Monday, June 7, 2010

Android Karenina by Ben H. Winters

Android Karenina by Ben H. Winters

Quirk took a chance with me reviewing another literary mash-up of theirs, Android Karenina, and I will admit that for the most part I actually enjoyed reading this novel. But let me start with the fun contest that Quirk is running.
Once again there are some really great prizes:

o Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls
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o How to Tell if Your Boyfriend is The Antichrist by Patricia Carlin o An Android Karenina poster
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All you have to do is follow the link at the end of this review tp enter.

The story still follows the original drama and romance of Anna Karenina & Count Vronsky, and Kitty Shcherbatskaya & Konstantin Levin. Unlike the original though, this newly imagined world is full of androids and technology that makes all their lives easy. That is until an evil underground group of Russian scientist begin attacking all that they hold dear. Will their government protect them and theirs, and what happens when truths are revealed about their very own characters?

Ben H. Winters first showed up on the Quirk scene when he co-wrote Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Now he has taken on the challenge of a Tolstoy mash-up all by himself. Instead of monsters taking on pivotal roles, there are companion androids and an overwhelmingly large assortment of advanced technology.

Okay, first let's talk about the really big pink elephant in the room - Tolstoy. The original novel is over 800 pages long. Tolstoy loved words and loved description. He wanted the reader to understand every little idiosyncrasy of his characters. Winters has done away with about half the story, rewritten it with inventions that weren't even conceived of back then, and still maintained the integrity of the original. He uses Tolstoy's own words and then weaves in the impossible. Most of the time it is well done, but there are moments when the original wording is dense and hard to digest, but it can be slogged through, and it is worth it.

The descriptions for this book call it a steampunk inspired novel. I will agree with the inspired part, but Winters takes the mechanics way beyond simple steam driven engines. Everyone in high society has a companion android who anticipates the character's needs physically, mentally, and emotionally. The humans are completely dependent on them for every little thing, and this technology has been forced into every part of the story (i.e. robotic dice), which pushes the boundaries of reasonability with me. In the end, he makes use of these gadgets, and uses them or the lack of them to advance the story. Employing the androids as both characters and plot devices was successful, but reading the names of all these special gadgets was a tad burdensome at times, as I feel they were used with a bit of a heavy hand. It wouldn't have been so tedious at times if each mechanical device did not have a three part nomenclature. Luckily, Winters did not stick with just machines in this retelling of a classic.

There are a few other surprises in the new novel that I am choosing not to disclose as I found them to be interesting and surprising. When I thought I could predict where Winters was heading with a certain storyline he surprised me. What can I say - I like surprises, and I have read so much that that is very hard to do. Let go of all realistic expectations in Android Karenina and enjoy the ride.

What it all comes down to:

What I liked?

1. I always enjoy when someone thinks outside of the box, and Winters went way outside of the box with this one.

2. The basic essence of the original story is still intact with the twin love stories.

3. Winters' imagination did not wane, and he was able to carry this new Russian world to the end.

What I disliked?
1. The new technology was way too much at times.

2. Tolstoy is dense and really tedious at times. *Note - Please don't blame Winters for this, as very few people feel Tolstoy is an easy read.

3. ***Spoiler Alert ... I am not sure I agree with sending the characters all the way into space for certain chapters was necessary. The first time was distracting, but the second time was more palatable.

To Buy or Not To Buy, That is the Question:

I would have to say buy, especially if you enjoy books with heavy handed sci-fi elements.

Okay, so that is what I think, but remember folks it's just an opinion. Now click on Quirk contest and enter to win some great prizes. And for more information on Android Karenina published by Quirk simply click her name.

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