Booklicious: Robots and Russian Lit: Yes, It's Yet Another Quirk Classic

January 14, 2010


They're at it again. Quirk Books just started another author spinning in his grave with the announcement that Anna Karenina will become the fourth book to receive their controversial mash-up treatment. It has been rechristened Android Karenina and given a release date of June 6. 

From Quirk: "As in the original novel, our story follows two relationships: The tragic adulterous love affair of Anna Karenina and Count Alexei Vronsky, and the more hopeful marriage of Nikolai Levin and Princess Kitty Shcherbatskaya. These characters live in a steampunk-inspired world of robotic butlers, clumsy automatons, and rudimentary mechanical devices. But when these copper-plated machines begin to revolt against their human masters, our characters must fight back using state-of-the-art 19th-century technology—and a sleek new model of ultra-human cyborgs like nothing the world has ever seen."

Quirk has ordered a print run of 200,000 copies and clearly hopes to repeat the New York Times-bestselling success of its first two releases, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Its third title, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls, goes on sale March 23. 

I don't see Android Karenina repeating the success of Quirk's first two offerings, honestly. Austen commands almost a cult-like following, whereas Tolstoy and his works are, well, a bit too Russian for that nonsense (see photo). Argued to be the Western world's greatest writer, Tolstoy stands removed from the warm-and-fuzzy writing fray, and I would bet a sizeable stack of cash that far fewer people have managed to get through Anna Karenina than P&P. (See? It's perfectly acceptable to abbreviate Pride and Prejudice - but can you imagine pulling that with Tolstoy? Calling it Anna K. or A.Kar is as unthinkable as calling your local priest "Pop.") 

I also suspect Austen would have taken the adaptation better than Tolstoy, who was reported to be rather curmudgeonly:
"American poet, novelist and critic Jay Parini, author of The Last Station - a novel about Tolstoy's final days - said the author would have been 'horrified by the notion of changing his work in absurd ways for the purposes of amusement. He was not a man with a sense of humour,' Parini said. 'In fact, he could be rather grim, as the late essays suggest.'" (via The Guardian)

You can pre-order Android Karenina from Amazon or you can buy a real book.


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