Review: Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters
By Kerry Bush
"The family of Dashwood had been settled in Sussex since before the Alteration, when the waters of the world grew cold and hateful to the sons of man, and darkness moved on the face of the deep."
So begins Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, a book that, like its predecessor Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, takes a classic tale of romance and adds to it the element of monsters.
While Pride and Prejudice and Zombies inserts, as the title suggests, bloodthirsty zombies into the romantic tale of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters puts mutated sea creatures into the classic story of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood and their respective suitors, turning the genre from simply romance into sort of a mix between adventure and romance - a style which attracts a much wider variety of readers.
That, perhaps, is the aim of the publisher: to "turn a classic romance into something you'd actually want to read," as the back cover of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies reads. The name of the publisher is, after all, Quirk Classics.
While the sea monsters vastly alter the setting of the story and, in a few cases, the actions of the characters, they fail to change the tone and, for the most part, the plot of the novel.
The premise of the novel remains the same: Elinor and Marianne Dashwood are sent away from their childhood home with their mother and younger sister Margaret to faraway Barton Cottage, where they meet the dashing Mr. Willoughby and the brave Colonel Brandon, as well as the eccentric Sir John Middleton, his wife (known only as Lady Middleton), and his brother and his gossipy wife Mrs. Jennings.
The only differences are that Barton Cottage is on an island surrounded by the mysterious Fang-Beast, Mr. Willoughby is a scuba diver, Colonel Brandon has, due to an unfortunate incident with a sea-witch, Davy Jones-like tentacles protruding from his jaw, Sir John and his brother are retired explorers, and their wives are tribal women they captured overseas and forced into marriage. These differences, though seemingly extreme, do not completely alter the tone of the story.
Sure, they provide for some differences in the plot (for example, Mr. Willoughby rescues Marianne from a hungry octopus instead of a simple fall in a creek), they do not change the outcome of the story as a whole. I guess one could say that the end is not changed, but the means of achieving that end are.
And honestly, I think it makes for a much better story. I couldn't get through the original Sense and Sensibility, but I finished Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters in no time. It was exciting, it was gripping, it kept my attention. I never got bored with this version like I did the original because there were always new surprises being foreshadowed.
There is Sub-marine Station Beta, where the Dashwood sisters go for entertainment purposes, is one. Though the station is mentioned from the beginning of the story, its actual surroundings are kept secret until Marianne and Elinor actually visit about halfway through the book.
And that sort of thing is the magic of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, or perhaps the series in general. The reader, even if he or she has read the original story, never knows what's going to happen next - as the presence of sea monsters (or, as the case may be, zombies) can change everything.