First published back in September of 2009, Quirk Classics’ second literary mash-up, this time with Ben H. Winters Sense And Sensibility And Sea Monsters followed on from the instant cult success of the similarly tongue-in-cheek mash-up of Jane Austen’s classic novel delightfully re-titled ‘Pride And Prejudice And Zombies’ (2009).

Utilising the 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 imaginatively creative new subgenre.

Pride And Prejudice And Zombies’ (2009) 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.

DLS Synopsis:
Ever since ‘The Alteration’ took place, the beasts of the sea had become a constant threat to mankind.  Sea monsters had turned on those who lived inland; murdering anyone that came within their tentacled-reach.

However the Alteration held a great interest to the wealthy Mr Henry Dashwood, who decided that he would take it upon himself to investigate what had instigated this critical turning point between the creatures of the sea and mankind.  Sadly after he is brutally killed by a hammerhead shark during his dangerous quest, Dashwood would never manage to uncover the reasoning for such a devastating turn in events.

Furthermore, much to the distress of the widow that he had left behind, it is revealed that Henry Dashwood left the entirety of their Norland Park estate to his son of his first wife, John Dashwood.  On his deathbed Henry Dashwood asked John to take care of his stepmother and half-sisters after he died.  However John Dashwood’s wife, Fanny, has other ideas and easily persuaded him to evict his stepmother and her three daughters, Elinor, Marianne and Margaret, from the Norland Park estate.

Luckily, Mrs Dashwood’s wealthy and eccentric cousin, Sir John Middleton, comes to the women’s rescue, offering accommodation at Barton Cottage on a remote archipelago island along the Devonshire coastline.  Having nowhere else to go, the Dashwood women take up Middleton’s kind offer and duly move to the cottage within the sea monster populated stretch.

However the move to the Barton Cottage has meant that Elinor Dashwood had been taken away from Fanny Dashwood’s brother, Edward Ferris, who she had begun to have strong romantic feelings for.  A feeling that see had previously thought was mutual.  But now that Ferris was part of a wealthy family, Elinor was sure that any relationship that could have happened between them would have been forbidden; a thought that was further backed up by Ferris’ lack of contact since they were forced to move away.

Meanwhile, Marianne Dashwood had come into dangerous contact with the local sea beasts whilst she had been walking along the coastline, only to be saved by a handsome deep-sea diver named John Willoughby.  But Middleton’s close friend, the tentacle-faced Colonel Brandon also has eyes for young Marianne, despite the obvious age gap between the two of them.

And just when Marianne is feeling she has found someone to love, Willoughby is called away to the great underwater city, Sub-Marine Station Beta, leaving her alone and pinning for her missing love.  Hearts are torn, tears are wept, and life seems just a constant battle. And then there’s the sea monsters...

DLS Review:
With the overall storyline already in place, all of the basic elements and characters are kept completely intact with Ben H. Winters’ mashed-up reworking.  However, the surreal inclusion of the mash-up author's ‘aquatic imaginings’ which are often of very Lovecraftian proportions, brings a whole new angle (and dare I say ‘life’) to the tale.

Instead of being simply too long in his years, Colonel Brandon is now not only a gentleman of fine wealth and good manners, but he has now been inflicted with a mass of tentacles that adorn his otherwise human face (as well as other regions).  Indeed, 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 characters’ 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 characters’ altogether important dialogue with a gigantic aquatic attack at exactly the same moment.  Hats off to the man, because 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, snowballing the aquatic menace to gigantic proportions.

The cunning change of setting from London to the underwater city of Sub-Marine Station Beta, creates 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 imaginative creativeness.

Indeed, ‘Sense And Sensibility And Sea Monsters’ is a brilliant way to spend a number of hours, chuckling at the mash-up author’s 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 wore a huge grin on my face throughout each and every one of the 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’ (2009) 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 painting successfully manages to capture the exact essence of what the Quirk re-workings are all about.

The novel runs for a total of 340 pages.

© DLS Reviews


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