Sunday, April 8, 2012

Book Review: Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, by Ben H. Winters

First up, I need to tell you that my review is probably not going to be entirely objective as I'm a little bit over the whole parody or mashed-up classics genre. I was amused by it at first; Pride and Prejudice and Zombies tickled my funny bone, and Jane Slayre was also quite good. There have also been excellent mash-ups in other mediums, such as Wicked, the musical that re-writes the story of the famous Wizard of Oz character, the Wicked Witch of the West (East??), and I'm also a big fan of Robin Hood: Men in Tights (27 viewings and counting!).  But by the time I made it to Sense and Sensibilty and Sea Monsters I had reached the point of saturation.

In the second place, I was never all that fond of Sense and Sensibility to begin with. It always seemed a little bit meh to me. So I'm probably not the best person to be writing this review, but because I committed to it I shall subject the interwebs to it anyway! Also, I really don't know what I expected to happen, given this set of circumstances. I suppose I was setting myself up for failure.

*pauses*

...Gosh, I'm bored already! And I just remembered that I started writing this once before, and was so uninspired by it that I stopped writing. Writing is supposed to be fun for me, not a chore. I could just link this to Wiki and walk away, but I'm going to take the higher road. It hurrrrrts :(

Okay, so basically the entire thing takes place in the same time period as the original, but something called The Alteration has occurred. The Alteration means that aquatic life have it in for human beings, so living close to the coast is considered to be quite dangerous, what with attacks from giant squid and the like. The whole thing has a bit of a nautical theme going on.

Upstanding citizen Colonel Brandon now has tentacles coming out of his face that quiver when he becomes emotional or impassioned (cue a whole lot of phallic jokes), and carefree cad Willoughby is now a treasure hunter and gets about wearing wetsuit and flippers with a pet chimpanzee by his side (yeah, I don't really get it either). He attracts the attention of the Dashwood sisters when he rescues one of them when she falls into a creek and is attacked by a (presumably freshwater) octopus. Same as in the original, she falls in love with him and he allows her to, even though he is betrothed to another AND has a bit of a Past. Told you he was a cad. A rogue, even!

At some point the whole cast is removed to Submarine Station Beta (one presumes this = London) to liven things up a bit. Submarine Station Beta is where the upper classes go for their holidays and it also doubles as a locale for scientific experimentation on the marine life that are continually attempting to murder humans. It is a giant glass dome at the bottom of the sea and they even have circus-style performances where they show the citizens how well they have "tamed" the beasts of the deep. Every now and then it goes horribly wrong.

Long story short, the marine life figure out how to get into the dome - they chip away at the glass until it cracks - and everyone is forced to return to the surface. Cue epic voyage with pirates, and Colonel Brandon being a hero.

It's quite... meh. There are quite a few similarities to the original, for instance, one of the daughters being unable to marry the man she loves because of class divisions; the Dashwoods are still kicked out of their home by their half brother and his new wife; and Colonel Brandon still has a ward who was wronged by Willoughby (although this involved seducing her and then burying her up to the neck in sand and left to find her own way out). But I find it a lot easier to transport my imagination to the world of vampires (Jane Slayre) and zombies (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) than to a world of sea monsters. There were also quite a few plot devices that I feel were not well enough exploited. If you find it in a bargain bin, then sure. If you're a bit desperate at the airport then go for it. But if, like me, you're not a big fan of the original, I probably wouldn't bother.

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