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

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This time around, the penniless Dashwood ladies are sent to live in shanty on a small island. Not only must they deal with the fact that they are now poor and in need of wealthy husbands, but the nearby ocean is crawling with monstrous sea fare. The tentacle-faced Colonel Brandon has taken a bashful fancy to Marianne, who prefers the monster-killing Willoughby, while Elinor works her way into the heart of Edward Ferras. Can the Dashwood sisters find true love amid the violence of sea monsters and pirate-like enemies?

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters continues the same ideas of the previous novel in the "Jane Austen and monsters " series, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but goes a step further. Instead of relying on some overdone paranormal element, like vampires or werewolves, the editors at Quirk Classics decided to be a little more original and create their own element — "sea monsters." The sea monsters aspect of this novel is taken from all kinds of influences, ranging from Pirates of the Caribbean (evidenced by the Davy Jones-like look of Colonel Brandon), Jules Verne (thanks to a detour trip to a station on the bottom of the ocean), classical mythology and others. Some of the best things here don't even seem to be part of any specific genre, like giant jellyfish attacks, giant fighting lobsters and pet orangutans. In fact, my favorite scene is when the dashing Willoughby comes to Marianne's rescue. Instead of twisting her ankle and getting caught in the rain, Marianne is attacked by a giant octopus, which Willoughby harpoons, and is rescued — but not after being drenched in octopus blood and guts first, of course.

I began reading this book while hanging out with my boyfriend by the pool one afternoon. I kept laughing aloud so much that he had to ask what I was reading. After having to explain far too many scenes of over-the-top violence and insanity to him, I ended up reading several passages aloud, which sent both of us rolling in hysterics. Even my boyfriend, who isn't a big fan of Austen or classical literature, liked this.

This book was hilarious — even better than Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The ratio of silly to serious (sea monster to Sense and Sensibility) content has been amped up since Zombies. Instead of 85% Austen and 15% quirks, Sea Monsters has 60% Austen and 40% quirks, which opens the door for even more original adaptations of the classic.

While some hardcore fans of Austen's novels will continue to decry this line of books for altering classic literature, they have to admit that it's gotten better this time around. I'm a big fan of Austen's original works, and I found this revised version of Sense and Sensibility to be fresh and fun while still keeping true to original concepts and ideas in the original. Sure, Sea Monsters is even further away from the original than Zombies, but it allows for the sea monsters aspect to come alive instead of feeling like a pasted on afterthought to the original plot.

If you liked Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, than you will love Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. It's filled with the same creative zaniness that readers have come to expect from this line of Quirk Classics, but taken to a whole new level. Readers who were not particularly impressed by the zombie version of P&P, but thought it had potential, should try out the sea monster version of this other Jane Austen classic. It won't disappoint.

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