Friday 9 April 2010

Fiction Friday #6

This story has been taken down now that the piece has been submitted to a journal!

Wednesday 7 April 2010

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies

I've written about literary remixes, or mash ups, before (here) but I've only just managed to finish Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, credited to Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. I tried to start it as long ago as last August, convinced that I would love it. Truth is, I didn't. I kept putting it aside in favour of other, more enjoyable, books. Well I've eventually slogged through it, and I cannot say that my final impression is altogether that favourable.

I love Pride & Prejudice. It's one of my favourite books, and the only thing that even approaches its genius is the BBC's serialised adaptation in 1995, starring Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth and Colin Firth as Mr Darcy. I also have a penchant for zombies, so you'd think that anything that could combine the two would be amazing.

Ah, if only it were the case! At the beginning of the book, the somewhat liberal application of zombies feels jarring and implausible, not to mention lazy. In many cases, he simply changes one word in a sentence in order to allude to the 'plague'. He also tinkers with characters in order to make their "mastery of the Deadly Arts" fit within his plot, but this renders their actions as regards the Pride & Prejudice to become incoherent. For example, pious bookworm Mary is transformed into a highly focussed, zombie slaying Warrior, yet this doesn't work when Mr Bennett continues to refer to his younger daughters as "three f the silliest girls in the country". There is nothing remotely silly about Mary after Grahame-Smith's treatment - so why not change ALL of the text accordingly?

Another problem is the use of terminology. The girls are originally described as following the code of the Samurai, and they wield Katanas, but by the time Elizabeth has gone to Rosings, we discover she studied in China, and not Japan. It's this lack of consistency that jolts the realm of believability, and distracts from the plot.

By the middle of the book, Grahame-Smith hits his stride, and his substitution of Elizabeth's piano display at Rosings for a sparring match between Elizabeth and three of Lady Catherine's ninjas is perfectly normal. Likewise for Elizabeth's meeting with Darcy at Pemberley - no more is he encountered having just gone for a swim in his pond. No, now he appears on horseback to defend an unarmed Elizabeth against a horde of zombies (somewhat bizarrely referred to here as a 'herd').

Sadly, as the end of the book draws near, it feels like Grahame-Smith has forgotten what he set out to do, and several pages go by with only one or two vague mentions of the zombies. All that does is make me remember how much I enjoyed the original. If anything, he's written a spectacular advert for Pride & Prejudice, while failing to distinguish himself at every turn. If anything, his own book feels more like the outcome of one of those "Wouldn't it be funny if...?" questions, which seldom turn out to be as funny as the author would like.

If you want Austen and zombies, I'd recommend that you read Pride & Prejudice, and then go watch Zombieland. You'll have far more fun.

Monday 5 April 2010

The More Things Change...

Every now and then, something happens in your personal life that sends you reeling. All that you thought was good and proper turns out to be nothing more than shadows and ghosts, drifting off into the wind while you struggle to stop the ashes running through your fingers like sand. I'm not going to delve into specifics (those who know me in that scary place known as 'real life' will know to what I allude) but sufficeth to say, I'm not exactly operating at my best.

However, I've always been proud of the fact that I'm strong and, dare I admit it, stubborn, and I'm not going to quit the one thing I still enjoy simply because of a change in circumstances. So I'll still be writing. I actually managed to write half of a new flash on the tube (of all places) on Saturday evening, while I got an idea for another flash while touring the catacombs of Kensal Green Cemetery yesterday (oh I get my kicks in the strangest places). I'm working on part 8 of The First Tale over on my Tales from Vertigo City blog and I'm redrafting my novel. I feel confident that Fowlis has no intentions of suddenly deserting me.

So until I can either publish one of my new flashes (oh, they will be getting published) or write about something else, I suggest you go and visit the websites in my Below the Fold link box on the right. Everyone is very talented, and deserves your support. Tell them Icy sent you.