7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Clever But Unsatisfying,
This review is from: Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I picked up Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters (S&S&S) mostly out of curiosity. I had read Quirk Book's first 'Austen Mash Up', Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance-now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem! (Quirk Classics), and found it to be, as my review said, a 'A Disjointed, One Joke Effort' that just about scraped two stars. I was interested therefore, to see if trying the same trick with a slightly less well known Austen novel, a different sci-fi genre and a new co-author would result in a more successful outcome.
It turns out that it does, but only just. S&S&S is certainly a better written book than P&P&Z was. The original Austen text and Ben Winter's aquatic mayhem are far better integrated this time around. Whereas P&P&Z felt like Austen's novel with chunks of zombie related action sort of 'tacked on' here and there, the old and new parts of S&S&S are more closely and cleverly intertwined and Winter is far better at aping Austen's style of writing so that the additions are less jarring. S&S&S is also funnier than P&P&Z, although its by no means a work of comedic genius. The latter took essentially what was a single joke and stretched it to breaking point, whereas S&S&S riffs on a variety of genres such as monster movies, pirate adventures and steam punk. It also makes more successful use of the humour that stems naturally from the odd juxtaposition of Austen's writing with attacks from giant fish monsters. Whilst never subtle S&S&S is a far more cleverly written book than P&P&Z.
What it isn't however, is a very satisfying book. S&S&S is certainly not an improvement on the original novel or a particularly good tale of monsters and mayhem in its own right. Winters additions weaken many of the strengths of Austen's original work. The changes made to Austen's text mean that you know longer really care about the fates of the characters and much of the social observation and commentary is lost. Equally the compromises needed to fit the new parts of the book around the existing plot mean that the book doesn't work as a straight horror or comic-horror story. Its amusing in place and gory in others, but not to the extent that it can be recommended for either its horror or comic credentials alone.
All of which leaves me wondering what the purpose of these books is (Quirk have a third on the way). Die hard Austen fans will probably hate them for the changes made to the original text. Sci-fi and horror fans will find the new additions rather insipid. Those who dislike Austen's unaltered novels will be put off by quantity of the original text and plot that remains. For everyone else the sheer ridiculousness of both the concept and events on the page will prevent the book from being anything more than a midly humorous diversion. Its interesting to see what changes Winter's has made to the original novel but at the end you don't feel like you've read a proper, emotionally satisfying tale. Instead its more like you've witnessed an interesting but rather uninvolving literary and comic experiment.