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Wednesday, June 9

Android Karenina: A Tolstoy Steam Punk Mash Up and Book Give Away

Don't rub your eyes in disbelief. You read the title right - Ben H. Winters and Leo Tolstoy combined their talents to produce the latest Quirk Books mashup, Android Karenina. I tried reading the book, yes I did.

This is how far I got: Chapter 1, Page 1 -

Functioning robots are all alike; every malfunctioning robot malfunctions in its own way.

Everything was in confusion in the Oblonsky's house. The wife had discovered that the husband was carrying on an intrigue with the French girl who had been a mecanicienne in their family, charged with the maintenance of the household's Class I and II robots..."

And? .... I could not continue. I will leave it up to author Ben H. Winters (who also wrote Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters) to explain why he wrote the book. Even he admits that Leo Tolstoy lovers will hate this effort:

So would he have embraced my new book, which takes his masterpiece and adds talking robots and lizard-aliens from the sky? Which sends Anna and Vronsky not to Italy for their adulterous quasi-honeymoon, but to a colony on the moon? Which replaces the train, the symbolic keystone of the whole story, with the Moscow-St. Petersburg High Speed Antigravitational Massive Transport?

Absolutely not. Leo Tolstoy would have loathed this book.

To which I say, with all due respect to my esteemed pretend-collaborator, tough noogies.

- Anna Karinena Out Today: What Would Tolstoy Say?

Ben goes on to say that he loved Anna Karenina. Well, I didn't. While I found Tolstoy's original a powerful book, I can't exactly say that I loved reading it, though it did lead the way to my reading a number of other Russian authors, notably Turgenev. Back to Android Karenina. Here's what Quirk Book's press release said:

When these copper-plated machines begin to revolt against their human masters, our characters must fight back using state-of-the-art 19th-century technology -and a sleek new model of ultra-human cyborgs like nothing the world has ever seen."

Such absurdity might elicit laughs (and a serious influx of cash into Quirk Books' coffers), but this is not my kind of humor.

In The New Yorker, perplexed critic Elif Batuman, unsure about the book that plopped on her desk, decided to seriously critique it. She wrote: "The thing is that Tolstoy’s characters already lived in a “world of robotic butlers, clumsy automatons, and rudimentary mechanical devices...Tolstoy didn’t know about steampunk or cyborgs, but he did know about the nightmarishness of steam power, unruly machines, and the creepy half-human status of the Russian peasant classes."

Um, ok. To each his own.

If you are eager to read 538 pages about robot love (with 9 illustrations and a reader discussion guide), then perhaps you will be intrigued enough to leave a comment on this humble blog. Who knows, you might even win a free copy of Android Karenina! If anything, it makes a great doorstop! Only those who live in the U.S. or Canada are eligible. (So sorry.)

If you would like an opportunity to win this book, please leave a comment by completing a statement begun by Ben H. Winters:

"Bottom line, I didn't write Anroid Karenina for Tolstoy, I wrote it for ..."

Contest ends on midnight EST USA next Wednesday, June 15. Winner announced. Contest closed. Congratulations Courtney!

Posted by Vic

29 comments:

Meredith R. said...

Bottom line I wrote Android Karenina for prepubescent boys who are into science fiction, gaming, and graphic novels.

Sweet Lady Jess said...

Bottom line, I didn't write Anroid Karenina for Tolstoy, I wrote it for ...

For the rest of us nerds that were dieing for more mash ups!

jedisakora said...

"Bottom line, I didn't write Anroid Karenina for Tolstoy, I wrote it for those who can't stand sparkling vampires, but relish in the glory of hardware, metal, and gears".

Southerner said...

"Bottom line, I didn't write Android Karenina for Tolstoy, I wrote it to shock people into buying my book and giving me loads of dosh
and any gullible Hollywood movie producers around who will give me loads of cash too. "

Eliza Martin said...

I'm actually very curious to read this book, since I really like steampunk. But unlike with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I haven't read the original, so it might be harder to appreciate certain things about it.

Ben said...

Thanks so much for reviewing the first paragraph of my book!

Elif Batuman is a woman!

Theresa said...

I laughed when I saw that book! ... and then I groaned. It could be a really funny mashup, but the author is so disrespectful of Tolstoy. There is NO way I'm going to read that.
Shame, for I dearly love to laugh.

Carrie at In the Hammock Blog said...

I have to admit I'm still kind of intrigued by this one! I love steampunk!!

Vic said...

Ben, dahling, you visited my humble blog. Thank you for setting my misteak,uhm, mistake, straight. Your robotic neuticles are truly impressive!

Vic

Southerner said...

Ben, you are being very gracious about all this.

In the words of Oscar Wilde,

"Your book is much too important a thing ever to talk seriously about it."
-- “Vera, of The Nihilists”
(This is a misquote.)

Michelle @ The True Book Addict said...

"Bottom line, I didn't write Anroid Karenina for Tolstoy, I wrote it for ...

the robots/androids 100 years from now. I will be remembered among them as one of the best classic authors."

Enid Wilson said...

Strange combination but the idea is worth the salute.

Really Angelic

Tea and Tomes said...

"Bottom line, I didn't write Android Karenina for Tolstoy, I wrote it for... the purpose of cashing in on the rewritten classics craze."

Okay, so maybe I'm a little bit cynical on this whole "rewrite the classics but with a wild and fantastical twist" thing." I won't deny that it's a creative endeavour, especially when one tries to stay true to the language and characterization in the originals. On the other hand, it seems to me that some of the attempts are stretching themselves too thin to be enjoyable, and some feel like they were only written to cash in on the fad.

That being said, I do admit that I haven't read this one. Maybe it's good, maybe it's bad, I can't really say. I do know that I'd likely pass it over in a bookstore, but that doesn't mean that if I win a copy I won't give it a fair chance and base further opinions from there. :p

ChaChaneen said...

Every time I visit here, the picture of Elizabeth and Mr. Collins makes me cringe! ha ha

Gina said...

Goodness, I'm having enough trouble just getting through the original version!

LimitedEmpathy said...

"Bottom line, I didn't write Anroid Karenina for Tolstoy, I wrote it for ...

the lulz."

Roasted Marshmallow said...

I'm not entering the contest - I already have two copies of Android Kareninia. I just wanted to voice my opinion of the book.

I read Anne Karenina, and even though it wasn't the usual genre I enjoy, I found myself thoroughly engrossed in the plot and felt I could relate the characters with real people. I found it an easy, if epic, read, and gave it an "I would read it again" rating.

When I heard that there was going to be a mash-up of the book, I was anxious to get my hands on it in order to have an excuse to read it again - with the new additions.

I absolutely loved the mash-up. Ben Winters did a great job of seamlessly adding steampunk elements to the story while keeping the main plot.

Keep the mash-ups coming, Ben!

Brooke from The Bluestocking Guide said...

"Bottom line, I didn't write Anroid Karenina for Tolstoy, I wrote it for myself, because if I don't get a paycheck I'll end up in foreclosure. "

Aranel said...

Bottom line, I didn't write Android Karenina for Tolstoy, I wrote it for the imaginative many who love romantic science fiction

Meredith said...

Bottom line I wrote Android Karenina for Cylons everywhere.

Nonna Beach said...

Bottom Line: "I wrote it to make money"
And he will, but I won't be reading or buying...
however,I support the free enterprise system totally so I hope he makes a bundle !!!

Courtney said...

Bottom line, I didn't write Android Karenina for Tolstoy, I wrote it for the burgeoning robot market (they can read, right?)!

Catherine Delors said...

Oh no, I don't live in the US or Canada! Too bad...
This reminds me of a really cool robot book I read to my son when he was little. Forgot the name but it was lovely.

becca said...

Bottom line I wrote Android Karenina because anything is better than the original!

Laurel Ann said...

LOL Vic! A review of the first paragraph. How brilliant. Now I can pound through the three foot high listing stack of books that I have avoided reviewing for the last two years cuz, I couldn't get past the third chapter. Now my new cutoff will be the first paragraph. I have just reclaimed a good chunk of my reading life. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Bottom line, I didn't write Anroid Karenina for Tolstoy, I wrote it for ...

all those readers who want to see something drastically new in the classic Anna Karenina.

-Alicia H.

Steph said...

Ugggh! Of all classic novels to rewrite as a mash-up, Anna Karenina?? Blech.
You want real robot love? Read The Silver Metal Lover and Metallic Love by Tanith Lee.

C.A. Marshall said...

Bottom line, I didn't write Anroid Karenina for Tolstoy, I wrote it for ... the fanfiction p0rn.

Yep. I went there.

Gail said...

I kind of like books of this nature.
Im still laughing from Mr. Darcy threatening Miss. Bingley for talking so much in Pride and Prejudice & Zombies. Now sea monsters. What's next: vampires & flying brooms?