Even before the astounding success of Quirk Classics’s literary mash-up novel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Quirk Books recruited writer Ben H. Winters to begin work on a follow-up, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Ben proceeded to immerse himself not only in Jane Austen’s original novel — working to imitate her style and diction — but also in various other works that served as inspiration for creating the seaside landscape and various imaginative sea monsters that beset Austen’s characters throughout Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.
Winters’s hard work is amply rewarded, as readers will inevitably discover. Arguably, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters had the potential to be little more than a hastily constructed follow-up to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies intended to milk the mash-up genre’s sudden popularity; however, Winters succeeds in creating a truly unique work that is more than deserving of the widespread attention surrounding the novel’s greatly-anticipated national release yesterday.
Maintaining 60% of Austen’s original text, Winters chose to leave the majority of the plot of Austen’s novel in place, opting instead to change the locale of the story’s action to an area more suitable to the proliferation of sea monsters and to find unique ways of incorporating killer swordfish, giant serpents, and massive man-eating jellyfish. The characters, too, remain the same, although Col. Brandon has undergone a significant transformation that, as the book’s cover reveals, has left him with some extremely interesting — and slimy — facial appendages. Col. Brandon’s transformation for Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters will prove a delight for contemporary readers as it serves as a very blatant reason for the other characters’ hesitation in embracing him. Regardless of Col. Brandon’s appearance, his involvement with Marianne Dashwood — as well as the other infamous romantic entanglements that helped to make Sense and Sensibility the classic it is today — remain intact in Winters’s novel — good news for hopeless romantics and Austen fans alike!
Using in particular Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea as inspiration for the type of language and terminology Austen might have used to describe the events that unfold in Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, Winters’s seamlessly integrated text transplants Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters from Barton Cottage, where the four women must live after the unfortunate demise of Mr. Henry Dashwood, to a small, inhospitable island on the coast of England aptly named Pestilence Island. Similarly, it is not London where the eldest Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne, spend the fashionable season; rather, the two accompany Mrs. Jennings to a magnificent underwater playground called Submarine Station Beta where they are able to escape their tiny shack on Pestilence Island, and the foggy and mysterious landscape that surrounds it. Much to the girls’ delight, Submarine Station Beta offers all manner of privileged individuals a variety of amusements that even London cannot rival: the station’s inhabitants can spend their time attending pirate-themed costume parties, watching trained giant lobsters perform various feats for their amusement, or simply perusing the fascinating and exotic items for sale in the submarine station’s market.
Overall, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters is an addictive tale of love, longing, and… massive tentacle creatures bent on the destruction of mankind. Much to my delight, Ben Winters has succeeded in creating a valuable homage to Jane Austen that every classic literature and Jane Austen fan should read. Austen’s original text lends itself surprisingly well to such an adaptation, and combined with Winters’s creativity and hard work, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters may even surpass its mash-up predecessor. It will be extremely interesting to see where Austen and Winters’ novel falls on the New York Times Bestseller list over the coming weeks. In the meantime, I strongly recommend that you pick up a copy at your local bookstore and dive right in!