Let me start with being upfront about some things: 1) I’ve never been a Jane Austen fan. I find her works to be silly and inconsequential, full of upper society gossip where the women have very narrow and superficial concerns. 2) I have never been big on zombies. As a biologist, it is hard for me to suspend my disbelief when it comes to reanimating dead flesh (though if an author does it with magic, it is easier for me to ignore my skepticism). But over the past year, I have read and watched some zombie fiction so I have warmed up to the ‘ambivalent’ level (which is quite a bit higher than the cold-shouldered Hell no! level at which zombies previously resided in my world).
OK, now that I have that off my chest, let me say that Jane Austen’s work, zombies, and the warrior Bennet sisters all work beautifully together to create one very entertaining listen! The entire framework from the original Pride and Prejudice is there. There just happens to be zombies, Asian martial arts, and ball jokes thrown in. A few generations before the book opens, the zombies started appearing in England. More tend to pop up during the wet season, as the muddy earth makes it easier for them to come to light. Anyway, it is now very much in vogue for rich families to have their children (male or female) trained in Japan or China in a variety of martial arts. Every family who is worth the notice has at least three dojos in which to practice daily. So, all 5 Bennet sisters were trained in Japan and the family has since returned to England. All 5 are highly encouraged to find suitable marriages sooner rather than later. But with the Unmentionables (zombies) wandering the countryside, attacking carriages and livestock willy nilly, the Bennets are often distracted from their marital goals.
I really enjoyed that the author didn’t try to explain the source of the zombies, or even the mechanism that kept them going. For all practical purpose, with none of the Bennets being doctors or even scientists, it was not really relevant to their day to day lives. I quite enjoyed the numerous interactions with the zombies and the variety of ways they were dispatched. Some of the sisters prefer katanas to long bows to throwing daggers, etc. It was so very amusing to see these ladies dispatching the Undead and yet striving to remain ladylike.
The story line still has Mr. Darcy, who I take is suppose to be the irritable hearth throb of the original book. He too is a warrior and often appreciates the abilities of the Bennets, especially of Elizabeth. He has the opportunity to show off his zombie beheading prowess more than once. Also, he is usually present for the ball jokes. Yep, jokes concerning the ‘most English parts’ of the male physique. And these jokes are carried out in such a fashion to compliment Jane Austen’s work, often bringing me to a fit of giggles. I can only imagine that such jokes truly did take place during that time period.
This particular edition had a forward by the author in which he explains how the idea for the story came to him (via a friend). The author goes on to chat about the first reactions to the first edition of the book (people wanted more zombies!) so this is the new, improved edition with those extra zombies. It was a most excellent read and is probably the only way that anyone will ever get me to read Jane Austen as an adult. Hats off to the author!
Narration: Katherine Kellgren was an excellent pick for the narration on this book. She was a great voice for the Bennet sisters (each one distinct) and carried out the dry humor perfectly. She played the straight man to all of the jokes, letting them sneak up and sit there in front of the listener. It was great. She also had several male voices (again, all distinct) and some zombie voices. For one character, she had to alter the character’s voice as the story moved forward because the character was slowly being zombiefied. Not an easy task and she did it beautifully (or putrifyingly).