Posts Tagged ‘Quirk Books’

pride-prej-zombiesInquiring readers, ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,’ the movie, has finally arrived. Almost seven years ago I had a blast reviewing Seth Grahame-Smith’s audacious novel, ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’, and suggested a few satirical book plots of my own. Click here to read JAW’s review of Seth’s tome, which retained 15% of Jane Austen’s words and embellished Jane’s plot a wee bit by adding hordes of ravenous zombies that had overrun Regency England. For those who are eager to see the cinematic version of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ melded with Shaun of the Dead, may we suggest that you read the parody book before viewing the movie?

Quirk Books has asked me to recall some of my favorite scenes from the book.  I invited my good friend, Hillary Major, to trip down memory lane with me. She had read Seth’s book front to back in 2007 and recently reacquainted herself with the plot by way of a fabulous graphic novel based on the book.

When I first read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I was struck by the wit – the humorous juxtaposition of Austen’s words with Graham-Smith’s pulpy additions, as when Miss Bingley asserts that an accomplished woman “must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, dancing and the modern languages” as well as being “well trained in the fighting styles of the Kyoto masters and the tactics and weaponry of modern Europe.” As I re-familiarized myself by reading the graphic novel version of the book, I found much of the wit retained through the dialogue and (infrequent) captions. The graphic novel, of course, fleshes out the combat scenes and does a particularly good job of capturing the sorry stricken – from the former residents of Mrs. Beecham’s Home for Orphans to lamp oil salesgirl Penny McGregor to an undead Madonna and a certain longsuffering bride. The graphic novel pulls out the fun and the horror in the action sequences but also raises my curiosity about how the movie will put these scenes into motion.

But really, how interesting are zombies as villains? What’s their motivation? Yes, yes, I know, it’s a truth universally acknowledged: brains and more brains. Still, there’s a certain sameness and routine to a zombie enemy. Zombies are really only dangerous in numbers – unless you happen to be an unfortunate messenger or a cook, which Lizzie Bennet most emphatically is not. My favorite parts of the book (and graphic novel) jump out not because of how they deal with the scourge of unmentionables but because of the way they showcase Lizzie as a total badass, armed not just with rapier wit but with actual dagger and katana.

Lizzie’s competence, strategy, and skill in the deadly arts are singular from the beginning; we first see her “carving the Bennet crest in the handle of a new sword.” When Lizzie and her sisters first jump into action at the Lucas’ ball – responding to Mr. Bennett’s shouted command, “Pentagram of Death!” – it’s a stirring moment. (Darcy takes notice.)

But Elizabeth Bennet is a warrior worthy of an enemy greater than brainless zombies – thus, we meet Lady Catherine, commander of ninjas. Lady Catherine de Bourgh has always put the cat in catfight, and this comes to literal life in her final confrontation with Lizzie. Who hasn’t applauded Lizzie’s refusal to promise never to become betrothed to Darcy and wished the statement were punctuated by a punch in the Lady’s face? Here, the verbal showdown is prequel to a martial arts battle, one that takes place in the Bennets’ own dojo. Lady Catherine gets in a few good blows early on, but Lizzie comes back with a dagger thrust, and soon Lady Catherine is flying through the air, breaking rafters. In the midst of all the “flying about” in a leaping, kicking, katana-wielding martial arts fantasy of a fight, Lizzie descends (from an unbroken rafter) at a key moment and batters away her adversary’s sword, leaving Lady Catherine at her mercy. Lizzie lets her live, knowing she has been “bested by a girl for whom [she has] no regard,” showing more mercy than Catherine would have offered her (or than Lizzie shows the ninja retainers). It’s this throwdown and victory over Lady Catherine that truly sets up the ending of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, of Lizzie and Darcy fighting side by side.


For my part, gentle readers, I shall never forget how Charlotte Collins, nee Lucas, slowly turned into a zombie after being bitten by a ghoul. Lizzie promised to remain true to her friend, but as the poor woman’s physical condition deteriorated, it was hard for visitors not to notice her unfortunate appearance or the fact that she was wont to nibble on her hand. One really has to laugh at some of the more ridiculous scenes and one can’t help but wonder how the exuberant young Jane Austen, who wrote the ‘Juvenilia,’ would have reacted to this mashup of her most famous novel.

lena heady lady catherineThe powers that be in Hollywood took seven years to find a Lizzie (Lily James) and Darcy (Sam Riley) worthy of becoming skilled zombie fighters trained by the finest masters in the martial arts. To my way of thinking, Lena Heady’s turn in playing Lady Catherine de Bourgh with an eye patch is worth the price of admission alone.

While I understand that many Jane Austen fans will refuse to see the film, some of us in our Janeite group can’t wait to see it. Love or hate the idea, feel free to let us know your thoughts. 


Read Full Post »

janeaustenhandbookInquiring readers, In honor of Pride and Prejudice’s 200 year anniversary, Quirk Books is offering 3 free copies of their books: a copy of The Jane Austen Handbook by Margaret C. Sullivan and two copies of the deluxe edition of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame Smith.

Coincidentally, my blog’s counter turned over 6 million visits this weekend. That’s right! Six million! A true cause for celebration and handing out books. If you are interested in reading about the books, click on the links below to read the reviews.

pride_prejudice_zombies1wClick here to read Tony Grant’s review of The Jane Austen Handbook, which is the forerunner of many similar books that have been published in recent years; and click here to read my review of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which began the Jane Austen mash-up craze several years back.

To Enter the Contest (open to those who live in the US, Canada, and UK), tell us how you are celebrating Pride and Prejudice’s 200th anniversary during this year! Contest is open until April 1st. This blog is holding another contest! A giveaway of Maggie Lane’s Jane Austen’s World, which is a reissue of the 1993 edition. Click on the link to enter his contest, open to those who live in the U.S. and open until April 3rd. Giveaway Closed! Congratulations Brenda, Rosalie and Monica Z.

More on the topic:

Read Full Post »

“What? Do I really have to read another Pride and Prejudice and Zombies review by Vic?”, you are asking yourself. Blame it on Quirk books, who recently sent me Dreadfully Ever After, the sequel to P&P&Zombies.

The folks at Quirk Books have been such good sports about the tongue-in-cheek barbs that I have slung in their direction, that I simply could not resist reviewing this latest zombies installment. I have slowly been finessed by their cagey publicists – who keep tossing books, and posters, and zombie paraphenalia my way – and whose understanding of promoting and branding a product in today’s tech savvy world could teach a marketing professor a thing or two.

Dreadfully ever After is Steve Hockensmith’s second foray into Regency England, land of the dead. After Seth Grahame-Smith’s record smashing P&P&Zombies, Hockensmith wrote the prequel, Dawn of the Dreadfuls, explaining how the undead plague invaded England and how those darling Bennet girls were trained to become fierce Shaolin warriors, able to lop off the heads of marauding dreadfuls with an economy of movement that Steven Seagal can only dream about.

After reviewing P&P& Zombies two years ago, I outsourced the Dawn prequel to another reviewer, who has hardly spoken to me since. And so, wishing to keep the few friends I still have, I decided to tackle this book on my own. I kept putting off Dreadfully Ever After, but the review’s deadline was looming. I then drank a bottle of wine or two and began to slowly read the book.

Well, the joke is on me, for as I read it I kept going. Wisely, Hockensmith made no effort to write like Jane Austen. He created a rousing tale using his own words and Jane’s familiar characters in a setting that is both familiar (Regency England) and unfamiliar (filled with zombie slayers and the undead).

Darcy and Elizabeth have been married for four blissful years when he is bitten in the neck by young master Brayles, a freshly made zombie. Unfortunately, Lizzie cannot lop off the affected limb, for that would mean beheading her husband and result in a book that ends after two chapters. Fortunately, Lady Catherine de Bourgh reputedly has access to an antidote that might save her nephew’s life, however she does not possess a cure that might reverse the deadly effects of a zombie bite.

She sends Elizabeth on a dangerous mission to London, saying, “If I told you there was but one path to this salvation—and it was also the path to your utter degradation—would you, I wonder, be able to bend that stiff neck of yours and do what you must?” Without hesitation a stoic Lizzie hands Darcy’s care over to her nemesis and sets off for London with her warrior father and sister, Kitty to look for a physician who holds the cure to the strange plague. Her sister, Mary, is left behind. But she is no namby pamby miss and scurries after them, knowing her skills as a warrior might be of use.

And so the stage is set for a rousing zombie tale. While Darcy exists in a twilight world and experiences unspeakable urges, the troupe in London follows the few leads they’ve been given. The city has been divided into a series of quadrants and is surrounded by fortress walls and watchtowers. Much like airports today, travelers must wait to go through security:

A line of coaches and wagons more than a mile long stretched from the Northern Guard Tower, and it took hours just to be near enough to spot the red-coated soldiers stationed at the gate. The queue was full of merchants and peddlers and performers, all drawn to town by the upcoming recoronation of George III. The king, finally cured of his “nervous exhaution” (otherwise known as “insanity” when it afflicts those of lower rank), was about to reclaim his throne.”

This short passage explains why prepubescent boys and fans of gory mash-ups love the P&P&Zombies series – except for the plague of the undead, lack of electricity and running water, and a smattering of history, Regency England is not so very different from our dangerous world today. And so the plot moves swiftly on, prompting the reader to ask: Will Darcy be saved in time, or will Lizzie, Kitty, Mary, and Mr. Bennet dawdle in London so long that he will turn into a slobbering, mouldering, flesh-eating mess?

Steve Hockensmith’s way with a phrase can be a hoot. On page 158, Kitty declares of Nezu, Lady C de B’s ninja warrior: “He’s like a male Mary!” To which Mr. Bennet retorts, “Mary’s like a male Mary.”

Steve Hockensmith

Parents who worry that these mash-ups will liquify their childrens’ brains  need not worry, for these books, while exposing their offspring to plenty of gore and carnage, provide no untoward exposure to gooey sex scenes or slimy kisses. And so I leave it to you, gentle reader, to decide whether you should subject yourself and your progeny to a zombified England, or gently turn your backs to a series of runaway bestsellers whose ability to generate an impressive stream of revenue would make even Nora Roberts jealous.

Dreadfully Ever After, generously illustrated as all Quirk mash-ups are,  goes on sale today.


Carnage rating: 5 out of 5 severed limbs
Romance rating: 1 out of 5 torn-out hearts
Humor rating: 5 out of 5 brainless zombies

Read Full Post »

Inquiring readers: Ben H. Winters bravely left a comment on my in-depth analysis of his new steam punk mashup, Android Karenina, and was kind enough to answer a few questions.

Hi Ben: Thank you for agreeing to participate in this Q&A. I must say that you made a fan out of me when you left that gracious comment on my blog.

Even though I was unable to complete more than one paragraph in the first Chapter of Android Karenina, I thought that you managed to capture an amazing amount of angst and subtext in the opening lines. Did you want readers to learn anything from your book?

Well, yes and no. First and foremost, it’s a work of popular entertainment, so the goal is for readers to have a good time — to laugh, to be drawn in by the characters and pulled along by the story.

At the same time, there is some food for thought to be had here, if a reader is up for it. For example, Tolstoy’s original is full of anxiety about how technologies like the steam engine and the telegraph are transforming society. By vastly accelerating the pace of that technological change, and deepening the violence that surrounds it, I’ve juiced that anxiety, and (potentially) asked the reader to consider how rapid technological innovation is changing our contemporary society.

You should try reading it again. The second paragraph is amazing.

Click here to read the rest of the interview ...

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: