ANDROID KARENINA by Ben H. Winters and Leo Tolstoy

Book Quote:

“FUNCTIONING ROBOTS are all alike; every malfunctioning robot malfunctions in its own way.

Everything was in confusion in the Oblonskys’ house. The wife had discovered that the husband was carrying on an intrigue with the French girl who had been amécanicienne in their family, charged with the mainte- nance of the household’s Class I and II robots. Stunned and horri?ed by such a discovery, the wife had announced to her husband that she could not go on living in the same house with him. This position of affairs had now lasted three days, and not only the husband and wife themselves, but all the robots in the household were terribly affected by it. The Class IIIs were keenly aware of their respective masters’ discomfort…”

Book Review:

Review by Ann Wilkes  (SEP 30, 2010)

Android Karenina is one of those everything but the kitchen sink science fiction tales (robots, telepathy, strange creatures, threats from outer space and time travel) with the added benefit of being a literary mash-up. Ben H. Winters has transplanted the characters from Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel Anna Karenina into a culture dependent upon technology to serve their every need.

The people of this alternate history even turn to their “beloved” servants for comfort and strength to face life’s trials. Their servants follow their every order and tell them what they want to hear. These androids, like those in Asimov’s Robot series, are subject to a set of laws that prevent them from harming their masters and require them to protect their own existence – in that order.

Interwoven in the drama of Anna’s love affair with Count Vronsky are a number of odd developments. Anna’s husband, Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin, is testing a prototype for a new kind of android which seeks to control him and ultimately all of Russia through Alexei’s position on the ministry.

The ministry is also behind an upgrade campaign in which everyone’s robots are confiscated for improvements. Meanwhile giant worm-like mechanical creatures are attacking the citizenry, which has already been assailed by such things as bug-like, mechanical koschei, Godmouths and emotion mines.

As in the classic, Anna alternately throws herself with abandon at Vronsky and beats herself up over her infidelity. Unlike the classic, Anna has another internal struggle – one that Tolstoy never could have imagined.

I zipped through this novel, drawn in by the brewing mysteries and unique world-building. It was an enjoyable read. One word of caution – don’t read through the book looking for the scene depicted on its cover. The artist took considerable liberties.

The ending left me disappointed (it lacked a certain punch and felt like a choose-your-own-adventure), but Android Karenina was still well worth the journey.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 49 readers
PUBLISHER: Quirk Books (June 8, 2010)
REVIEWER: Ann Wilkes
EXTRAS: Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Read our review of another mash up:


September 30, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Speculative (Beyond Reality)

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