Sunday, October 18, 2015

Looking for Alice

by Christina Henry

Alice in Wonderland is one of the most iconic stories, like, ever. The mention of rabbits, hatters, and roses to conjure up images of Wonderland.

It's such an awesome adventure story. There's no big goal-- just a girl exploring for the joy of curiosity. The characters are so wild and the words so borderline nonsensical that the book can pass for an allegory of almost anything you'd like.

It gets retold and homaged a lot.

I'm a big fan of things like that. I love movie remakes and cover songs. I think it's awesome to see how someone else deals with known tales. I especially like dark retellings. Stories that take the innocent and twist it into something dark and unsettling.

That's what Alice promised to be.

I don't entirely feel like it hits the mark. Not enough to be called a retelling, anyway. Like, there's a character and her name is Alice. She's taken into unfamiliar territory. And there is a character named Chesire, but he's neither a cat nor particularly cat-like. There's a man called the Walrus and another called Carpenter, but they aren't friends dining on oysters led astray. They are gang leaders vying for territory. And one of them eats girls alive while raping them.

Oh. Yeah. That's a thing.

So, I don't really have boundaries when it comes to fiction. I'm not easily squicked out. But gratuity isn't my bag. I had this same problem with Suckerpunch

Alice, shortly leaving the safety of the asylum she starts in, is nearly raped. On a street. While accompanied by her tough looking male friend. The Caterpillar owns a sex club filled with sex slaves. He carves wings into their backs, over and over, keeping the scars visible. In his personal study, he has peeled the flesh back from one girl and stitched large wings to her back muscles. He broke her legs because someone paid to see it happen. Now, men pay to have sex with the mutilated girl because some like it more that way.

This world is just sick and sad seemingly for the sake of being sick and sad.

And, also, I would have a very difficult time telling you exactly what the setting is. I'm thinking it's meant to be sort of Victorian steampunk. Maybe. I thought it was modern at first. But then there are wizards and ancient prophecies. So, I dunno anymore. I think the tiny glimpse of the world I did see was neat, but it didn't feel very solid or real.

Even with all that, the book was pretty interesting. I would have given it three stars if it hadn't been claiming to be a retelling of Alice in Wonderland. I feel like it very much fell down on that aspect. Sure, we had some characters named after the denizens of Wonderland, but the similarity ends there. For that bit of misdirection, I'm dropping the score to 2/5.

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