Dreadlocksmile's Reviews > Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Ben H. Winters
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Following on from the instant cult success of the tongue-in-cheek adaptation of Jane Austin’s classic novel with ‘Pride And Prejudice And Zombies’ (with adaptations by Seth Grahame-Smith), came Philadelphia-based publishing house, Quirk Classics’ second such literary adaptation, this time with ‘Sense And Sensibility And Sea Monsters’.

Utilising this newly fangled concept of carving up a classic piece of literature to make way for a more B-Movie-esque style of writing, Quirk editorial director Jason Rekulak struck absolute gold, with an eager audience ready to lap up the next Quirk instalment into this imaginative new genre.

‘Pride And Prejudice And Zombies’ was received incredibly well right from the start of its initial release. However, it became apparent to the publishers that the fanbase for these surreal re-workings wanted a higher percentage of new (monster laden) text. Whereby ‘Zombies’ incorporated a mere fifteen percent of new text, ‘Sea Monsters’ ladled in a massive forty odd percent of fishy frolics into the mix.

For those who don’t already know the classic story by Jane Austin, here it is in a nutshell:

The whole story sets off with the unfortunate death of a Mr. Dashwood, whereby he leaves the entirety of the family estate to his only son and child from his first wife, John Dashwood. John is convinced by his greedy wife Fanny to rid their newly acquired property of its current occupants - his three half-sisters (Elinor, Marianne and Margaret) as well as his recently widowed step-mother. The Dashwood women soon take up residence with Mrs Dashwood’s wealthy and eccentric cousin Sir John Middleton. Whist adjusting themselves to their new lifestyles, the two sisters, Elinor and Marianne, find themselves experiencing both joyful romance and utter heartbreak. Love and lasting happiness is eventually achieved for both sisters after they each find equilibrium between the two contrasting characteristics that are so predominant between the two sisters; Elinor guided by her sense (logic) and Marianne who in turn is guided by her sensibility (emotion).

With this overall storyline already in place, all of the basic elements and characters are kept completely intact with Ben H. Winter’s mashed-up reworking. However, the surreal inclusion of his ‘aquatic imaginings’ of often Lovecraftian proportions to the entirety of the storyline, brings a whole new angle (and dare I say ‘life’) to the tale.

Instead of simply being too long in his years, Colonel Brandon is now not only a gentleman of fine wealth and good manners, but now he has been inflicted with a mass of tentacles that adorn his otherwise human face (as well as other regions). Throughout the novel Winters plays with the original text of the tale in similar such ways, as well as introducing his sea monster attacks during the moments when the character’s emotions are at breaking point. This doubled-up approach of mirroring the emotional peril with a B-movie monster attack at each point in the tale, delivers a thoroughly entertaining but doubly surreal element to the book. On so many occasions, Winters valiantly tackles the character’s altogether important dialogue with a gigantic aquatic attack at exactly the same moment. Hats off to the man, for each and every time he juggles these two dramatic elements with nothing short of an imaginative and truly inspired flare.

The novel as a whole runs smoothly throughout, with the light-hearted alterations never taking themselves too seriously. As the tale builds towards its traumatic finale, the inclusion of the ‘Captain Barbossa’ style pirate ‘Dreadbeard’, is brilliantly comical. With so much emotional turmoil crashing down on the characters, Winters throws in a litany of sea monster mayhem in these final chapters, bringing the aquatic menace to gigantic proportions.

The cunning change of setting from London to the underwater city of Sub-Marine Station Beta, created a whole new opportunity for Winters to weave in his chaotic deep sea devilry. Whilst Elinor and Marianne are suffering their individual emotional heartbreaks all those leagues under the sea, Margaret in turn is dealing with a much darker Lovcraftian-esque affair.

All in all this imaginative reworking has managed to successfully inject some satirical b-movie mayhem to a previously untouched classic. Ok, so the whole concept behind these re-workings will certainly not be to everyone’s taste. But Quirk Classics have really found themselves a niche market to exploit, that as long as it never takes any of what it is doing too seriously (which is highly unlikely), then it has a rich new ground to sow many seeds of sheer imagination.

‘Sense And Sensibility And Sea Monsters’ is a brilliant way to spend a number of hours chuckling at imagination run riot. The re-working’s not designed to be ripped apart, nor indeed analysed for its overall impact on the emotional ordeals of Elinor and Marianne. Instead, it’s exactly what the title proclaims. Nothing more and nothing less. And I for one bore a huge grin throughout each and every one of the 340 tentacle infested pages.

The book also contains fourteen black and white illustrations interspersed throughout the novel, usually of the more dramatic (and therefore sea monster heavy) moments. A ‘Reader’s Discussion Guide’ is also included at the end of the book that includes ten purely tongue-in-cheek questions that could be used as discussion points on the novel’s content. There is also a quick excerpt from ‘Pride And Prejudice And Zombies’ over the last four pages of the book.

The final icing on the cake is the excellent cover artwork painted by Lars Leetaru that appears on the front of the book. This one painting truly captures the essence of what the Quirk re-workings are all about.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
November 10, 2009 – Shelved
November 10, 2009 – Finished Reading

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