Friday, August 21, 2009

Bibliofilia: Messy Mash-ups or Monster Masterpieces?

(Or is that the other way around?)

It seems like there's a definite subtrend in bestselling horror books today. Get one literary masterpiece (and writer), add new writer, spice it up with zing and you've got a possibly-crazy, definitely-loaded-with-funny book. And it all started when Quirk Books came out with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith.

Obviously, when I saw this book at the local bookshop, how could I resist? Read the book description for yourself:
"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains." So begins Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, an expanded edition of the beloved Jane Austen novel featuring all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie mayhem. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton—and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she's soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers—and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield as Elizabeth wages war against hordes of flesh-eating undead. Can she vanquish the spawn of Satan? And overcome the social prejudices of the class-conscious landed gentry? Complete with romance, heartbreak, swordfights, cannibalism, and thousands of rotting corpses, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies transforms a masterpiece of world literature into something you'd actually want to read.
Not bad, eh?

But just when you thought it was a one-hit "monster", it seems like there are more of them coming on the horizon. What I don't understand is why poor Jane Austen is almost always at the center of it.

1. Sense and Sensibilities and Sea Monsters by Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters (Quirk):
Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters expands the original text of the beloved Jane Austen novel with all-new scenes of giant lobsters, rampaging octopi, two-headed sea serpents, and other biological monstrosities. As our story opens, the Dashwood sisters are evicted from their childhood home and sent to live on a mysterious island full of savage creatures and dark secrets. While sensible Elinor falls in love with Edward Ferrars, her romantic sister Marianne is courted by both the handsome Willoughby and the hideous man-monster Colonel Brandon. Can the Dashwood sisters triumph over meddlesome matriarchs and unscrupulous rogues to find true love? Or will they fall prey to the tentacles that are forever snapping at their heels? This masterful portrait of Regency England blends Jane Austen’s biting social commentary with ultraviolent depictions of sea monsters biting. It’s survival of the fittest—and only the swiftest swimmers will find true love!
2. Mansfield Park and Mummies by Jane Austen and Vera Nazarian (Norilana):
Mansfield Park and Mummies: Monster Mayhem, Matrimony, Ancient Curses, True Love, and Other Dire Delights, a hilarious and witty mashup parody of Jane Austen's classic novel in which Fanny Price must hold steadfast not only against the seductive charms of Henry Crawford but also an Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh, while Edmund attempts Exorcisms, Miss Crawford vamps out, Aunt Norris channels her inner werewolf, the Mummy-mesmerized Lady Bertram collects Egyptian artifacts, and Mansfield Park is a battleground for the forces of Ancient Evil and Regency True Love.
3. Adventures of Huckleberry Fin and Zombie Jim by Mark Twain and W. Bill Czolgosz (Coscom):
Free at last! Free at last! This ain't your grandfather's Huckleberry Finn. It's nineteenth century America and a mutant strain of tuberculosis is bringing its victims back from the dead. Sometimes they come back docile, and other times vicious. The vicious ones are sent back to Hell, but the docile ones are put to work as servants and laborers. With so many zombies on the market, the slave trade is nonexistant. The black man is at liberty, and human bondage is no more. Young Huckleberry Finn has grown up in a world that shuns the N-word, with its scornful eye set on a new class of shambling, putrid sub-humans: The Baggers. When his abusive father comes back into his life, Huck flees down the river with Bagger Jim, seeking a life of perfect freedom. When the pox mutates once again, causing even the tamest of baggers to become bloodthirsty monsters, the boy Finn is forced to question his relationship with his dearest, deadest friend. In this revised take on history and classic literature, the modern age is ending before it ever begins. Huckleberry Finn will inherit a world of horror and death, and he knows the mighty Mississippi might be the only way out...
4. The War of the Worlds Plus Bloods and Guts and Zombies by H.G. Wells and Eric S. Brown (Coscom):
The invasion begins . . . and the dead start to rise. There's panic in the streets of London as invaders from Mars wreak havoc on the living, slaying the populace with Heat-Rays and poisonous clouds of black smoke. Humanity struggles to survive against technology far beyond its own, meeting fear and death at every turn. But that's not the only struggle mankind must face. The dead are rising from their graves with an insatiable hunger for human flesh. Friends, neighbours and loved ones lost to the war of the worlds are now the enemy and the Earth is forever changed. It's kill or be killed, if you want to survive, otherwise you might become one of the walking dead yourself.
(Yes, the last one does sound like a kitchen-sink novel.)

You have to wonder though, if all of these literary mashups are enough to get their writers rising from the dead in protest. I do know I want to see a "Wuthering Heights and Werewolves." That Heathcliff? Definitely a werewolf.

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