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Android Karenina (Quirk Classic) Paperback – June 8, 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 541 pages
  • Publisher: Quirk Books (June 8, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594744602
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594744600
  • Product Dimensions: 1.4 x 5.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #909,650 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The next installment in Quirk's much-heralded sci-fi/classics mashup series, this steampunk take on Anna Karenina discards tsarist Russia for an alternate reality where a miracle metal, gronzium, has fueled the development of a thriving robot culture. Carriages and candlesticks persist, but everything is mechanized, including the servants: at the peak of the robot hierarchy are the near-sentient "Class IIIs," humanoid robots who aid and comfort their upper-class owners. These futuristic additions are more than background filler, though; Winters incorporates an entire action-packed sci-fi sub-plot, with terrorist attacks from a group of renegade scientists, an alien invasion, and the growing menace of a certain scorned cyborg husband. The sci-fi elements are carefully accomplished, sometimes brilliantly extrapolated from the original. The Class IIIs, for example, also act as telling externalizations of their masters: cold, duty-bound Karenin becomes half-robot and childish Kitty gets a pink, mechanized ballerina companion. Tolstoy's text is more than strong enough to stand up to this sort of treatment, its force attenuated just enough to allow Winters (Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters) to integrate his additions-a feat he manages with aplomb. Illustrations.
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From Booklist

The extraordinary success of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2009) has spawned an entirely new genre. The publication of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (2009) and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2010) left readers wondering what famous figure or classic novel would be the subject of the next delightfully irreverent mash-up. Wonder no more, just sit back, relax, and prepare to consider Tolstoy's masterful Anna Karenina in a whole new light. Anyone who has ever delved into the works of the great Russian novelist knows that he was, first and foremost, a realist. Somehow Winters manages to pay homage to Tolstoy's pragmatic tone while investing this timeless, ill-fated love story with robots, cyborgs, androids, and a host of other familiar sf elements. As Anna and Count Vronsky embark on their scandalous affair, they must also battle a band of radical scientists intent on fomenting a revolution. When upstart machines rebel, adultery becomes the least of their problems. Although Tolstoy purists may sniff, the parallels to nineteenth-century Russia remain surprisingly true in this futuristic version of his timeless classic. Advise readers to suspend their disbelief and go along for the ride—most won't be disappointed. --Margaret Flanagan

More About the Author

Ben H. Winters is the author of seven novels, including Countdown City, a nominee for the Philip K. Dick Award, and The Last Policeman, which won an Edgar Award, was nominated for the Macavity Award for Best Mystery Novel, and was an Amazon.com Best Book of 2012. His other books include Bedbugs, Android Karenina, the New York Times bestseller Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, and the middle-grade novels The Mystery of the Everything and The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman, a Bank Street Best Book of 2011 and an Edgar Award nominee. Ben is also the author of many plays and musicals for children and adults, and he has written for national and local publications including the Chicago Tribune, Slate, and the Huffington Post. He lives in Indianapolis, Indiana, where he teaches at Butler Univsity, and he blogs at www.BenHWinters.com

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Rich Stoehr on June 21, 2010
Format: Paperback
I have to admit, I am remiss in my knowledge of Russian literature. To wit: I've never read 'Anna Karenina.' So what happens when the science-historical-fiction version 'Android Karenina' comes out? Dive right in, of course!

I wasn't sure what to expect. Even the previous Quirk Classics I'd read - 'Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters' and 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies' - didn't really prepare me for this. I knew the Jane Austen source material of the other two, but I didn't know Tolstoy.

I thought 'Android Karenina' might be funny, based on the others. Injecting zombies and ninjas into Austen's romances of culture was a wacky move, and at first blush adding robots and aliens into Tolstoy's tale of 19-century industrializing Russia would seem to be too. In the end it wasn't funny, but somehow it works.

'Android Karenina' is an alternate-history version of Russia seen through the lens of a vague sort of steampunk science, where the mysterious element of groznium makes advanced technology possible, everything from clean and efficient anti-gravity trains to simple mechanical aides (Class I robots) to semi-intelligent robotic companions (Class III robots). Interleaved with the science-fiction elements is a complex tale of romance and political intrigue involving multiple characters, locations, and walks of life across industrialized and robotically-enhanced Russia. From the dashing Count Vronsky to the sinister Alexei Karenin and his metallic, intelligent Face. From the honorable Levin to the tragic, yet strong, Anna Karenina and her beloved-companion, Android Karenina. From the simple Class Ones to the mythical Honored Guests, who will appear to humanity in three ways.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Tresillian on June 15, 2010
Format: Paperback
My taste in books runs to the ilk of Cold Mountain. I haven't read one single vampire book. I never read the Harry Potter Books and I never could get into fantasy books--including the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings! I guess I'm just a snob! When I began reading Ben H. Winters' mash-up of Android Karenina, my hopes were not high for a quick, light or funny read. Oddly enough, it was all three. Mash-ups are the latest thing in the literary world, mixing classics with new world monsters and demons. It's not really all that new; the music world has been doing it for ages. Mad Magazine used to rewrite the comics "as written by", If Al Capp wrote Brenda Starr and such like.

Tolstoy's Anna Karenina is the original high maintenance drama queen. She falls in love with a dashing soldier, deserts her husband and child for him and complains when he doesn't dote on her every minute of the day. We all know that Russian novels tend to have a gazillion characters, so what does Winters do? He adds more!

The author introduces us to the world of Groznium, which is the essential ingredient for the new classes of robots. There are Class I robots acting as toys, candles and self-extinguishing ashtrays. Class II robots perform the functions of domestics, train drivers and miners. Upon reaching their majority, the upper classes receive a Class III, a beloved-companion robot. That robot is part alter ego, part Jiminy Cricket, part personal valet/maid. They provide a memory bank and communication, as well as protect, groom, mimic, nudge and commiserate with their human counterparts. Eventually, we meet the humanoid Class IV robot, the ubiquitous "toy soldiers".

Count Vronsky's Class III is shaped like a wolf; Anna's is sveltely shaped but still robotic.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Arts Lover Karen on October 9, 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The title of this book was as impossible to resist as the question of whether anyone could successfully integrate robots into Tolstoy's era.

The placement of the robots is perfect: each is a servant and confidant to one of the main characters. The detailed descriptions give the robots distinct personalities, making them seem almost human. The robots' tasks and capabilities are futuristic, but not excessively so--they're more steampunk than Star Wars. It doesn't take much before they start to seem right at home.

And yet, with the story's wonderful setup, I hardly made it more than a few chapters into this book.

"Android Karenina" gives the impression of having been lovingly crafted by someone who knows and adores Tolstoy. Unfortunately, for the casual reader, that also leads to the book being difficult to read.

First, the length itself is Tolstoyan, at 500-plus pages. That's simply much too long for a satire, parody, or even a mashup (as one reader who finished the work says this is). Second, the style is as Tolstoyan as you would expect, with frequent detours into background description and a tendency to reference characters by ever-changing designations (given name, diminutive nickname, patronymic, and noble title and lineage). The descriptions make the plot maddeningly slow, and the naming conventions make distinguishing between new and recurring characters very difficult.

The language itself has the warm, cozy feeling of Tolstoy, but other parts of the style bog the reader down.

I gave up on the book before Android Karenina even appeared, and I fear this book will be a misfire for many.
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