenance like the rays in a rudimentary sketch of the rising sun.”

    Werewolf. Get the silver bullets.

  17. It is insanely difficult to not come to the self-righteous, girly book nerd defense of Pride and Prejudice, but I have to admit “…And Zombies” sounds like an excellent read.

    Next on the list: The Canterbury Tales… and Zombies. The Zombies’ Tale in Middle English? That would be worthy of a Pulitzer.

  18. Lobster: Jane Austen was not a Victorian, having died exactly twenty years too soon. All of her novels were written during the Regency Era.

  19. You know what would be great? A sort of mashup of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, except with a werewolf or something. And maybe, just to make things really crazy, throw in Abbot and Costello.

  20. I just finished my copy of P&P&Z and, although I’m not an Austen fan and only read her novels under duress in high school, I found myself greatly entertained and giggling along with the story. It is a VAST improvement on the original. I can see how the book drags for those who hate Austen, but for me, the subtle digs and zombie violence made it worthwhile.

    Other classic books that I’d like to see zombies injected into? Tale of Two Cities…Overrun By Zombies! “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, and oh, did I mention there were zombies!?”

  21. My coworkers and I, P&P fans all, were just doubled over with laughter reading from these chapters. I think I’m going to be buying multiple copies as gifts. Especially for my 10th grade daughter’s wonderful but rather intellectually stuffy english teacher. I’ve got to see what’s been done with the hideous Mr. Collins in this version.

    Moriarty @16, the BBC miniseries version of P&P is the one to watch.

  22. I take exception to the idea that Dickens’ books would be improved by zombies- he already has escaped convicts, French revolutionaries, English rabble-rousers, ghosts and spontaneous human combustion. What more do you need?

    The Zombie’s Tale:




  23. Cory, reading Austen asks a lot of a modern reader. Her books, like Woody Allen movies, are only incidentally about human characters, and are more illustrations of complicated moral situations. That’s probably to most people a failing of both Woody Allen and Jane Austen.

    But the pleasures of Austen are there for the taking, if you’re willing to meet her half way. The most fascinating thing for me in reading Austen is how little of what people say in those books is direct statements of fact or opinion. Given the societal strictures of the time, her characters (and I assume to some extent her real-life contemporaries) were expert users of implication and allusion.

    And her descriptions of some characters are priceless, in that she describes them as they see themselves, while making clear the characters’ self-delusions. Everyone in an Austen novel is their own unreliable narrator.

    Another thing to appreciate about Austen’s writing is that a modern reader can see the unconscious assumptions Austen herself brings to her depiction of the society she lives in. She has enough detachment from it to critique its more outrageous hypocrisies, but she can only go so far. In the limitations of her ability to critique her world, she inadvertently exposes more about it than she could ever do on purpose.

  24. I’m so glad you said something about Jane Austen. I’ve been an avid reader for my entire life, and I can’t recall having so much problem reading *any* book as I had reading “Emma”. I took a class in college on 19th century literature. It took me 8 weeks and some real dedication to read Emma. For comparison, I finished Dickens’ Hard Times in 3 days for the same class.

    I just don’t understand how anyone can consider her great literature. I won’t discount the possibility, but I would have to hear a very convincing argument to agree.

  25. Why stick with the prim Brit Lit stuff. How ’bout fixing up some great American literature like “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” with zombies, werewolves, plenty of undead…wait, sorry, Hunter already did that.

    A rising tide t’ ye,

    Capt’n Squiff

  26. I know this isn’t an April Fools joke, but damn, what a great April Fools joke it could be!

  27. @nanuq
    “Jane Eyre” with zombies? Already done. That would be RKO’s 1943 film “I Walked with a Zombie.”

    Granted, it used the pre-Romero notion of the zombie, but still.

  28. @Zipr
    Agree totally with Hardy being a little more accessible for todays reader. I liked Jude the Obscure. The character of Little Time was, I thought, more relevant than most Victorian stuff today. It had some good cynicism. (Austen=boring)-(boring)+(scary)talent=Shelley

  29. I’m really glad you wrote this review because I think the book might be funny, but I’d probably have the same reaction as you.

    All girls have Jane freaking Austen shoved down their throat and it has to be the most distant, bizarre collection of stuffy anasthetically boring why-do-these-words-keep-happening crap I’ve ever read. As far as I’m concerned that stuff is from some remote foreign culture. Why should I care who some dull ingenue marries?

    I’d like to think that a plague of zombies could help, but really I have my doubts.

    Austen is still better than the Brontes though.

  30. The first time I read Pride and Prejudice, I was surprised by the fact that I totally loved it.

    However, it’s the only Austen book I’ve enjoyed so far. I started Mansfield Park and found it utterly dull, stopping after a few chapters. I don’t even remember the titles of others I tried.

  31. Charles Dickens seems a natural for that (Zombie versions of A Tale of Two Cities or Oliver Twist practically write themselves).

    To say nothing of Great Expectations of Zombies, or The Undeath and Adventures of Nicholas Nickelby or my personal favorite, Hard Times (because of all the zombies)

  32. Right there with you, LauraJMixon. however, the addition of vampires and werewolves to the classics would be most welcome to me. it would make wading through the “canon” (aka Old White Males Expound Upon What They Think Is Important) much easier for me to tolerate.

  33. So, any ideas on what’s the “legal” status on this? I mean, I recall reading somewhere that this book was like 75% the original book, which is in public domain. In that light, does copyright {even|should|would} apply to this book? Can you claim as an original work something that amounts to a literary MST3K? Not trying to raise a copyfight shitstorm or bash the book, I’m just honestly curious about it.

  34. @ Nelson.C

    Some of them, yes. Other not so much. Especially those that are disproportionately represented.

  35. Also: I can see a historical value to it. But there’s a big difference between liking something and seeing historical value to it. I can see historical value in the chronicles of Bede but it doesn’t make it a fun read.

  36. I do not care for the idea that disliking a particular novel that others hold in high esteem implies that there is some flaw within you. I’d prefer to think that it merely reflects a difference in taste between you and the people who like that novel.

  37. ”…if you were the kind of person who loves both Austen and zombies….”

    I doubt such a person exists. I do not love Jane Austen, although I meet one of Mark Twain’s criteria — “[She is] of interest only to a woman obsessed with marriage or a man too old to care” [a paraphrase] — but I do admire masters of language; and Austen, although radically different in style, occupies as lofty a position in the pantheon of English prose as Twain.

    Zombies, however, are one of my particular hates. They were just fine as Val Lewton’s spectral wretches wandering among tombstones in Caribbean graveyards, poor, but back in 1968 that mook from Pittsburgh conflated them with ghouls and loosed a new monstrosity on the world. “Braaiins!” indeed; only the brainless watch such shit.

    Dracula, the Wolf Man, and Frankenstein’s monster are human, however perversely, and the stuff of continuing fictional conjecture and moral debate. Zombies, like living mummies, are both absurd and ridiculous. I wouldn’t give you a dollar for a cemetery full of them.

  38. hmmm.. I wonder if some Victorian prudery with the usual concealed perversion and hypersexuality of the period would play well here? Something about “undying erections” mayhap? A splatterfest zombie gangbang with brains and tea?

  39. #21: I see your “The Canterbury Tales And Zombies” and raise you “The Decameron And Zombies”.

    After fleeing from zombie-plagued Florence, ten people hole up in a countryside farmhouse, set up fortifications and wait for the horror to pass. To kill time, they tell each other ribald and witty tales of love and morality…relics of a social order which, for all they know, no longer exists beyond the limits of their tiny stronghold.

    Running short on supplies, and with no weapons beyond crude farming implements, time is running out. Will any of them be able to tell their one true story, the story of their life, before the shambling mass of undead which lurks just beyond their doorstep, rends their happy tale-telling asunder?

  40. I’ve not-finished /lots/ of classic books; LotR, Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, most of Neal Stephenson after Snowcrash, the list goes on. I’d blame my ADD-addled short attention span, but the real culprit is Roger Zelazny. I /did/ read his Great Book of Amber, but in tiny bite-sized booklets that belied how much he actually wrote about Amber and the Courts of Chaos.

    Caveat: I would have added Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, but I suspect nobody has actually read the entire thing, and the fans are all in on the joke. I suspect Brandon Sanderson is even now being paid as one more red herring on a pile of the things. Genius!

  41. I find Jane Austen’s works to be screamingly funny and, even on the dozenth reading, leave me on the edge of my seat. De gustibus.

  42. “the problem is with me, not with Austen.”

    I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a problem. Everybody has some good authors who they just can’t manage to like, inspite of the fact that everybody else seems to.

    Tolkein, Stephen King and Robert Jordon are all very high my list…

  43. 0xdeadbeef, I have two fully functional X chromosomes, and Austen always bored the crap out of me as well. I never understood why so many women go so silly over P&P.

    With added zombies, however, it might be different…

  44. I would like to read “War and Peace of the Worlds”, allso known as “Russians vs Aliens”.

  45. There’s only one literary mashup anyone needs to know, and it’s a single line. “It was half way to Rivendell when the drugs began to take hold.” — Hunter S. Tolkien, “Fear and Loathing in Barad Dur”

  46. Huh. My wife, a romance novel geek with two fully functioning X-chromosomes, detests Austen. I, on the other hand, adore Austen. AND zombies. So naturally I’ll be buying this book!


    Could you really make the Canterbury Tales much stranger with the addition of zombies? It’s a pretty bizarre work as it is.

  47. “It was half way to Rivendell when the drugs began to take hold.” — Hunter S. Tolkien, “Fear and Loathing in Barad Dur”

    “We can’t stop here – this is balrog country!”

  48. I think Zombies would fit right in with Hemingway. “For Whom The Bell Tolls,” for example. I’m also going to have to find this book, and buy it.

  49. You might want to try Northanger Abbey, Cory. It’s a fun piece of satire that I blew through at surprising speed. It’s undoubtedly free on the web in many places, and of course you local public library will have it.

  50. Well, I was thinking that Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” was ripe for this, then I realized it’d already been done. (It was called “Apolcalypse Now” and had Marlon Brando playing the role of head zombie; uhhh, that was just a role, right?)

    Similarly, I thought the treatment might suit Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables”, then realized that Andrew Lloyd Webber had beaten me to it.

    Although perhaps there is potential for a later series to go further in that direction: “Great Musicals of the Stage, with Zombies”.

  51. @ Anonymous #68: Seconded! Northanger Abbey is a lot of fun, and shorter than P&P.

    In addition, Karen Joy Fowler’s The Jane Austen Book Club is a lovely and quirky introduction to Austen’s world – and for those who already enjoy her books, pure literary delight.

  52. I was going to mention Pride and Predator, but someone beat me to it. However I think that that movie will be much better than this book.

  53. Hasn’t anyone here ever watched ‘Doctor Who’? They’ve been doing this kind of costume drama + aliens and / or monsters ‘mashup’ for almost 50 years now.

  54. It’s an nice joke, but I can’t see it sustaining itself to book-length. Like ‘Snakes on a Plane’ it’s a sort of gag which is funnier as a title and synopsis than as an actual complete novel or film. Talk about flogging a dead regency horse.

    I think it’s too easy to dismiss Austen these days and it’s partly the pro-Austen-mafia’s fault. Her reputation has been built up so much; it’s way too easy to shoot her down. There are so many (varying quality) adaptations floating about that familiarity has bred contempt and I think a lot of prospective readers are pre-disposed to hating her, which is a shame. There’s just too much baggage that she probably needs to be given a few years of media blackout and then be rediscovered again as something fresh – which after years of rip-offs, homages, and Holywood bastardisations of her rom-com formula – she still is.

    I like her stuff a lot – and I’m male and straight, so clearly that’s entirely wrong. I also love Wuthering Heights, which is one of the most barking mad novels I’ve ever read. That one already features ghosts, violence, animal abuse and borderline-necrophilia. Heathcliff is a psychopath and I suspect any zombies introduced would run away screaming.

  55. I e-mailed this link to my son’s high school English teacher. She thinks it is priceless and is reading it aloud to her dinner guests as I write. She has also forwarded it to her Head of Department and other teachers she knows.

    As for me, I plan to buy the book.

    And Cory you are wrong, those passages that look like pure Austen should not be skipped. You won’t go too far through them before finding little jewels there.

  56. Fear and Loathing in Barad Dur is definitely something I’d read.

    So, anybody feel like putting on a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream of Electric Sheep”?

  57. This was done a few years ago in a slightly different way; “Pride and Promiscuity”. Lulz.

  58. Nice idea, must have been fun to write. Cory, I can’t believe you’re not a fan of Jane Austen, P&P is one of the funniest books I know. The characterisation is so sharp, the dialogue so perfect, it’s timeless. I would have thought it would be right up your street. :(

    Jane Austen has been co-opted by the world of chick lit and costume drama and I suspect this is what puts many people off her work but this is their loss; they’re missing out on something special.

  59. @MORIARTY #8 — Oh my, thank you so very much for letting me in on the fact that Samuel Clemens is dead. All those years, growing up not far from his home in Hartford, I kept thinking those tourists were taking an audience with the man himself! How could I be so mistaken? They must have been viewing the museum that was once his home. I wish someone had told me this before (or even after) I had produced my graduate American Literature thesis on Twain.

    If I ever humorously ascribe opinions to a dead person ever again, I do so hope you will be there to chastize me with your pungent erudition.

  60. It got bogged down by the Austen bits of the novel? Is that what the reviewer is saying? Because, dude, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” is 85% original Jane Austen text from what I’ve read about it. If you want beheading and blood-shed, you just shouldn’t go to Jane Austen because her books have a certain dignity and elegance that doesn’t translate to such things in my opinion. And if you’re the reviewer talking about “claustrophobic drawing-room chatter”, you should try to keep in mind that a woman’s choice and options of what to do with her free time in that period were quite limited. And that time period wasn’t Victorian, despite what some uninformed people who are determined to misunderstand all things Austen might insist.

    If the author is this book wanted to write about zombies taking over the Regency era, he should have written an original novel on the subject rather than trying to piggy-back off of the fame of Jane Austen. And stealing 85% of her text in order to re-write this book. The only reason this book is getting such publicity and selling so much is because it has “Pride and Prejudice” in the title. It’s just a shame. I don’t even want to think about “Pride and Predator.” *shudder*

  61. Um, it’s not STEALING her work, seeing as the book is in the public domain; and this is a complete boon for everyone who tried reading Pride and Prejudice and wanted to commit suicide every moment of it.

  62. My favorite zombie movie is ‘Day Of The Dead’.
    I just loved the way Big Daddy led his people across the river into the Promised Land. Peter and I see it as a retelling of the Moses story.
    Then again, Andy and I loved ‘Back To The Beach’-seeing Bobby (the son) as a young America, struggling for acceptance in the community of first world nations. These movies are very deep, if you read depth into them.

  63. “…everyone who tried reading Pride and Prejudice and wanted to commit suicide every moment of it.”

    Then why did you read it? You never heard of CliffsNotes ? Jeez.

  64. When I was forty years old I spent most of a year living in a cabin on Vancouver Island, enjoying a sort of self-imposed exile. Once a week I got into town and picked up books at the local library. There wasn’t much of a selection of current things, so I re-read a couple of classics I had read in college. Man, was I surprised! They were nothing like I remembered. WTF?

    So I re-read a couple more; soon I was re-reading all the old biggies. It was a revelation. Those books were not for kids, and yet we had dutifully read them when we were kids. I had wasted hundreds of hours reading books I had neither the emotional nor intellectual maturity to understand. Twenty years later I began to understand…

    Now, another twenty years later, I am again reading them. And guess what?

  65. OMG, thank you, Cory, for bashing Jane Austen. Her books are so tedious and irrelevant!

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