Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Jane Austen and Ben Winters is another mash-up of classic fiction and fantasy. The basic story is the same as the Marianne and Elinor deal with abject poverty, searching for love and affection, and relatives who are less than pleasant, while at the same time navigating their sisterly relationship. The twist is that sea monsters have taken control of the water and attack humans daring to cross the sea or live below it in Sub-Station Beta.
"Colonel Brandon, the friend of Sir John, suffered from a cruel affliction, the likes of which the Dashwood sisters had heard of, but never seen firsthand. He bore a set of long, squishy tentacles protruding grotesquely from his face, writhing this way and that, like hideous living facial hair of slime green." (Page 37)
Readers will either enjoy reading a mash-up of Jane Austen's work with its fantastical and historically inaccurate elements (i.e. the existence of wet suits, submarines, and underwater domes where people live and work) or they will throw the book aside as ridiculous. The trouble with these genre benders is that they often polarize readers in one camp or another. Unlike Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which merely inserts new sentences to achieve the goal of making the Bennets zombie slayers, Winters creates a story nearly all his own, but using Austen's Dashwood sisters.
"'It is impossible that she did not know,' Sir John answered, 'For a sister to a sea witch is certain to be a sea witch herself.' . . . 'As I said, the witches take the physical form of human women,' explained Sir John. 'There is nothing they can do about their personalities.'" (Page 320)
By remaking Austen's world and threatening the characters in it with deranged sea monsters, Winters takes a number of liberties with the text, although he does maintain Austen's style for the most part. However, unlike Grahame-Smith's mash-up where readers discover how the Bennets became skillful zombie slayers, the mysterious Sub-Station Beta and its "experiments" are not revealed or even hinted at for most of the book. This flaw can make it difficult for readers to continue reading this adventure because so much is unknown and the readers are scrambling in the dark as characters run from monsters, play games, chat while being attacked by monsters, bring up mysterious smoking mountains and five-pointed stars, and generally seem to shrug off the danger.
Overall, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters resembles the dangers of other sea-faring novels -- even 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea -- and mixes it with ramped up social commentary a la Jane Austen. The latter half of the novel is the most action packed and is almost hurried along. But by the end, readers get swept up in adventure, myth, and outrageous challenges and have nothing to do but enjoy the ride.
To Enter to win 1 copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith and 1 copy of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Jane Austen and Ben Winters: (This giveaway is global)
1. Leave a comment on this post about what Austen novel mash-up you want to see next.
2. Leave a comment on my review of Pride & Prejudice and Zombies.
3. Blog, Tweet, Facebook, etc. and leave a comment with a link on this post.
Deadline is Feb. 19, 2010, at 11:59 PM EST
Ben Allen H. Winters is a writer who lives in Brooklyn with all the other writers.
FTC Disclosure: I received a free copy of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters from the FSB Associates and the publisher for review. Clicking on title links or images will bring you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary.
This is my 3rd book for the 2010 Jane Austen Challenge.
This is my 10th book for the 2010 New Authors Reading Challenge.