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Android Karenina
Ben H. Winters
Adult Fiction WINTERS

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Avatar for KaliO KaliO said:
The quirky Quirk Books ushered in a new era of literary mash-ups with the runaway success of last year’s delightful Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which in turn spawned Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. A slight shift from Regency romance to Russian classics and from monsters to robots gives us Android Karenina, a steampunked version of Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy’s 1877 masterpiece about love and despair set against the chilly winter backdrop of aristocratic life in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The twist comes with the titular androids. Everyone who’s anyone has one, a custom-made robot that offers comfort, support, and service with a cute nickname (the Russians love their nicknames) to boot. Cyborgs are the hot new technology trend of the moment and inter-planetary travel is a distinct possibility. The steampunk setting grows richer with anti-gravity skating rinks and dance floors, but life is not all romance, glamour, and three-dimensional waltzes. Trouble is afoot, and much of that mischief stems from the androids and the technology they wield. Against this tumult, desperate housewife Anna Karenina carries out a passionately doomed love affair with dashing Count Vronksy, and moody country boy Levin pines after pretty but pouty Kitty. In both romances the opinions and actions of the androids (Anna’s Android Karenina, Vronksy’s mechanical wolf, Levin’s hulking Socrates, and Kitty’s newly-appointed Tatiana) have as much impact as anything the human lovers do or say. How illicit love affairs and political turmoil merge is all part of the drama—and in the case of this mash-up, all part of the fun. To toy with a literary classic as heavy as Anna Karenina is a bit of a risk, but author Ben H. Winters handles his task with verve, wit, and even respect. Tolstoy’s complex portrait of 19th century life is complete and little of the story’s bulk has been trimmed (Android Karenina weighs in at 538 pages, though there are several wickedly comical illustrations). But as any fan of steampunk lit can attest to, even the classics are improved by a little extra robot mayhem.
posted Jun 8, 2010 at 11:41AM
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