When Quirk Classic came up with the idea of ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies‘ they probably had no idea how great of an idea the ‘classic’ novels might be. It spawned a few sequels, ‘Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters‘ and also this little science fiction themed gem ‘Android Karenina‘. Don’t expect the humor though found in Quirk’s previous mash up novels. In ‘Android Karenina‘ we follow a serious tone that parallels the original work of love and loss.
I had read ‘Anna Karenina‘ a long time ago in a lifetime far far away. It is one of Leo Tolstoy’s most known works and explores a wide range of themes from jealousy to marriage to social norms and more. While parts of the tale are firmly rooted in the Russian lifestyle of the time many aspects are able to be adopted by just about anyone. Ben Winters was able to take all of these ideas and have them shine through by taking the original tale and adding in Androids.
As in the original novel we follow two sets of characters. Anna Karenina and Count Alexei Vronsky are involved in an adulterous story while Konstantin Levin and Kitty Shcherbatskaya are looking to have a life full of happiness before them. While love and happiness is what both couples are striving for that is not something everyone gets a real shot at. While the world is set in a 19th century Russia there are a few changes. Steampunk is the influence here with more Androids than you would normally see and that works perfectly within the plot.
The robots themselves are set in 4 classes. The first is the basic class that works as simple animated objects such as self-extinguishing ashtrays. The second set of robots work as doing domestic chores from driving trains to mining. The third set of robots is reserved for the rich and are companion robots often shaped to resemble animals. They help to care for their owners and in fact are relied upon as their memories. Having to remember things for yourself is considered ‘lower class’ and is an entertaining parallel on how we rely on technology today. The final class which is the least seen at the introduction is the ‘soldier’ class.
While we have the two love stories playing out we learn a lot on how ‘this’ Russia is actually setup. While a society based around having robots to help in every level of it works amazingly well though not everyone is happy. There is a group known as UnConSciya who are known as terrorists within this land. They attack viciously and without warning and want to change the way that Russian society is being run.
It’s a very interesting take on the classic. I believe that the robotic aspect made it a much easier and more enjoyable read. It has quite a few interesting views on the various classes in this society as well as the original work’s views on love. Ben Winters took a classic and modernized it in a way that would be able to engage any reader.