Friday, July 31, 2009

The Book Review Club (August 2009)

So, I've been meaning to do this for months and I'm finally about to get my shit together in time! Woot!

A couple of months ago I borrowed Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire from a friend and she mentioned that I might like a book that was an interpretation of Alice in Wonderland, but she couldn't remember the title off-hand. A couple of weeks later, another friend bought the book, The Looking Glass Wars, by Frank Beddor and then finished it on the train ride home from Mudfest and handed it to me. Since I've been working like crazy and obsessed with vampire porn (as anyone on my Facebook profile could hardly miss), I only just this week got around to reading it.

I'm so glad I did. I liked it a lot more than Son of a Witch and possibly more than Wicked. Granted, I now very much need to actually read Lewis Caroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.

Here's what Visual Bookshelf on Facebook says about The Looking Glass Wars:
You know the myth...

A little girl named Alice tumbled down a rabbit hole and proceeded to have a charming adventure in the delightful, made-up world of Wonderland...

Now discover the truth... Wonderland Exists!

Alyss Heart, heir to the Wonderland throne, was forced to flee through the Pool of Tears after a bloody palace coup staged by the murderous Redd. Lost and alone in Victorian London, Alyss is befriended by an aspiring author to whom she tells the violent, heartbreaking story of her young life only to see it published as the nonsensical Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Alyss had trusted Lewis Carroll to tell the truth so that someone, somewhere would find her and bring her home. But Carroll had gotten it all wrong. He even misspelled her name! If not for royal bodyguard Hatter Madigan's nonstop search to locate the lost princess, Alyss may have become just another society woman sipping tea in a too-tight corset instead of returning to Wonderland to fight Redd for her rightful place as the Queen of Hearts.

Meet the heroic, passionate, monstrous, vengeful denizens of this parallel world as they battle each other with AD-52's and orb generators, navigate the Crystal Continuum, bet on jabberwock fights and travel across the Chessboard Desert.

The Looking Glass Wars unabashedly challenges our Wonderland assumptions of mad tea parties, sleepy dormice, and a curious little blonde girl to reveal an epic battle in the endless war for Imagination.
The first thing that struck me was the illustrations because the card soldiers seem ripped straight out of the recent Star Wars trilogy. Beyond that jarring flaw, I loved this book more for its plot than its characters. Alyss seemed well drawn and credible, though I found Redd and Dodge Anders to be less so. I loved the way Beddon connected real world events and events in Wonderland - the timeline was interesting, though perhaps I'm alone in my geeky love of timelines. I loved Hatter Madigan and his kick-ass weapons. I missed entirely that General Doppleganger was Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum - I have Carroll's books back in Canada and intend to bring them back with me before reading the next two parts of Geddor's trilogy.

The theme of the book, which deals with issues of anger, revenge, power and justice, rather hits you right over the head in terms of obviousness - while I find that more common in books for children and young adults, in comparison with Phillip Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy I think Beddor could have been a bit more subtle. That said, it was easy for me to draw parallels with the real world and other literature, such as the connection to North Korea and 1984 with Redd's use of constant broadcasting to control the Wonderland population.

I think this would be an enjoyable book to teach and I suspect my students would really enjoy it, as well. I look forward to reading the next two books.

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