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Review: Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters

Friday, October 10, 2014

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters
Jane Austen & Ben H. Winters

Genre: HorrorParody
Paperback: 344 Pages
Publication: September 15, 2009
by Quirk Books

As our story opens, the Dashwood sisters are evicted from their childhood home and sent to live on a mysterious island full of savage creatures and dark secrets. While sensible Elinor falls in love with Edward Ferrars, her romantic sister Marianne is courted by both the handsome Willoughby and the hideous man-monster Colonel Brandon. Can the Dashwood sisters triumph over meddlesome matriarchs and unscrupulous rogues to find true love? Or will they fall prey to the tentacles that are forever snapping at their heels? This masterful portrait of Regency England blends Jane Austen’s biting social commentary with ultraviolent depictions of sea monsters biting. It’s survival of the fittest—and only the swiftest swimmers will find true love!


Sense and Sensibility is my favorite Jane Austen novel, so when I heard about these horror parodies published by Quirk, I had to see if there was one of it. I happened to find this during a trip to my local used bookstore and managed to snag it for only two or three dollars. I'd heard all the hype about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (which I plan to review at some point in the future), so I was really looking forward to this book, and it didn't disappoint me too much.

For those of you not familiar with Sense and Sensibility, it mainly revolves around the love triangles the oldest Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne, find themselves in after leaving their home following the death of their father. Something I appreciated about this book was that it gave Marianne a more justified reason to dislike Colonel Brandon when she first meets him. As you can tell by the cover, he has tentacles on his face like Lovecraft's famous Cthulhu, and these tentacles are always mentioned whenever he is on screen, reminding us of the grossness of them. Because of this physical defect, we really have to consider Brandon's virtues as a person and, at least in my case, those virtues were what made him important as a character.

I loved that we got more screen time with characters who hadn't really been explored in the original novel. I felt like there was more to be seen with Mrs. Dashwood, and there was even a little subplot concerning the youngest Dashwood sister, Margaret. Since the whole story takes place around the ocean, there are pirates (you have to have them), and their presence was woven in surprisingly well into the narrative. The antagonists, as well as unlikable characters who weren't necessarily the villains of the story, get their comeuppances, and I liked how a lot of their fates were executed (seriously, these guys had what was coming to them).

Overall, I thought a lot of the sea-related elements were implemented well. From Elinor's hobby of driftwood whittling to Marianne's love for reading shipwreck survival journals and the presence of the pirates, the nautical references were good. I loved that the time spent with characters was predominantly somewhere surrounded by water, whether on the islands where the Dashwood women lived or in the sub-marine station the girls visit. The descriptions of places were fairly well done, the sub-marine station probably best of all, but the same can't be said for the technology. I felt like the descriptions of the things they used in the station were clunky and made the reading drag a bit.

Something I hadn't noticed about this book until after I had bought it was that it has some illustrations. Almost all of them are based on events in the novel, usually on the preceding page, but my favorite probably goes to the map, which we are given before the story even starts. This really helped me visualize where the characters were going and how far away certain characters were from each other. I think this may have also been a small nod to the original book, which also contains a map of England at the time.

The main reason I decided to check this book out, besides being based on my favorite Austen novel, was that it featured sea monsters. I feel like there aren't enough really popular monsters from the deep we could name off the tops of our heads, besides the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Moby Dick, the Kraken, and the squid from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Most of the creatures featured in this book were normal sea animals that were bigger and more aggressive towards humans, with one or two exceptions. This change in them comes from an event called the Alteration, and because we're never given exact details on it, that makes the nature of the creatures comes across as scarier. They're not really scary (at least according to my threshold of fear), but they may seem more so against the more lighthearted background of the rest of the novel.

The main problem I had with this book was that it didn't wow me. It was really good, but not amazing to my mind. I can't exactly put my finger on it, but I felt like there was something missing to make this book great. I loved the general adaptation of the novel into a nautical world, and the horrific elements were more campy than really scary. Again, it's a parody, so don't expect it to be some heavy-hitting horror read with terrifying monsters and the ultimate race for survival. It's silly, a bit cheesy at times, but still a fun read and a funny take on a classic, so I suggest you check it out, even if you end up laughing for the most part.

Rating: 4 stars

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  • Creature violence
  • Brief language
  • Some gore

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