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Product details

  • Paperback: 538 pages
  • Publisher: Quirk Books,US (9 Jun 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594744602
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594744600
  • Product Dimensions: 13.4 x 3.6 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 175,301 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"We are still selling these titles well and while the trope will never rival the way Twilight has reintroduced vampires to the reading public, and brought many similar titles into the bestseller lists, its good fun while it lasts," said Jon Howells at Waterstones. "And Android Karenina is the funniest title yet." --The Guardian, 13 January 2010

"...Coalition literature sees the launch of Android Karenina. After the success of his previous mash-up Sense Sensibility and Sea Monsters - Ben H. Winters is publishing his own version of Tolstoys Anna Karenina, set in a dystopian world of robots and cyborgs..." --London Evening Standard, 17 May 2010

"The good folks at Quirk Books, whove brought you such classic mashups like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters have done it again. I bring you Android Karenina Tolstoy Steampunk style. This retelling of Tolstoys classic tale of love and betrayal brings us into an alternate version of 19th Century Russia full of amazing technology, adventure, and robots. Winters does an excellent job of blending the gloomy feel of Pre-Revolutionary Russia with futuristic technology and modernism creating a believable and interesting tale that feels familiar yet is deliciously different. The amazing illustrations only add to it. From the very first line of the story we know were in for an adventurous romp through the genres. Functioning Robots are all alike; every malfunctioning robot malfunctions in its own way. Like in the original, we follow the torrid affairs of Anna Karenina with Count Alexei Vronsky and Nikolai Levin with Princess Kitty Shcherbatskaya. This version adds a new layer trouble brewing between man and machine and scientific revolutionaries who act against the upper-class. Our couples must use all their resources and technology to save their world in this sci-fi meets steampunk in this alternate classic. The Iron Laws of Robot Behavior are well thought out and if you think hard enough could be an analogy for the socialist and moral laws governing our own behavior and what could happen if theyre broken. The interactions between the characters and their android companions are fun and some of the most creative bits in the story. Perhaps if Tolstoy had grown up reading Asimov he may have written something like this himself..." --Steampress, May 2010

Android Karenina is the latest outlandish literary parody and, as in the original novel, the story follows two relationships: The tragic adulterous love affair of Anna Karenina and Count Alexei Vronsky, and the more hopeful marriage of Nikolai Levin and Princess Kitty Shcherbatskaya. These characters live in a steampunk-inspired world of robotic butlers, clumsy automatons and rudimentary mechanical devices. But when these copper-plated machines begin to revolt against their human masters, the 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. Filled with the same blend of romance, drama and fantasy that made the first two Quirk Classics into New York Times best sellers, Android Karenina takes this series into the exciting world of science fiction. Literary types will no doubt be outraged but the success of these imaginatively reinterpreted stories will introduce many people, especially the young, to the original books. Functioning robots are all alike; every malfunctioning robot malfunctions in its own way. ...New Classics, August, 2010.... As in the original novel, Android Karenina follows two relationships the tragic adulterous love affair of Anna Karenina and Count Alexei Vronsky and the more hopeful marriage of Nikolai Levin and Princess Kitty Shcherbatskaya. However, these characters live in a Steampunk-inspired world of robotic butlers, --Den of Geek, August, 2010

Android Karenina is the latest outlandish literary parody and, as in the original novel, the story follows two relationships: The tragic adulterous love affair of Anna Karenina and Count Alexei Vronsky, and the more hopeful marriage of Nikolai Levin and Princess Kitty Shcherbatskaya. These characters live in a steampunk-inspired world of robotic butlers, clumsy automatons and rudimentary mechanical devices. But when these copper-plated machines begin to revolt against their human masters, the 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. Filled with the same blend of romance, drama and fantasy that made the first two Quirk Classics into New York Times best sellers, Android Karenina takes this series into the exciting world of science fiction. Literary types will no doubt be outraged but the success of these imaginatively reinterpreted stories will introduce many people, especially the young, to the original books. Functioning robots are all alike; every malfunctioning robot malfunctions in its own way. ...New Classics, August, 2010.... As in the original novel, Android Karenina follows two relationships the tragic adulterous love affair of Anna Karenina and Count Alexei Vronsky and the more hopeful marriage of Nikolai Levin and Princess Kitty Shcherbatskaya. However, these characters live in a Steampunk-inspired world of robotic butlers, clumsy automatons and rudimentary mechanical devices. And when the copper-plated machines begin to revolt against their human masters, the characters must fight back using state-of-the-art technology and a sleek new model of ultra-human cyborgs ... --Lincolnshire Echo, August, 2010

in the hands of Ben H. Winters, who is a veteran of the mash-up game with the previous mash up Sense And Sensibility And Sea Monsters under his belt, Quirk seems to have found a balance between the added content and the recycled plot, characters, and setting. Either that or Tolstoy is the perfect framework for steampunk. Possibly a little of both. Really, Tolstoy's characters, bored amoral aristocracy with money troubles, neuroses, and a surplus of leisure time are the end result of a mechanized society or of one based off of cheap peasant labor. I mean, look at what's happened to the Western world thanks to the economic downturn? Everyone's crazy and depressed and broke, unemployment is rampant. The only difference is we don't have robots to hug when we feel depressed, like the folks in Android Karenina do. Those robots, given affectionate nicknames like Small Stiva and Socrates by their owners, function as sort of a butler/confidant/smartphone hybrid, and in the generations since the discovery of the miracle metal groznium, they have become invaluable to their owners. Some might contend that all the dependence on technology and robots is a moral weakness. Some, like the terrorist group UnConSciya, are worried that the government's control over the robotics industry is dangerous. Others, like Levin the groznium miner, deplore the physical weakness that robots engender in their owners and would prefer a simpler time when a man could work with his hands alongside his Class II robots. Android Karenina, like the book it came from, is a sprawling effort, with lots of characters, lots of different subplots going on, and lots of content within its 542 pages. The addition of aliens and ray guns only adds to the intrigue (and gives Tolstoy's long-winded characters someone to talk to other than themselves during the book's long soliloquies). If anything, the sci-fi elements add to the book's feelings of isolation and inhumanity, rather than detract from it. It's a setting that actually works better with the added elements. Rather than the comedy derived from mixing Jane Austen and zombies in the earlier works, it heightens Tolstoy's existing themes. Amazing, right? While I enjoyed Pride And Prejudice And Zombies, and the winking sense of fun they had, the idea of adding to the book, rather than poking fun at it is actually very appealing to me. It's not going to make me go out and read Tolstoy's original works, but it does fill me with respect for the man that his themes remain timeless, and can be adapted to pretty much any genre of literature, no matter how pulp. It's strange. Upon reading Android Karenina, I was struck at just how well Tolstoy's realism worked with the unreal technology provided by groznium. However, all the trappings, from electric lights to long-distance communication via video screen, are put together in such a way that the focus isn't on the technology, but still on the characters. Yes, there are robots, but they're added into the text so gracefully that, after the first few pages, you can accept their presence and accept them as metallic replacement serfs within with late 1800's Russia. I'm not sure how Quirk could top this one. This is quite possibly the definitive mash-up novel. It adds to the source incredibly skillfully. Steampunk and Tolstoy go so well together that I'm not sure any future Quirk Classics mash-ups could match this one. Put aside your fears. Android Karenina is a great read. ... --Den of Geek, August, 2010

About the Author

Leo Tolsoy, the author of "War and Peace," has been called the most brilliant master of realistic fiction in all literary history. He lived in Russia. Ben H. Winters collaborated with Jane Austen on the "New York Times "best seller "Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters." He lives in Brooklyn.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Shepherd on 23 Oct 2010
Format: Paperback
This book is part of a series of works that take classic works of literature and add a modern, quirky science-fictional or fantasy interpretation to them. In this case, Tolstoy's classic tale of true love in late 19th century Russia is transformed to a setting of an alternate today, where each adult has his/her own personal companion robot (class 3's), along with myriad lower level mechanical wonders (the class 2s and 1s) that do many of the more menial tasks, all powered by the discovery of 'groznium'.

True to the original, and like most Russian works, the story is complete with a myriad of names for each character - including a whole new category of names for the robots. Many readers have some trouble with aspect of Russian works, finding it difficult to keep track of who's who, but for this work, after about the first thirty pages or so, this problem seems to fade into the background, and I had little trouble keeping everyone straight.

While the basic plot of Anna falling in love with a soldier and deserting her husband remains from the original, there are several major additions: a movement to free the robots from their virtual slavery, a plan by Anna's husband to control the world, and an invasion by aliens. Some of these additions work well, mainly that of Anna's husband, as it adds a strong layer of emotional depth to the character that I never found in the original.

However, the other sub-plots don't work as well. Freeing the robots seemed almost trivial, without any large emotional freighting, mainly because of what I felt was the weakest point of the book, the portrayal of the companion robots themselves. Most of these were shown as barely more than clockwork toys, with very limited response mechanisms for interactions with their masters.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By M. Dowden HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 26 Jun 2010
Format: Paperback
I swore I would never read one of these books again. I have read P&P and Zombies, as well as S&S and Sea Monsters, but I was proud of myself that I didn't get or read P&P and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls. I thought that I was over my buying of these books when those canny Quirklings decided to come out with this. I just couldn't help myself, not expecting anything that was particualrly great or that I would even finish this.

Lets face it Anna Karenina is a masterpiece of realism, it is considered to be the perfect novel and is undisputably one of the greatest books that has ever been written, and to be honest I don't see how it can ever be surpassed. Quirk Classics are mash-ups of literary classics that just add blood, gore and humour to already great novels, but here they have taken the whole mash-up idea to whole new levels. Purists probably won't touch this book with a barge pole and will demand that it be burned, and those who usually read these types of books may feel threatened by being coerced into reading one of the world's greatest masterpieces, but it is well worth the read.

Taking Anna Karenina, Ben H Winters has added elements of Alien, Terminator and to a degree 1984 to create something that is a great read. With the finding of Groznium Russia is the greatest technological nation on earth, but things start to take a change when Anna's husband becomes taken over and possessed by part of his face, that is robotic. With aliens on the loose, and Karenin seeking to take control, Russians find that their new technologies are being removed and they have to go back to the old way of things. Human servants just aren't as good, and what about your android companions who take all the stress out of life?
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0 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mark H on 12 Sep 2010
Format: Paperback
A brilliant book for.....propping open door, holding down lighter objects, swatting wasps and,once read, putting on the fire.
The book was dull, boring and I really wish I had not wasted my time finishing it. Its the only one of the Quirk Classics I have not enjoyed. Just to make it even worse the binding failed and all the pages came apart.
I have never burned a book before but this one is on the fire!!! I would not even bother giving it shelf space.
Save your money, dont buy it. Tou would have more fun watching paint dry.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 58 reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
From an unsullied (or perhaps ignorant) perspective... 22 Jun 2010
By Rich Stoehr - Published on Amazon.com
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. All have their tale to tell, all are represented fairly, all will have their effect on the others, and with a satisfying, even surprising conclusion.

Is the symbolism of class structure and technology and oppression a little heavy-handed at times? To be sure, it is. Conflicts which might have been rendered with subtlety and nuance are made overt and obvious here, as giant robot armored suits battle for superior rank and metallic worms lurk beneath the ground, to appear in times of strife. But I'm sure that's the point - to take the finer themes of the original work and poke them to see where they hurt. To brings what's under the surface to new light, to give us a new way to look at an old story.

I haven't read 'Anna Karenina,' so perhaps I am a poor judge of the humor or the worth or the value of this book. What I know is that 'Android Karenina' was a tale well-told, and I enjoyed it. The additions of new elements - robots and technology and aliens - were done with care and integrated well. From my perspective, I now find it hard to imagine the same story told without those elements. And that, to me, means they took this one a little more seriously than the others. This one didn't strike my funny bone so much, but it did at times excite the imagination.

But that's me.

What's next for Quirk Classics? 'War and Peace and Werewolves,' perhaps? 'Of Mice and Magic?' Whatever it is, I'll definitely be watching with interest.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
A Quick Tolstory 15 Jun 2010
By Tresillian - Published on Amazon.com
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. Anna's husband, Alexei, has a robot that takes form as a partial face, a la Phantom of the Opera. It is quite clear from the beginning that the face will be not only urging but also dictating Karenin's actions. Alexei is extremely important in the Higher Branches of the Ministry of Robotics. He controls all the robots and protects the populace from the UnConSkia terrorists, former state scientists who threaten Russian's utopian way of life.

The true marvel of this mash-up is the way the author flips the events thoroughly and seamlessly from Czarist Russia to something more akin to 1984. The religious enthusiasts are now Xenotheologists who believe "They will come for us in three ways" and those ways are in the form of hellhounds to delight any fan of Star Wars sand creatures. Vronsky's English stallion, Frou Frou, becomes an exterior, a sort of suit of armor, for the cull--a steeplechase in which the contestants must eliminate each other. Anna will still destroy herself, not under a train, but beneath the Grav, which runs on an electrical force across a magnetic field. Ben H.Winters, playwright, librettist and author of the immensely popular Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters connects all of Tolstoy's dots in the cleverly bizarre world he has created and he transforms a Russian novel into a reasonably demented work of science fiction.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A Delightful Read, Anna Karenina as Steampunk (sorta) 24 Aug 2010
By Michael Demeritt - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Just for the record: I have never read Anna Karenina, or the prior Quirk publication of some fame, Pride & Prejudice & Zombies.

This is a big book, 538 pages with a handful of illustrations. It is too large a tome to spend a lot of time in this forum to go over plot, so I made a challenge to myself. How can I sum up this seven part effort, where any one part is greater in size than many books published today, in a single sentence. Here we go... Android Karenina details lives of Anna Karenina and her sister-in-law Kitty, their men, their families, and their beloved class three robots in an alternate-world Russia of the late 1800's where a wonderful metal called groznium has allowed society to make machines of incredible capacity, centering on the effects of Anna's betrayal of her powerful, and power mad, half-mechanized husband Alexei Alexandrovich when she chooses her lover, Vronsky, over her duty to family.

When I got Android Karenina for review I was skeptical. I pre-anticipated a sci-fi story wedged into a Tolstoy romance and did not foresee anything working well in that admixture, but Ben H. Winters surprised me with a really enjoyable collision of the worlds. In fact, I was enjoying the myriad of robots, the religious faith in aliens, the descriptions of "beloved companion" class three robots like the name sake Android Karenina so much that when the book fell too deeply into the lamentations and joyful reverence about love and loving, I started to miss them greatly. His efforts to keep many sci-fi things vague, like Groznium (we don't know why the metal is so good at making machines, it just is), Smokers (just like in Star Wars, they shoot rays and never seem to run out of ammo), the Moon Cannon (its how you get to the moon base, or the Venus orbiter - it just gets you there, no time for details), or how a little robot can have a reactor inside it that is so hot it can melt bigger robots but yet not melt itself. A sense of humor is required to enjoy this version of Anna Karenina, much as the publisher's name (Quirk) implies.

For me this mandate is summed up in the very first line of the book, which for the Tolstoy only version is so famous I knew it without knowing it came from Tolstoy: "Functioning robots are all alike; every malfunctioning robot malfunctions in its own way." If you find that brings a slight smile to your lips, you are ready for Android Karenina. There is a familiarity in almost all of the sci-fi elements, feeling almost borrowed from popular movies and placed in a really unexpected setting, that I think will serve well if you are trying to get younger male minds (not too young, this book has some grim moments - say 13+) to read literature without thinking they are reading literature.

I was particularly fond of the way Winter's handled Tolstoy's complicated Russian names. It is explained in a foreword that such names have four parts, the given name, the father derived middle name, the family name, and the nick name. Tolstoy bounces around all these names so much that it takes a while to understand that "Stepan", "Oblonsky", "Arkadyich", Stepan Arkadyich", "Stepan Oblonsky", "Arkadyich Oblonsky" and "Stiva" are all the same guy, Anna's brother, Stepan Arkadyich Oblonsky. His class three robot is called "Little Stiva". All class threes are custom built for one person, and should they outlive that person they become "junkers". How to treat these machines that share such emotional weight with their owners is a key part of the story, summed up in a phrase "The Robot Question". All machines of Groznium design, however, have three names as well - starting with their class. This makes for great fun while reading Android Karenina meeting such "things" as a II/Porter/7e62 or using a I/butterchurn/19.

The last two parts of the seven part book are shakey - suddenly we are rushing when we never rushed before - but the overall effect of this blending of Sci-Fi and Lit should appeal to anyone fond of robot stories, those into the steam-punk world (substitute Groznium for the steam), and any Tolstoy fan with a sense of humor. A very delightful read.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Fantastic idea, but the execution was overkill 9 Oct 2011
By Arts Lover Karen - Published on Amazon.com
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. Those who love Tolstoy are sure to admire the writing technique and effect, but may have little patience for the notion of reworking this famous novel. Those who love parody, satire, or simply creative reinterpretation may find, as I did, that any joke wears thin when it is dragged out too long. I would have loved to read a 200-300-page version of this same idea, but at its current length I am doomed to miss out on any genius that might be waiting farther along.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Another Classic Quirk Classics 9 Jun 2010
By J.B. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I first became interested in Quirk Classic when like many others I read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I instantly became a fan after reading the second book published by them, PPZ "Dawn of the Dreadfuls". My biggest flaw with the original PPZ was that it was very obvious where parts were added into the original text.

Android Darenina very easily blurs the line between the original and the newly added robot version. The two stories blend flawlessly making a very interesting tale of a modern Russia filled with robots, affairs, and rebels seeking scientific freedom. The story flows and keeps the readers attention easily, despite a rather long list of complicated Russian names which the author constantly switches between first, middle, last, and nicknames. The name scheme would be my only big complaint. However this book brings a classic back to life in a relatable way so that a new generation can be introduced to a historic novel. If you are a fan of Quirk Classic this is a must buy!
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