Wonderland edited by Marie O'Regan and Paul Kane
I would like to thank Sarah from Titan for an advance copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Publisher – Titan
Published – Out Now
Price - £8.99 paperback
Join Alice as she is thrown into the whirlwind of Wonderland.
Within these pages you’ll find myriad approaches to Alice, from horror to historical, taking us from the nightmarish reaches of the imagination to tales that will shock, surprise and tug on the heart strings.
So, it’s time now to go down the rabbit hole, or through the looking glass or…But no, wait. By picking up this book and starting to read it you’re already there, can’t you see it?
Time for an admission dear reader I hated Alice’s adventures as a kid. The characters while memorable had no depth and the plot is loose and ultimately I found it more disturbing than a wonderous – letting maths and fun be combined is a dangerous place but I still find it an unsettling world and the whole basis of horror stories is a world where something else that isn’t logical takes hold so perhaps these are the first children’s gentle horror tales? Adding in the dark mystery surrounding Lew Carroll’s real-world inspiration for Alice and his relationship with the sisters involved it’s possibly suggestive of something even more menacing. In Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane’s new anthology a whole host of authors take this unsettling premise and combine a stunning set of stories that I did not find a single one I did not enjoy.
Wonders Never Cease by Rob Shearman – actually Alice’s world of strangeness is a perfect match for Shearman’s own unsettling style as a woman named Alice arrives in our world; seeks a job; employment and even parenthood. Disturbing images of babies in rabbit holes and a look at death and love. Absolutely captures that weird flowing style of plot I remember from the original – haunting.
There Were No Birds to Fly by M R Carey – welcome to the end of the world where some struggling survivors are on the run from creatures that resemble our fears. A brilliantly unsettling tale of horror and a few other genres and captures for me that sense of Wonderland being terrifying not welcoming. An unsettling mystery to solve too.
The White Queen’s Pawn by Genevieve Cogman – very different feel to this as we meet Lady Hargreaves (the name the real Alice used later on in life) who has been kidnapped by the British Union of Fascists. We enter a world of spies, assassinations and weirdness. Sharp as a shard of a broken mirror - loved it!
Dream Girl by Cavan Scott – Wonderland is under attack by a girl named Alice who is blowing up areas and its citizens. Weird, unsettling and very clearly not what is appears. A great little mystery.
Good dog, Alice! By Juliet Marillier – another of my favourites that deals with that darker history of these novels. We meet Alice the dog of a young girl staying with her Uncle and a shadier tutor. Here Wonderland can be both a place of escape and rebellion. I loved how the story behind the story is being addressed and the resolution is immensely satisfying.
The Hunting of the Jabberwock by Jonathan Green - Manages to capture the hunt and terror of the poem but adds a satirical edge I was not expecting. Smart and clever.
About Time by George Mann - This looks at the theme of growing up past our childhood inner worlds. Lucy is a visitor to Wonderland finds it in thrall to a monster she herself recognises from under her bed, the way this situation is fixed and how it plays into the original story is done really well. Wonderlands are timeless and there when we need them.
Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em by Angela Slatter – Probably my absolute favourite. Alice here is a hard as nails gunslinger coming into a town pursuing a villain known as Rabbit. A familiar tale turned into a revenge western with a dark look at children being tormented. Brilliantly both very different to the original and delivered perfectly as a great tale in it won right.
Vanished Summer Glory by Rio Youers – one of the saddest tales in the collection told by a woman about her missing husband. It’s a sombre counterpoint to George Mann’s tale. Here the joy and wonder of a shared childhood world is mixed with grief and magic. Very powerful with a huge sense of loss.
Black Kitty by Catriona Ward – Revolution in Wonderland as the King and Queen and their daughters find themselves torn between two worlds. Weird, unexpected, logical and subtly cruel it stays true to the books but offers something different. Really well told.
The Night Parade by Laura Mauro – Another of my favourites where a woman named Airi chases through the Tokyo night a lost child and finds herself in the strange magical world of night creatures where a false move ends in death. Combining Wonderland with other mythologies makes the tale feel part of a bigger mythical tapestry and yet the story continues that feeling of a character pulled into the flowing story of weirdness with a suitably unusual ending.
What Makes A Monster by L I McKinney – Wonderland here serves as the backdrop to a tale of monster hunters in 19th century London. Lots of action; a nice set of characters including a deliciously nasty villain to hunt – could be part of a bigger tale easily.
The White Queen’s Dictum by James Lovegrove – now this is very loosely connected to the novels and relates to that quote of six impossible things before breakfast. BUT it’s an amazing little horror story examining belief and regrets that I think absolutely should be read and enjoyed at how it’s told.
Temp Work by Lilith Saintcrow – Wonderland moves to a far future tale of elites in high rise buildings; sentient artificial intelligences grown as flamingos or rabbit servants and Alice here a hacker with a point to prove. Gruesome; nasty but weird like Slatter’s take honours the original but does its own brilliant thing. Bloody but so much fun.
Eat Me, Drink Me by Alison Littlewood – Alice has just had her real world changed beyond her imagining and she finds herself in a dark tunnel of Wonderland being chased by something horrible. Is Wonderland a dark refection of her life; its own magical place – unsettling tale especially if you like rabbits.
How I Comes to Be the Treacle Queen by Cat Rambo - Loved this as a we go to the Treacle Minds and this tale is gloriously narrated by one of the seven sisters that mine within it. Full of Carroll’s amazingly weird nonsense words that makes you feel the character. I loved the sense of subversive rebellion too as the old order is toppled through the arrival of Alice.
Six Impossible Things by Mark Chadbourn – a beautiful final story in the collection that combines Wonderland with a look at those children who inspired the stories of our childhood and the legacy they too left behind. Sad and yet perhaps ultimately hopeful.
Alice in Armor and revolution in Wonder by Jane Yolen – two wonderful short poems to bookend the piece that capture the sense that the modern age can finally play with this world to its heart’s content.
An absolutely fascinating and high-quality collection I think is going to speak to anyone who likes their fantasy or horror with a sense of weirdness. Please track this down and read it you will enjoy this trip to Wonderland’s many worlds and characters and makes me appreciate the idea of Wonderland so much more.