As far as gimmicks go, Pride & Prejudice & Zombies is pretty gimmicky. It’s like Snakes on a Plane — it’s the title! It’s the high concept!
And yet, PPZ works — mostly. Interspersed with chunks of Jane Austen’s deathless prose (oh come on, you knew that was coming) are Seth Grahame-Smith’s additions. To his credit, he weaves in Eastern martial arts, a backstory, and even a bit of history to the zombie parts, so he’s not just throwing zombies in willy-nilly. The Bennets are all trained in Shaolin, which is looked down upon by Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who has trained in Japan and who keeps ninjas. The zombie sections are clever and amusing, and the zombie part of the book makes up a passable story.
Grahame-Smith has fun with his little conceit, and the fun carries the book. However, there are a few sections that drag on too long without zombies. If I wanted to read pure Jane Austen (and I tend to reread one or two of her books a year) I could go to my bookshelves. Those sections could have benefited from more zombies. I never thought I would ever write that about Jane Austen, but there you go.
The classic confrontation between Lizzy and Lady Catherine is turned into a martial arts flying scene, Grahame-Smith gets in plenty of snickers about balls and fingering (God, what is he, twelve?), and overall, it was pretty amusing. There are also illustrations, which are excellent. And the book winds up with the kind of reader discussion topics that you see in book club editions. (“Vomit plays an important role in PP&Z…Do the authors mean for this regurgitation to symbolize something greater or is it a cheap device to get laughs?”)
All in all, quite fun, and worth a few laughs. Silly, yes, gimmicky yes, but sometimes fun is all you want out of a book.