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Android Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy and Ben H. Winters.

Scroll down to find out how you can win one of 25 prize packages from Quirk Classics.

I'm sure I qualify as a hard-core Tolstoy geek. I've read War and Peace - twice - for fun (both times). Back in college, I took a Russian literature course on Tolstoy and wrote what were, I'm sure, pretentious essays on Sevastapol Stories and Anna Karenina. I translated one of Tolstoy's short stories from Russian to English. I have three copies of AK on my shelf; a cheap paperback, a Norton critical edition, and a two-volume set in Russian that I picked up at some Dom Knigi or other. I even acquired the nickname "Mrs. Tolstoy" for a while, based on the phonetic similarities between my first name and Tolsoty's initials and, of course, my love of 19th century Russian literature.

So when Quirk Classics announced a blog explosion for their latest offering, Android Karenina, I knew I had to be on board.

This book has got androids, aliens, and enough action to please any mash-up fan. The thing about mash-ups is you either love them or you hate them. If you are a purist, you don't want anyone messing with your Tolstoy or your Austen. So if that's you, just stay away from the genre altogether or you will get all upset, and that makes things unpleasant for the rest of us.

[Isn't this a cool photo of Tolstoy? It was taken in 1908, the only color photograph of the author.]
One thing that has always struck me as I have been reading so much Jane Austen lately (both the mashed and the un-mashed) is the social class distinctions of that time. The separation of the population into nobility, commoners, and clergy is a foreign concept to our modern egalitarian minds. We understand that one person may have more money than another, or a more powerful or prestigious job, but not that a person is somehow better merely by birth. In Tolstoy's day, the distinction was even more pronounced due to the existence of serfdom, which persisted in Russian for hundreds of years after it was abolished in Western Europe. Tolstoy made efforts, with limited success, to improve the lives of the peasants living on his estate, and it becomes an important theme in his writing. So the substitution of robots for servants in Android Karenina seems quite fitting, and represents the ultimate dehumanization of the serving class.

Like the previous Quirk Classics books (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Dawn of the Dreadfuls, and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters), this one contains discussion questions, such as:

7. In a crucial moment, Levin chooses his wife over Socrates, his beloved-companion robot. Are there any technological devices in your life that you love more than your spouse?
It seems that readers are going to find many of the themes in Android Karenina relevant to modern life. There's a reason they call it a CrackBerry, folks.

And now on to the give-away. To enter, visit Quirk Classics' Android Karenina contest page and leave a comment mentioning this blog (The Book Blawg). Quirk will be giving away 25 prize packages worth around $100 each, including 5 books, an Android Karenina poster, and more.

Thanks for joining me!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary review copy of this book.


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