edited by Margaret Weis
Ace, ISBN 0-441-00253-6, 1995, 291pp, US$12
A book review by Evelyn C. Leeper
Copyright 1995 Evelyn C. Leeper
This is an anthology of seventeen stories based in some way on Lewis Carroll's ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND.
Well, I suppose it sounded promising.
I was not encouraged by the fact that the introduction refers to the original work both as ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND and ALICE IN WONDERLAND. It also describes Lewis Carroll as "the epitome of the proper Victorian gentleman," a description which I do not believe squares with his penchant for photographing nude girls. But the real test, of course, is the stories themselves.
While it would be expecting too much for the stories to equal Carroll's, I had hoped they would at least capture some of the spirit (as did Gilbert Adair's ALICE THROUGH THE NEEDLE'S EYE a few years ago). Unfortunately, for the most part they don't. A couple have as their only connection the fact that they have a talking Cheshire cat. (In this they are similar to Thomas Disch and John Sladek's BLACK ALICE, which had a Tenniel illustration on the cover, but no connection with the Carroll stories.) Others postulate that Wonderland is some sort of fantasy world bearing little resemblance to how Carroll described it, or even the afterlife. And the stories are so downbeat, filled with child abuse, death, drugs, and so on. I know that's real life, but Wonderland was supposed to be an escape from real life. Even the stories that do seem to be set in the "real" Wonderland are mostly unsatisfying, their jokes and paradoxes taken straight from Carroll himself. The one exception to this is Connie Hirsch's "Wonderland Express," in which Hirsch seems to have come up with NEW wordplay of the type Carroll used.
One other story that did work was "A Common Night" by Bruce Holland Rogers, mostly because Rogers did a good job imitating Carroll's poetry.
But on the whole, FANTASTIC ALICE is a disappointment, and I cannot recommended it even (or perhaps especially) for fans of the Carroll works.
I also have a complaint separate from the contents of the book. For the reader, a trade paperback should offer some advantage over a mass-market paperback, and should certainly not be worse. Yet when I left this book in the car for only four hours, the cover looked like someone had taken a curling iron to it. Other companies manage to make trade paperbacks that avoid this; I would hope Ace would too.
%B Fantastic Alice %E Margaret Weis %C New York %D December 1995 %I Ace %O trade paperback, US$12 %G ISBN 0-441-00253-6 %P 291pp
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