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'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies' gets a prequel

| Sunday, March 28, 2010

At least this time Jane Austen doesn't get a Zombie wedgie.

In "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls" author Steve Hockensmith doesn't have to contend with adding zombie mayhem to an existing revered text. He makes the most of this prequel, set four years before, to concentrate on how the Bennet girls -- Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia -- became the excellent zombie killers.

Zombies, or "Dreadfuls," have only one interest in life: killing the living and eating their brains. They were stopped for decades by the simple precaution of decapitating the dead. Unfortunately this was stopped and the zombie plague re-emerged -- literally -- from the tombs, graveyards, basements, local ponds and wherever there might be a dead body.

"Dawn of the Dreadfuls" opens at a funeral where the corpse of Mr. Ford comes alive in his coffin.

"Mr. Ford chose that moment (and a fine one it was) to jerk towards Mr. Cummings (the vicar) simultaneously roaring and snapping his teeth. In doing so, he managed to bite off most of his own tongue. It fell, gray and flaccid as an old kipper, into his lap, where it remained until he noticed it, snatched it up, and greedily gobbled it down, moaning happily as he feasted on is own rancid flesh."

Mr. Bennet turns out to be an experienced zombie killer and uses Mr. Ford as a lesson for his daughters of what they'll face in the future by snipping off the zombie's head with garden clippers "as easy as pruning a rose."

As they go on, the Bennet girls get a new martial-arts teacher, meet a zombie-obsessed scientist -- who believes that the zombies can be rehabilitated -- and protect the country squire whose randy encounters with the local maidens has led to many bad ends, most of whom come back to hunt him.

All of this happens in the context of "Pride and Prejudice" with its rigid English social hierarchy, marriage-minded mothers and bucolic countryside where, normally, being disowned would lead to social and economic ruin. Here, when one daughter protests that she doesn't want to be a fighter, her father's reply is, "Then I will disown you, and you will, most likely, be torn apart and eaten by a pack of festering corpses."

She changes her mind.

In the end it's a romp of a book, complete with graphic descriptions of human, and zombie, deaths, as the "Dreadfuls" hold the local countryside, and the squire's mansion, under siege. The ending, we know -- "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies."

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