Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Pack Your Bags, We're Going Back to Wonderland

Before I begin, I need to apologize...for two things. One for writing another book review so soon and two for once again writing a Wonderland related post. However, this book was deserving and if you read it, I'm sure you will forgive me.

I first picked up The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor in one of the little London bookshops that I previously wrote about. I'd never heard of it except in passing and was of course intrigued by the title and premise. I didn't purchase it (that being an expensive first edition), but I did make a note of the title. I finally bought it last week and started reading it. I was hooked right away.

As the title suggests, the book is a re-imagining of Lewis Carroll's two Alice books but it's also more than that. In addition to playing with the world of Wonderland, the book also reinterprets the true story of how Alice's Adventure's in Wonderland came to be.

There are few origin stories in the history of literature that are held as sacred as Alice's. The boat trip of an awkward mathematics professor and little girl named Alice Liddell, where the Alice story was first told, has become part of the legend that surrounds the book. So in a way, it makes sense that the author would incorporate it into any re-imagining of the book's contents. What the book supposes is that Alice (now Alyss) came to our world from Wonderland. Instead of Lewis Carroll telling her the story, she told it to him...and he got it way wrong.

According to The Looking Glass Wars, the real Wonderland isn't full of nonsense but rather a world in turmoil, currently ruled by Black Imagination and waiting for Princess Alyss's return to set things right. I haven't read a book whose action was so compelling in a long time (maybe not since Redwall). Make no mistake, there is a dark undercurrent to this book, but the seeming strength and menace of evil is what makes the reader root so hard for Alyss to discover herself and overcome all the hardships and adversity. Therefore, the action never upstages character and the result is a book that is both stunning and extremely satisfying.

To be honest, I was slightly surprised to have loved this so much. Being one of those Alice nerds who holds the origin of the story as something very important, I typically hate when it gets distorted. I grow physically angry when I hear people dismiss Alice as being all about drugs, or it's author of being an opium addict, seeing as it has nothing to do with drugs and he probably never saw opium in his life. The constant twisted film versions that try to cast a creepy shadow on the story anger me. Yet, this book, which goes all the way in destroying the myth, doesn't bother me (well, its cruelty towoard Lewis Carroll in the story sort of does, but only a little.) So the question is: why not?

The answer is simple. It's abundantly clear that Frank Beddor knows the real story. His changes aren't out of ignorance or a self-satisfying agenda. There's enough clues in the story to prove that he's studied the actual true story and is just having fun with it. There's a certain level of respect that goes into it that allowed me to put aside any would-be knee-jerk reactions and simply get swept away in the absolutely wonderful storytelling.

Personally, I can't wait to read the second and third books (the third one comes out in October). I will officially add this to my must of Alice-related entertainment and will more than likely be boring people with my endless praise for years to come.

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