Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford

Title: Jane Bites Back
Author: Michael Thomas Ford
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: December 29, 2009
Pages: 299 pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book: Bought it online because it sounded like fun

Two hundred years after her death, Jane Austen is still surrounded by the literature she loves--but now it's because she's the owner of Flyleaf Boos in a sleepy college town in Upstate New York. Every day she watches her novels fly off the shelves--along with dozens of unauthorized sequels, spin-offs, and adaptations. Jane may be undead, but her books have taken on a life of their own.

To make matters worse, the manuscript she finished just before being turned into a vampires has been rejected by publishers--116 times. Jane longs to let the world know who she is, but when a sudden twist of fate thrusts her back into the spotlight, she must hide her read identity--and fend off a dark man from her past while juggling two modern suitors. Will the world's most beloved author be able to keep her cool in this comedy of manners, or will she show everyone what a woman with a sharp wit and an even sharper set of fans can do?


Two hundred years ago, Jane Austen was turned into a vampire and ever since, she has been hiding among humans under many names, her current one being Jane Fairfax as she lives in New York and owns an independent bookstore called Flyleaf Books. She has spent the time since her "death" to try and get her final novel Constance published, only for it to be rejected every time until one house in the present time finally accepts it. Just when that happens, the vampire that turned Jane arrives in town to see her and she starts to develop some boy problems. Walter, the guy who fixes up homes for a living, wouldn't mind fixing her heart and she's got maybe just a teeny tiny crush on her new editor, the unfortunately-named Kelly. Accusations come forth that she plagiarised someone in her novel and sooner or later, all this pressure just might make poor Jane's head explode.

The premise was one of the most grabbing I've seen in recent months. A satire on the industry of Austen with a vampire Jane Austen that is trying to get a book published and defend it when a blogger calls it plagiarized? Sign me up! Unfortunately, there was a large gap between what I was expecting to read and the actual content of the novel. My imagination gave this book too much hype and it was an underwhelming read, though it would not have been a great novel for me even without the hype.

I should have suspected this would be the case from the mention of the dark guy from her past and two modern suitors, but I didn't realize how much of the book would be concentrated on Jane's romantic dilemmas. What did I expect? A satire of the Austen industry where a vampire Jane Austen is trying to get her book published, has to fight back when someone accuses her of plagiarism, and oh yeah, has some guy problems. It was more along the lines of Jane has guy problems and oh yeah, is trying to get a novel published and gets accused of plagiarism on it.The satire part is mostly confined to the first few pages and less than five one or two line reappearances in the rest of the novel. I kind of wanted a break from so much romance after reading a little too much bad or bland romance, but it turned out that I read more of it with this novel.

Almost every time something comes along that might distract from Jane's guy problems, something else comes along to get rid of it or the problems come to her. The blogger that accuses Jane of plagiarism? Yeah, that problem is eliminated shortly after it arrives. No more plagiarism claims. Traveling away from the boys? One of them comes to her! The romance overtakes the plot and makes what could have been a fantastic book if there had been less lovey-dovey nonsense a so-so read.

There isn't much else to say about this novel. It was not particularly good, but there was nothing that annoyed me other than the lack of a few things I would have liked to have seen in the story that the back cover made me think might be there. There were a few things I enjoyed, like how the novel took the war between Austen and the Brontes to a whole new level and Jane's wit, but otherwise, there was little that stood out to me. I wanted to put the novel down at one point because of Byron's monstrously creepy behavior (any pun that might be there may or may not be intended) but then I realized that for once, it was not being romanticized and it became a little more bearable.

Maybe I'm the problem for once. After reading this, I suppose that a read of at least one of Austen's novels and some knowledge of her would be required to fully enjoy the novel. I know very little about Jane Austen and I have never read any of her books (even though I plan to within the next year; it's on my list). Reading without that knowledge behind me could have made me miss the fun of the novel and may do the same to other readers.
Ultimately, this novel was underwhelming for me in some unexplainable way. Considering how interested I was in the premise, this is sad. Perhaps I should have known due to the genre of this book that Jane would be too busy trying to fix her Leaky Faucet of Boy Problems to unfreeze the pipeline above her that the plot was coming from. This is more about Jane Austen's boy troubles as a vampire than anything else. Anyone looking for more may get little doses of it, but it doesn't get enough focus to matter. Will I pick up the sequel Jane Goes Batty when it comes out in February 2011? No.

3 stars!

What am I reading next?: Delcroix Academy: The Candidates by Inara Scott