cover image Emma and the Vampires

Emma and the Vampires

Jane Austen and Wayne Josephson, Sourcebooks, $14.99 trade paper (304p) ISBN 9781402241345

Two conflicting concepts and a poor sense of period manners and terminology prevent the latest Jane Austen mash-up from fulfilling its comedic potential. Dangerous bands of vagrant vampires prove a constant threat to the stake-wielding young ladies of Highbury, so it is less than credible that the clever but occasionally oblivious Miss Emma Woodhouse and her friends would still be unable to recognize that local gentlemen possessed of pale skin, a fear of sunlight, and drooling fangs are, in fact, blood-drinkers. The joke of romantic lead Mr. Knightley and his fellows as ravenous but proper gentlemen vampires is well-conceived and occasionally combined very cleverly with Austen's original prose and characters, such as Emma's father's dislike of eating. However, calling the wild vampires vulgar is an unconvincing distinction when the supposed gentlemen scream and bellow, the respectable Emma discusses lust, and a matronly schoolteacher shouts, "Kill the bastards!" While Austen's tale has been effectively trimmed, the added passages are often poorly integrated, and the tonal shifts from the vampires-in-the-gentry sections to the gentry-as-vampire-slayers moments are disconcerting. The latter seem to belong to a different mash-up altogether, and in pursuing both jokes at once, the tale succeeds at neither. (Aug.)