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. How the humans would ever form strong emotional attachments to such creatures escaped me, and such attachments are necessary for the robot abolition story to work. None of these robots ever came across as a strong character in their own right. The alien invasion seemed like it was thrown in merely to add one more strangeness to this world, and added little to the overall story.
The main story point of Anna's bittersweet love is still here and is still powerful, a tribute to Tolstoy's original genius. But for me, the new additions to the story did nothing to enhance the original, and in many places actively detracted from it.
---Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
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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? Even the transport system is going to be altered, so that you have to travel by steam powered trains. Is there no hope for anyone?
With beautiful illustrations by Eugene Smith there are some humourous sections in this book, but really this is a black comedy, and in some ways you could look on it as a satire of our modern world. Indeed are we becoming too reliant on technological devices and becoming dumbed down as a result? A great book to read, as well as to ponder over.
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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.