“The sea has never been friendly to man. At most it has been the accomplice of human restlessness.” — Joseph Conrad
Quirk Books, the original company to create the classic literature-horror mash-up, succeeds with their second entry into the genre with Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Although it is the second Jane Austen book to build upon, Sea Monsters is a worthy entry into the series, following on the success of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Instead of integrating the walking dead this time around, Ben H. Winters creates The Alteration, a cryptic event that turns all sea-beasts against humankind and its battle is fought throughout the book.
Life is rough in a Bizarro-styled Regency-era England for the Dashwoods. Not only has the world gone mad, but after Henry Dashwood is fatally wounded and wills the family fortune to his lone son, the remainder of the family is effectively banished from their home. Mrs. Dashwood takes her three daughters to live with her distant relative Sir John Middleton at Pestilent Isle. This is where the multiple love triangles sprout to fruition in pure soap-opera glory. Had it not been for the secondary fantasy battle action, I don’t know how I’d have made it through the book intact.
The beginning of the book seems to focus on Marianne, the second-oldest daughter, who shows no moderation and is considered to be the “emotionalism” of the book. She becomes emotionally intertwined with both Colonel Brandon and Willoughby and seems to suffer at every possible scenario. The second half of the book seemingly focuses on Elinor as the protagonist and almost feels like reading two different novels. Elinor is the oldest daughter of the family, who becomes involved with Edward Ferrars (who is also linked with Lucy Steele), and displays the “sense” of the novel. Throughout it all, the sisters learn a little about love, while fighting all sorts of sea-life in a struggle to survive.
I enjoyed reading the book due to my interest of indescribable monsters of the sea. Ever since I was very young and swimming in a freshwater lake, I pondered the possibility of such creatures. But since Jane Austen gets the spotlight, each of the seemingly more-interesting aspects of the novel are given the short end of the stick. While it is a somewhat slow-moving storyline and is more of a soap opera than non-stop action movie, the fantasy aspects peek through at just the right times to pique my interests.
The girl-power attitude on display from the tough females was a definite positive in my book, however when Willoughby takes leave to Sub-Marine Station Beta (an undersea habitation dome), any and all of the sci-fi storytelling aspects leave with him. Although there’s an underlying 1800’s theme of women not being taken seriously and even ignored (such as when Margaret, the youngest Dashwood daughter, disappears and the family seemingly does nothing until she is revealed just before the conclusion), the primary female protagonists won’t let a small thing like the mutiny of the entire human race prevent them from finding true love.
And what would any respectable sea-themed novel without the classic theme of pirates? Dreadbeard is mentioned only in passing until near the conclusion, which is just a tad too late. If he and his pirate cronies possibly made an entrance at a more opportune time, more pirate shenanigans could’ve ensued. Just imagine the storyline opportunities had the pirates fought for the good guys vs. the scaly scalawags. Well, there’s always the possibility for a sequel.
– “K’yaloh D’argesh F’ah. K’yaloh D’argesh F’ah. K’yaloh D’argesh F’ah.”
– “Leviathan slumbers, but day will come of wakening.”
– “The island was awake, and it was hungry.”