I'm going to go ahead and get this out of the way. Leo Tolstoy would have hated this book.
Judging by how many people asked, when Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters came out, what Jane Austen would have thought of it, I'll soon be asked what Tolstoy would have thought of Android Karenina, my new sci-fi action-adventure epic based on his similarly named, entirely robotless Anna Karenina.
The answer to the first question always was, and still is, "Jane Austen would have loved it." Austen might seem, to a your average sleepy high school junior, like a grey ghost of the past, very dignified and proper and self-serious. But anyone who's read Emma or Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility carefully knows that the old girl had a wicked sense of humor, and wasn't afraid to use it. She loves her characters, but she will ruthlessly mock them when necessary, and there is an undeniable sense of the sublime and the ridiculous underlying her satirical observations about Regency life.
Throw in the fact that Northanger Abbey is itself a parody of the then-popular Gothic horror novel, and I feel pretty confident saying that Jane Austen would have gotten a serious kick out of Sea Monsters. (She might have been a little spooked by the violence, but you can't win 'em all.)
Tolstoy, however, is a different story. His books are occasionally funny -- his portrait of self-satisfied little Napoleon leading the troops through War & Peace cracks me up -- but there is no way in which Anna Karenina could be described a knee-slapper. It's often quite dark indeed, and when the sun does break through the clouds, it's in the form of Man's Love for his Fellow Man, or Man's Realization of God's Presence in the World. Suffice it to say that no one in the entire 900 pages of Anna slips on a banana peel.
What's more, Tolstoy took himself, his work and his life very seriously. Jane Austen was the kind of lady who wrote charming backwards letters to her niece; Tolstoy was the kind of man who renounced worldly possessions and wandered around his estate muttering Biblical quotations. He was a genius, one of the great artists the world has ever known, but would you want to have a beer with the guy? Maybe not.
So would he have embraced my new book, which takes his masterpiece and adds talking robots and lizard-aliens from the sky? Which sends Anna and Vronsky not to Italy for their adulterous quasi-honeymoon, but to a colony on the moon? Which replaces the train, the symbolic keystone of the whole story, with the Moscow-St. Petersburg High Speed Antigravitational Massive Transport?
Absolutely not. Leo Tolstoy would have loathed this book.
To which I say, with all due respect to my esteemed pretend-collaborator, tough noogies. (Or, whatever the Russian translation is for "tough noogies.") I love Anna Karenina. In fact, after working with it so closely for the last year, I'm sure you won't find anybody who loves it as much as I do. But that doesn't mean it should be left alone; to the contrary, I think it can and should be rediscovered, and retranslated, and reinterpreted and celebrated over and over again, forever, amen.
Android Karenina is but one extreme, and extremely silly, reinterpretation.
Look, bottom line, I didn't write the thing for Tolstoy, I wrote it for you, and I hope you dig it. But if as you read, you hear a strange sound, that's Leo grumbling into his beard. Tell him I'm sorry, and maybe one day he'll understand.
WATCH the book trailer for Android Karenina: