01 April 2009

Demons and Zombies and Books, Oh, My!

You know it's a grand year when not one, but two, major Jane Austen pop cultural events occur. Sometime this summer, moviegoers will be treated to Pride & Predator, a film about filming yet another version of Pride & Prejudice, when the unthinkable happens--an alien invasion! I'm very excited about this prospect. I like both films and movies--don't make me choose among an adrenaline-filled espionage thriller and the thoughtful, quiet, character-driven subtitled story from Argentina and the sweeping historical epic or the arty costume drama. I want 'em all. Pride & Predator should promise the best of all worlds. Popcorn & Raisinettes will complete my happiness.

But even that movie can't compare to my excitement over the new book published by Quirk Books this week-- Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, by Seth Grahame-Smith. At first I wondered why the author didn't choose a classic more suited to the gothic & the macabre to introduce zombies. Wuthering Heights seemed the most natural choice. Even Jane Eyre had the nifty plot device of the mad woman in the attic. If you're going to start with Austen, Northanger Abbey might seem more logical. But then I read what prompted the author: why was the regiment stationed in Meryton when they were actually needed to fight on the continent? Could it be...that zombies had invaded the town and that the residents' lives were in danger?

I'm eagerly awaiting the comp copy that my sales rep promised. But if it doesn't arrive by the weekend you can bet that one of the store's copies will be going home with me.

In other news, I finished another book last week that is forthcoming from one of my favorite fanfiction writers. Sarah Rees Brennan is so far best known on the internet for her fabulous Harry Potter stories, predominantly featuring the Harry/Draco pairing. Very soon she'll be as well known for her teen fiction, the first of which is The Demon's Lexicon. In the spirit of not spoiling anything, I'll make my comments as wide as possible. Overall I thought it was a good first effort but it was not as polished as her later fanfiction tended to be. Those readers who've enjoyed her dialogue, particularly Draco's laconic snarkiness, will still find evidence of that in her new book, particularly in the brother-sister team who seek out help from the Alan and Nick, two brothers born into a family constantly on the run from magicians.  One early example: '"Rituals with the dead," Jamie repeated in a faint, stunned voice.  Nick turned and looked at him coldly. "I mean," Jamie said, and swallowed, "how interesting and not at all creepy!  Please go on."'

 The pacing was a little uneven, and I'm not crazy about this new style of writing that names a concept or character on one page but doesn't explain it to the reader until pages or even chapters later. Since I tend to skim things when reading, this tactic makes me go back and re-read paragraphs to make sure I didn't skip something crucial--when inevitably the explanation show up later in the book.  Still, there was a major twist in the end that I didn't call correctly, though like a good mystery writer, Rees Brennan had strewn clues and red herrings throughout (unlike much of her fanfiction, where I correctly anticipated many of her plot twists). The end left me wanting to pick up the next book in the series right away, which means I'll have to wait at least another year or so for it.  

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