"Android Karenina": no end in sight to mash-up novels

Are mash-ups junk lit or do they drive young readers to the classics?

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If you thought 2009 sensations "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" and "Sense and Sensibility and Seamonsters" would be the end of the mash-up novel trend, you were mistaken. It seems 2010 will bring us several new attempts to turn classics into monster hits of a whole different genre.

The arrival of "Little Women and Werewolves" was announced last fall (now scheduled for release in June) and the latest project to surface is "Android Karenina." This tale of upper-class adultery and rogue robots, jointly told by Leo Tolstoy and Ben H. Winters, is set in "in a steampunk-inspired world of robotic butlers, clumsy automata, and rudimentary mechanical devices" rather than 19th-century Russia. It is also scheduled for release in June.

Then there's prequel "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls" expected in March of this year. (Not to mention last month's announcement that a film version of the original "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" to star Natalie Portman is expected sometime in 2011.)

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Mash-up novels are generally made up of somewhere between 60 and 85 percent original text, with new plot twists added by contemporary co-authors.

Almost as soon as the two Jane Austen mash-ups took bestseller lists by storm last year, some readers were already declaring themselves weary of the trend. ("C’mon, folks. One or two of these literary mashups were a hoot; now they’re just becoming tired," complained a Barnes & Noble blogger this fall.)

But just now it's hard to see an end to the mash-up. And is there anything wrong with that? Not necessarily, argues a comment on the Baltimore Sun's Read Street book blog. A mother noted that her daughters were both reading "Pride and Prejudice" – although the 16-year-old was reading the original while her 12-year-old sister was enjoying the zombie version.

Their mother's reaction? "I was thrilled to have them both reading Jane Austen."

Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor’s book editor. You can follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/MarjorieKehe

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