Jane Austen, Dead and Loving It: Cassie-la Argues for “Jane Goes Batty” by Michael Thomas Ford

Jane Goes Batty by Michael Thomas Ford
Genre: Vampire fiction, humor, Jane Austen may or may not be rolling in her grave literature
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary: This over the top vampire novel, a sequel to Jane Bites Back, follows author turned vampire Jane Austen, her sire Lord Byron, and their arch-enemy Charlotte Brontë.

After more than 200 years, Jane Austen (now Jane Fairfax) has finally published her most recent novel, Constance and is dealing with the struggle to write her “sophomore” novel, deal with her new agent, a Brontëite, and attempt to tell her boyfriend that she is a vampire.

These problems are compounded when she meets her boyfriend’s mother, who happens to be a Brontë fan, and may or not be a vampire hunter. To further complicate matters, Constance is being adapted for film, and the director wants to set the costume drama in America in the 50’s.

Hilarity and hi-jinks ensue in a series that will have Jane Austen rolling in her grave… With laughter.

Jane Austen… Is a vampire… Living in the 21st century. Hearing this synopsis, I knew that few people in the literary community would appreciate this series, and I knew I was one crazy few who would read it. Yes, the premise is ridiculous, but that’s what makes this book, and it’s predecessor Jane Bites Back, so refreshing. It doesn’t try to be high brow. Instead it strives to be fun and entertaining, succeeding without crossing the line into literary slop.

Jane Bites Back and Jane Goes Batty are the kind of book you can start reading late at night and fight off sleep just so you can keep reading them. Ending just shy of 300 pages, these fast paced novels can be read in a day or two whether you’re a voracious reader or a voracious eater. Because you will want to read these books while doing everything.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Cassie, this is just yet another way to capitalize on the classic novel plus random pop culture monster phenomena. Isn’t this just Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, or Android Karenina rehashed with a non-fiction cast? And the answer is no. Yes, it might be latching onto a current theme (one which I love and find no fault with simply because it gets people reading classic literature AS CREATURE FEATURES) but it has its own unique voice. Plus, if one were to believe the book, Abraham Lincoln actually was a vampire hunter.

Unlike Jane Bites Back, which focuses on Jane’s attempts to get her novel published and plagiarism charges by a Brontë scholar who ends up being Charlotte Brontë herself, this book focuses on the after affects of fame. It also is a lot more campy, with a romance novel blogger turned vampire holding a carnival complete with a dunk tank allowing people to dunk Darcy and a very non-rousing game of croquet that will make you want to chew and someone’s neck in annoyance. There is also a ball in which everyone inexplicably seems to already own regency era clothing.

The title character Jane Fairfax is refreshing, going against the mold much like the heroines in her novels. Her lightness and humour come through in her popular culture references, particularly her appreciation of “Clueless” and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. If I were 80 years old I would probably refer to her as FANGTASTIC! But I’m not so you can just pretend I didn’t even write that last pun.

My only problem with Jane this go around is her tendency to stray to the dark side of things, as is inherent in all vampire fiction (with the exception of Twilight which strays to the lame side of things). Unlike some vampire novels which symbolize the sharing of blood as a metaphor for AIDs, or the exploration of the rigid morals in the Victorian era, Jane is merely concerned with her soul (much like one of my favourite vampire figures, Louis from Interview with the Vampire). Although this angsty self-reflection can get a little tiring at times.

Plus, who cares. Religion = boring. Although the introduction of a Rabbi character who Jane goes to when considering converting to Judaism amused the agnostic Jew within me nonetheless.

The other main character, that steals the novel from its protagonist, is Lord Byron, a self-obsessed sexaholic who much like his historical counterpart has something of a reputation. In the beginning of the novel it is revealed that he is enamored with two twins (complicatedly named Ned and Ted), and one night while drunk turns the straight twin by mistake. After finishing the novel, I still did not know out of Ned and Ted which twin was a straight vampire and which was a gay human. This is the only redeeming part of Twilight: it is easy to remember that Edward Cullen is the sparkly gay vampire.

Lord Byron is the spark in some moments that Jane is lacking (much like Magnus Bane or Cinna from City of Bones and The Hunger Games respectively). He also quite reminded me of Herbert the gay vampire from Tanz Der Vampire. Although, sadly, no one sings “Total Eclipse of the Heart” in this series.

Then there is her boyfriend Walter, who is without a doubt the least exciting character in the entire series. He restores houses, but other than that is generally boring, which is probably why he mostly remains on the periphery and stammers about marriage. He is also blissfully unaware that his wife and her amazingly hot ex-lover are vampires. It is a wonder why she dates him at all considering who she has to choose from. I suppose she gave up on looking for her Mr. Darcy 200 years ago.

THE GOOD:
-Full of humour and life, pokes fun at classic literary figures
-Realistic, well fleshed out characters (if you suspend your disbelief)
-Lord Byron is my favourite kind of bisexual vampire character
-The camp level is perfect for someone who likes creature features (raises hand and jumps up and down)

THE BAD:
-Jane is a tad darker and a little more depressing than in Jane Bites Back
-The plot felt less fulfilling in terms of progress than its predecessor
-There is a painfully long scene involving the rules of cricket

Jane Goes Batty may seem ridiculous and overly campy to some, but was wonderfully entertaining for me. Although I think “Sharktopus” was a cinematic gem, so I suppose my judgment isn’t perfect. Regardless, I highly recommend this book and its prequel. It will have you dying to meet your favourite authors.

(See what I did there?)

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14 thoughts on “Jane Austen, Dead and Loving It: Cassie-la Argues for “Jane Goes Batty” by Michael Thomas Ford

  1. How have I never heard of this before?? It sounds AMAZING.

    Strangely, I read a book recently called “Hex Hall” in which Byron is also a vampire. But not the fun, flamboyant kind, he’s just kind of a douche.

    I find the rivalry between vampire-Charlotte and vampire-Jane the most hilarious. This sounds like it is not only better than all of that “creature feature” fiction, as you say, (which I’m not as big a fan of, mainly because I was just as bored with the whole “Oh no, Lydia’s run off with Wickham!” part of P&P&Z as I was with that part in regular P&P), but also any other Austen-related fiction.

    • I think I tweeted about it, but it might have been before we were friends? The first one came out last year, and I enjoyed it slightly more, although Byron was more fun in this book.

      Was “Hex Hall” good? Would you recommend it, because it sounds completely ridiculous. Possibly in a good way.

      At one point there is a boring croquet match that is ridiculously represented by two mascots, the Moorhen for the Brontë team and a phallic looking squid for the Austen team.

      Also, that was the same reason your sister couldn’t finish “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters”, she got stuck at he same point as she did while reading “Sense and Sensibility”. And yes, this series was incredibly enjoyable, and there will be a third book out soon. ^^

      • Phallic looking squid. Omglol.

        I would definitely recommend Hex Hall. It’s cute. The world is pretty interesting. A bunch of kids with all different powers running around a school is always fun. There were some things that bothered me about it too, so if you read it, LET’S DISCUSS.

        • Yeah, it liked wiggling its fingers suggestively.

          I read this comment before I went to sleep and had a dream about “Hex Hall”. My dream is set in the year 2012. We all went to a party in Dippy’s basement, and when we came out, everyone else in the world was missing. And the power was off everywhere. It was like the apocalypse happened and we missed it.

          EXCEPT, the library was open and I was able to pick up “Hex Hall”. But they wouldn’t let me get a library card because they didn’t know how much longer they would be open for.

  2. This book sounds ridiculous and I like it! Obviously we have the same love for hilarious, bisexual vampires so anything with that involved is good in my book.

    Also, it’s great to hear someone can actually write a campy, fun book that isn’t AWFUL. Like people say they read Twilight because it’s “fun.” No….no, it’s just awful.

    Although I’m beginning to sense this blog is going to be a problem for us…when are we going to have time to read all these new books????

    • It’s amazingly ridiculous, and I think you’d really like it.

      This is definitely not the so bad it’s good standard. It’s just so ridiculous yet simultaneously good.

      Here’s my idea. We have to find a wealthy benefactor who will sponsor all of us to read 24/7 for a living. Have you run into any of those in AC willing to do that? I’d be fine with 50K a year. Lol.

    • If I could find some way to get a Sharktopus, preferably a non-murderous kind, I would.

      And no need to apologise. I know absolutely NOTHING about croquet. I’m sure it would have been a lot less drab and confusing if I understood how the game itself worked.

      Also, kudos on an amazing series. I can’t wait to read “Jane Vows Vengeance”!

      • If I had a sharktopus I think I would name it Betsy.

        You should have seen my desk when I was plotting out the croquet sequence. It was even more confusing than the Regency dance scene, for which I used little Hello Kitty and Star Wars figures to help me visualize who went where and when.

        • Betsy is a beautiful name for either a boy or girl Sharktopus. =) Although something tells me they’re asexual.

          Did someone awkwardly walk in on you so you could enact the doll scene with Dark Helmet from “Spaceballs”? Because that would have made the visual you just gave me even more amusing.

          • Years ago my friend David’s daughter, then about 5 or 6, came home from school with a color-it-yourself picture of a dinosaur. The caption said something like, “The Allosaurus had razor-sharp claws and teeth and was the most ferocious of all the dinosaurs. This Allosaurus is named ________.”

            She’d named it Cindy. When David asked her why, she said, “She looks like a Cindy.”

            No one walked in while I was planning the croquet scene, although one of the dogs did make off with Byron and chewed him a bit before I figured out where he was.

            • Dino love!

              I highly doubt Byron would put up with such injustices in a real life situation. Although, being covered in saliva might be kinky to a guy like him.

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