Author: Ben H. Winters and Leo Tolstoy
Length: 541 pages
Despite struggling through both Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, I was pleased to find the most lengthy of these “monster classics,” Android Karenina, was a fast and engaging read. If anything, it proves to me that I can’t grasp Jane Austen’s writing style nearly as smoothly as I can Leo Tolstoy’s. Part of the ease of reading Android Karenina probably came from knowing the original plot ahead of time a little better than I did for Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. And yet, the real reason is more visceral than that.
What Android Karenina’s predecessors attempted was to take two vastly different genres and mash them together in the hope that the combination would interest readers. Where Android Karenina succeeds where the others have failed is that the addition of the steampunk/science fiction genre enhances the story. Adding zombies or sea monsters to a romantic story to liven up the boring sections merely accentuates where these boring parts are. When the robotic-themed changes to a piece of classic Russian literature directly enforce the overt themes of the rise of communism, then the story becomes much more compelling.
Granted, some of the source material can be easily implied past the steampunk coverings, but that’s always been the case with these “Quirk Classics.” At the very least, the pacing of this story kept my interest throughout and rarely dragged itself down via the “drama” of aristocratic gossip and endless discussion of potential marriage partners. But again, this is likely the outcome of adapting Leo Tolstoy instead of Jane Austen. After reading this book, I certainly want to go back and read the original Anna Karenina, even despite the hefty page count.
An enhanced version of Tolstoy’s original in more ways than one, I give Android Karenina 4.0 stars out of 5.