Reviewed by Cal Cleary
The second in Quirk Books’ line of classic re-imaginings, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, by Jane Austen and Ben Winters (replacing Seth Grahame-Smith), follows the same general idea of previous best-seller Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: take a beloved Jane Austen novel, keep the linguistic style, general plot and dialogue, and introduce mass carnage. It worked well once, and it was already gimmicky. The question is, can lightning strike twice?
Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters coasts extensively on Austen’s original text, reintroducing readers to the beauty of her language and the romance of her plotting while sliding new elements in as obtrusively as humanly possible. The key to the project is mass appeal, and Austen’s most famous novel combined with one of the most popular modern monsters had a bit more of that than Austen’s second most famous novel with generic sea monsters. Fortunately, it also gives Winters significantly more creative freedom than Grahame-Smith had, which he relishes in using.
Though this largely works in the book’s favor, introducing a crazy variety of beasts and gleefully throwing predictability out the window, Winters occasionally goes a bit too far afield in pursuit of a laugh. Winters alters significantly more of this text than Grahame-Smith did with Pride and Prejudice, adding in new subplots and, to the book’s detriment, just about everything else he can imagine that is even loosely tied to the term ‘Sea Monsters’. It may come as some surprise to those who bought into the series for the humor and the action, but the further the book strays from Austen’s original text, the weaker it becomes.
Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters remains an enjoyable spiritual sequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, successfully combining Austen’s gorgeous language and excellent plotting with increasingly bizarre (and undeniably fun) scenes of sea-related mayhem. Purists will be angry that even more of Austen’s work was thrown out for this entry, but most others will find themselves having a strangely good time.
Cal is a young, underemployed librarian and a frequent contributor to Read/RANT comic book reviews. He’s currently living in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, with his family and using the post-grad-school grace period to read and write as much as he can.
This book was provided free of any obligation by FSB Media. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.