In June, I announced the release of a new book by Quirk Classics, the Steampunked retelling of Anna Karenina, Android Karenina. Being able to appreciate the original work by Leo Tolstoy, I had big hopes that Android Karenina would be nothing short of epic.
I finally finished this tome last week and have had some time to think about everything that I read within. I have mixed feelings about Android Karenina.
First of all, the title seems to suggest that Anna’s Class III, Android Karenina, is going to have a large role to play in the novel. I spent most of the novel waiting for something big enough to happen that would warrant the book being named after Android Karenina rather than Anna. Something does happen, in the last 30 pages or so which give an explanation, but not one that’s worth 500 pages to get to.
This is, of course, partially the consequence of the source material. Victorian novels in general tend to be drawn out affairs with crucial action happening in between pages of description and droning. Android Karenina is a bit more fast paced than it’s original source, but for someone who was reading the book in very short segments over a period of a month, I found it hard to be absorbed by the book.
What was most frustrating about the book was its strange presentation of the human and robot relationship. Humans are portrayed in so many different lights, from noble and honest to inept and evil, that the book’s ongoing message about humanity and its needs/desires for robots was not a very coherent idea. Sure there’s an attempt to wrap it up at the end, but it wasn’t an ending I felt particularly happy with. And really, the whole robot thing was so big in this retelling that I wish it had gone out on a limb and tried to make more of a political statement. It was almost there so many times, but ultimately didn’t leave me with a strong opinion about the humanity of the characters or the political nature of robotics.
I’d give it a 3 out of 5. While the concept of rewriting Anna Karenina in a Steampunk universe is an interesting and occasionally entertaining one, I can’t say that I’ll be feeling the need to re-read this book any time soon. I’d rather just wade through the original and enjoy the more in-depth exploration of a woman who dared to love in a time when society forbade such luxuries to the fairer sex.