Classics + monsters

We are in the grips of vampire/werewolf/monster fever. And I’m not talking about Twilight (though if you want a soap opera of ridiculous proportions, read it). Instead, there is a rash of books out now that incorporate monster story lines into classic texts. A great idea. To a point.

I was thrilled when I was able to get my hands on a copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Austen’s witty, acerbic banter peppered with scenes of Regency-era characters kicking zombie butt? Brilliant. Elizabeth Bennett is Austen’s feistiest, most independent heroine. It is not too much of a stretch to imagine her an expert at physical as well as verbal sparring. At first the backstory about the Bennett sisters’ training in Japan seemed a bit far-fetched, but it was easy to believe that Jane was prized for her zombie-killing skills as well as her beauty. The integrity of Austen’s work remained intact, and the results were hilarious.

But I have to admit, I’m skeptical about the two followups: Dawn of the Dreadfuls (the prequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Elizabeth Bennett can handle monsters. But Elinor and Marianne Dashwood? If Marianne ran into a sea monster, she would scream and faint dead away. (Preferably into the arms of a strapping young officer – much more romantic that way). Elinor would manage to keep herself rational, but it is much more feasible to see her leading her family to safety rather than plunging into battle.

The problem with these copycat classic/monster send-ups is character believability. Dawn of the Dreadfuls features the butt-kicking Bennetts, but the Bennetts before Austen allows us to meet them. Call me a literary snob, but I don’t want other authors taking too many liberties with Austen’s characters. I love her books too much.

I am similarly skeptical of Jane Slayre, a book that features both vampires and zombies, and Jane herself as a crusader against evil. Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books. I love the gothic elements, the unconventionally ugly love interest, how the outsider (and our intrepid heroine) triumphs by creating a new world. Jane herself is meek and quiet, and finds more richness in her internal world than the external one. It’s quite a stretch to imagine her standing over a monster’s corpse, bloody dagger in hand. Jane can’t handle Blanche Ingram’s snide comments, and we are expected to believe she can handle zombies? Something doesn’t add up.

Perhaps other mashups will be more successful. Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter has potential. Honest Abe grew up in the woods, so he would know how to hunt. He was also freakishly tall, which probably helps with the intimidation factor. But Little Vampire Women? Somehow I can’t see vampires playing Pilgrim’s Progress or creating cloud castles, even if they did pledge to abstain from human blood.

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