Although a PR blitz has made Pride and Prejudice and Zombies one of the most anticipated (or reviled) releases of the year, the secret to its success is a simple, easily explained concept. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is Pride and Prejudice... and... zombies. The most popular classic romance of all time, plus the undead.
At the risk of being painfully repetitive, here's how it works. Imagine Pride and Prejudice. Now, imagine, inexplicably, that Elizabeth Bennett and her sisters are all ninja assassins. This has nothing to do with the overall plot, it is just something they can do - just like in the original Austen, they can all play the piano. Now, imagine that every time they take a carriage ride anywhere, they are attacked by zombies. Again, no impact whatsoever on the plot, just another facet of their lives. Home is for the piano and matchmaking, the road is for zombies.
None of this - I can't emphasize this enough - makes the slightest bit of difference to the plot of Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth and Jane still meet / lose / find their men. Wickham is still a dick (although he gets a slightly more severe comeuppance in this version). Mrs Bennett is still a pain in the ass. Everyone dances at balls. Flirts with soldiers. Learns valuable life lessons. This is still the same book we all read in high school and watched on the BBC. (And, incidentally, is still a more emotionally impactful look at romance and the undead than Twilight).
If anything, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies succeeds because it is 98% the same book. It is a running surrealist joke. Dance, carp, match-make, introspection, ZOMBIE, dance, explore countryside, match-make, ZOMBIE. And, lest I give the wrong impression, every time, without fail, it made me laugh out loud.
And that's the real heart of the matter - I'm not sure I've enjoyed a book this much in a long, long time. Whether it was the author's unique take on Charlotte Lucas, the inspired 'reader's guide' at the conclusion, Elizabeth's ultra-violent tendencies or just the perpetual interjection of the shambling undead, I was constantly giggling from cover to cover.
I'm sad to think about the horde of zombie clones that are to follow (well, I'm a little excited about the inevitable Jane Eyre resurrection), but Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a silly, lazy, ludicrous and utterly magnificent book. As shamelessly terrible as it is, I couldn't possibly recommend it highly enough.