I’m not sure where to begin with Leo Tolstoy and Ben H. Winters’ Android Karenina. Forty pages from the end, there was a big twist and I thought I knew what I was going to say, where the rest of the story was going and how it would all end. That twist was just the beginning. I don’t want to give away the ending. The whole story comes together, unravels and come together again in these final pages. I want to say so much, but it wouldn’t be fair to everyone who hasn’t read it.
I do think everyone should read it. Unlike its Quick Classics predecessors, I haven’t read Anna Karenina. I decided that this time I would follow my own advice. I read first, to see if it would spark my interest in reading the Tolstoy original. It definitely has; it’s on my bookshelf waiting. I enjoyed Android Karenina. I think Winters did a great job of melding the past with robots, aliens and mad scientists. The story has a “what if” feel. “What if” this Miracle Metal, groznium was discovered? Is this what Russia in the 19th century would have been like? It takes the Industrial Revolution to a whole new level.
I also think Winters is an Isaac Asimov fan. Early on in the story, the characters talk about the “Iron Laws” which govern the behaviour of robots. Princess Betsy even puts them to a horrible test (in this scene you can see Anna leaning more towards robots than humans). About halfway through the novel, the characters finally bring up “Osimov”, a machine theorist, whose ideas brought about the Iron Laws. I found myself thinking of I, Robot occasionally.
For me, it’s Levin who is the hero. He begins as a shy man, turned down by the woman he loves. He grows, marries that woman and turns into a leader. His ideas and strength are a force upon this story. I know Anna and Vronsky are supposed to be the couple at the centre of everything, but Levin and Kitty steal their spotlight. Anna is a tool and Vronsky is selfish. Levin is the man, who in the end has everything, Vronsky has nothing. If you look closely, it’s even Levin who has Android Karenina. Not Vronsky, not even really Anna. I come out of the novel really disliking Vronsky, though I wonder, what is wrong with his tooth? If you like Russian literature or robots or both, you should pick up Android Karenina and find out what happens to these four characters.
Check out Android Karenina at Quirk Classics. They have a sample chapter up. Comment on the chapter, blog posts and let them know you read about the book here.