Thursday, April 5, 2018

"What We've Unlearned: English Class Goes Punk" by Jeffrey Cook, et al.

Synopsis from Amazon:
14 high school English class favorites reborn. 14 ’punk versions you’ll have to read to believe! As a Connecticut Yankee is drawn from her bleak future life into the past, will the love and purpose she finds endure? After the robot Tom Sawyer’s house burns down, will Aunt Polly be safe if she takes him in? When Beowulf’s diesel-mechanized force of mercenaries goes up against their strongest foe yet, will it survive the conflagration that threatens their entire world? What We’ve Unlearned: Classics Go Punk is the fourth book in the series of ’punk stories (steampunk, cyberpunk, dieselpunk and more) inspired by classic stories you likely read in high school English class. Original stories are by Hans Christian Andersen, Jane Austen, the Beowulf poet, Carlo Collodi, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, Jack London, Christopher Marlowe, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Mark Twain. All profits are to be donated to PAWS Lynwood, an animal shelter and wildlife rescue located in the Pacific Northwest. If you like a fresh take with a unique spin—including dirigibles, roaring diesel engines, and mechanical beings becoming alive—then you’ll love this anthology by Writerpunk Press. Unlock What We’ve Unlearned: Classics Go Punk to stray a bit from the beaten path and reexamine what you love about your favorite stories.

My Review: 
It isn’t often that I reach the end of a book and immediately want to read it over again from the beginning... But when I do, it is definitely a good book.

The Writerpunk group does it again! I swear, this is one group of artists who don’t quit! After being slightly “on the fence”, as it were, about my feelings for the second Shakespeare Goes Punk anthology falling slightly short of the rousing success of the first, I can definitely return to those first feelings because SWEET MOTHER OF ALL THINGS PUNK everybody absolutely nailed it this time! I could practically hear the original authors laughing and applauding at the fantastic adaptations these writers accomplished!

The anthology begins with "A Connecticut Rigger In King’s Court" (based on A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court), a delightful cyberpunk/steampunk adventure by none other than Lee French. I knew I was in for a treat when I reached a certain exchange of dialogue and could not stop laughing! It was a delightful synthesis of two eras, exactly the way Twain tried it two hundred years ago, and it boded well for the rest of the book!
After the feel-good story, the anthology took a dramatic turn into the sweet-and-slightly-creepy clockpunk rendition of Pinocchio, called “Aurelia Awakes.” The sheer magnitude of the concepts addressed in the story had me gasping. Those who know the story know just how dark it really is, even the Disney version, and it fits nicely into the genre twist, near-gothic vibe of the tale. Excellent choice, and a striking adaptation!
There was a “classic punk”edition of a Sherlock Holmes mystery… but I wasn’t altogether sure where the “twist” part came in, since it felt more like a repeat of the original than the other stories here, but oh well!
I admit I was terribly excited to arrive at last at Nils Visser’s contribution, "The Rottingdean Rhyme"—a delightful little steampunk adventure based on a Rudyard Kipling poem I hadn’t read… but all the Visser charm worked together to make a marvelous story and characters I was positively smitten with!
The next few stories were fascinating, more because I was unfamiliar with the source material for most of them, but on the whole, I found them interesting stories in their own right: In "The Scout", the cyberpunk rendition of a Jack London short story carries all of the weight of peril and isolation that comes with exploration in barren lands that the original author communicated—this time, on a faraway planet, cut off from the rest of civilization by many lightyears instead of miles of ice. I wasn’t familiar with the source for the story "The War Room", and while I found the dieselpunk "Bea Wolf" entertaining, again, it didn’t carry the familiarity of some of the others—such as the steampunk Tom Sawyer, "AutomaTom."
Zounds, Gyzander is good at what she does! Consistently, in all the anthologies, she delivers a poignant, heartfelt story with vibrant characters and top-quality entertainment value… and this was no exception! Aunt Polly’s interactions with the automated Tom hold a quaint sort of intrigue, and the conflict she builds is both singular and full of hope. Marvelous!
Of course, as I ramble on through this review that wasn’t supposed to be this long (I’m trying, I promise!) I cannot dismiss my feelings for the “myth-punked” version of The Little Mermaid, titled "Muddy Water Promises." Striking, beautiful, and enchanting—it would be exactly what I would want someone to come up with, as far as adaptations of this story go, and Michelle Cornwell-Jordan executes it spectacularly.
As for the rest of the anthology, they were mostly steampunk: Anne, Buttons and Birds, based on Anne of Green Gables in absolutely the best way possible; a beautiful multi-punk rendition of a poem I didn’t know; A new rendition of Northanger Abbey (Set in a space colony, no less!) called "Of Folly and Fallibility" (Though this source work is one of the few Jane Austen I hadn’t read, but her quaint charm effused through even this delightful adaptation!); Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins (or as I like to call them, “The Wonder Duo”) teamed up again for a Steam-, cyber-, and Teslapunk version of A Christmas Carol called "The Consolidated Scrooge" and it is not to be missed—finishing off with a rousing steampunk “Huck Finn Versus The World”, which had quite a lot to say about the portrayal and judgment of “coggers” that would have had Twain himself handing out lusty huzzahs!

It goes without saying that this book gets a *****5 STAR***** rating, and the biggest most heartiest Upstream Writer Certified EMPHATICALLY RECOMMENDED. This review has rambled on long enough, but I cannot stress how important it is for everyone reading this to add this delectable tour of classic literature in new and exciting ways to your bookshelf, as a fitting contemporary companion to all the works represented therein.

Further Reading: (Other Works By Contributing Authors)

Dawn of Steam Trilogy--Jeffrey Cook
      -First Light
      -Gods of The Sun
      -Rising Suns 
The Fair Folk Chronicles--Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins
        -Foul is Fair
        -Street Fair
        -A Fair Fight
        -All's Fair
Spirit Knights--Lee French
       -Girls Can't Be Knights
       -Backyard Dragons  
Lord of the Wyrde Woods--Nils Visser
     -Escape From Neverland
     -Dance Into The Wyrd

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