(Comic From Kate Beaton's Life Affirming Hark A Vagrant)
I’ve written before about the folly of the equation olde timey literature + anarchornistic monsters = Inherently funny. As opposed to the more accurate Seth Grahame Smith = Inherently Funny. But even beyond the fallacy of that equation, a direct sequel to Pride And Prejudice And Zombies is inherently problematic.
Smith’s original is a profoundly intertextual work. Let’s take a look at this passage on the first page of the original.
Never was this truth more plain then during the recent attacks on Netherfield Park, in which a household of eighteen was slaughtered and consumed by a horde of the living dead.
“My Dear Mr. Bennet,” said his lady to him one day, “have you heard Netherfield is occupied again?”
Now look nothing kills a joke faster then trying to explain it but it is pretty clear that this is a joke that operates in two parts. First the unexpected departure from the text, and second the equally unexpected return to the text. This is the joke that powers the original novel.
So setting aside even the obvious fatigue of all the bandwagoneers overcrowding the mash up genre we’re left with an even greater problem for this particular book. Namely there is neither text to deviate from or return to. How can you have a comedy of juxtaposition when there is nothing to juxtapose? It is not even accurate to say that the sequel is left with half of joke. It is left with no joke.
In lieu of a joke the text searches vainly for something else to do. That it is not quite successful is inevitable, that it is at all successful is commendable.
Quite unexpectedly Steve Hockensmith’s follow up works best when it plays things straightest. The author does have some moments that are genuinely funny, (“The Heart Harden’s when you’ve sawn through as many necks as I have.”) Even more impressive there are a few moments that are genuinely creepy. Both of which suggest that his talents could be put to much better use. They may even have been put to better use in an 18th Century bit of proto steam punk novel involving a battle against the undead. One that did not saddle itself to The Pride And Prejudice mythology. Then again if that were the case it could not be saddled to a meme that has sold approximately a bajillion copies, so Quirk’s impulse is understandable.
While Smith was a nimble writer able to mimic Austen’s prose, Steve Hockensmith’s book more closely resembles the cottage industry of sequels based on Austen’s work. Both stink of desperation and reach feebly after some glory that has long since departed.
Let us hope that this annoying fad has finally burned itself out.