Wonderland: Edited By Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane
Reviewed by Brian Bogart
Since joining up with Gavin at KendallReviews, I have read my fair share of anthologies. If there is one thing I love about collections, it is the broad expanse of stories on display. WONDERLAND gives many authors a chance to put their spin on Alice In Wonderland – some dark, some delightfully odd and some, just try their best to nail the strange, fairy tale quality of Lewis Carroll’s classic stories.
Let’s take a peek into the strange looking glass…and see what lies in wait for adventurous readers.
There are more than fifteen stories within, alongside some fine poetic pieces. Some are authors you may have heard of, some not so well-known. What is interesting to me, is how going in without any preconceived notions of their author “voice”, it really helps to sell some of these tales. Especially the handful that really nail the vibe of Alice and spin it into their own wacky trip down the rabbit hole. And most of these have an odd, off-kilter quality to them, whether it’s in the narration itself by paying homage to the fantasy elements or really digging through the shadows to find what lurks there.
Think I will nail a few of the highlights, instead of covering every story.
Some of these are best read not knowing anything, and the variety of approaches really works- you never know what angle the next story is going to take. It makes the collection a strange trip itself, especially when you read a few back to back, for even fuller effect.
A hefty bit of credit to the editors (Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane) for finding a wide range of talent and letting their imaginations run amok. Honestly, job well done. A bit of something for every reader.
So, here are three of my favorites from this collection, in no particular order:
“Smoke ‘em If You Got ‘em” by Angela Slatter.
This tale was unexpected. It is a down-and-dirty western, wrapped up in all the gritty tropes you would expect from that genre. Alice, moseying into town, in search of Mr. Rabbit. He’s not a nice bunny in this tale. The town has a problem with missing children – and sometimes, much worse. It’s a nice little revenge tale – original despite the familiar trappings. Yeah, Rabbit and his goons are right bastards, to say the least.
In Alice’s pocket the compass kicks at her, a protest, something fearful about the motion. She pulls it out, says, “He’s missing this.” It’s a single toe, covered in white fur, large, dangling from a leather thong. “What’s he calling himself nowadays?”
Doc eyes the toe, blinks uncertainly. “Jack Hart.”
Alice snorts, puts the toe away. “I call him Rabbit.”
“When I’m being polite.”
“And when you’re not?”
“You don’t want to know… ”
“Vanished Summer Glory” by Rio Youers.
Charles couldn’t help but think of Alice, and the long, wonderful days they’d shared in Daresbury Wood. It wasn’t simply the adventures they’d invented, or the fact that they came to know every tree and wild flower. It was the time as a whole – a period of several years that, when compared to other years, shone with a true, relentless magic. And yes, everything had been open and unspoiled, and the grass had been so tall.
“Then it all changes,” Mr Rabbit said dourly. The glimmer left his eyes. His whiskers drooped. “I can talk about that, too, and how, when faced with change, it can feel like falling down an exceptionally deep hole.”
“Yes,” Charles said. “Quite.”
That’s exactly how it had felt, looking into Alice’s eyes as she told him that she was dying. They had been sitting on her sofa, their hands joined, and Charles remembered how unnaturally silent it was. No traffic noises or planes. No creaks in the radiators. No neighbourhood dogs yapping. It was a moment of eerie stillness. The world had paused for them, awaiting their return – a respite that upset its alignment. It would grind more than spin from that point on.
This story is like a polar opposite in many ways to some of the others. This is probably the saddest and most bittersweet thing I have read in a while. There is plenty of honesty on the page, and that in itself, makes it all the more magical. It explores the beauty of shared childhood experiences within a Wonderland, and the distance and longing for a return to that magic and strangeness as time goes on. Which is the greater thief? Time or distance? It’s beautiful and effective. Well done.
Damn. So many unique stories here…
“What Makes A Monster?” by L I McKinney.
An army of lamps hissed and hummed, stalwart sentinels watching over abandoned streets and boulevards. They did their best, but on nights like tonight, it was all for nothing.
On nights like tonight, a sort of restlessness clung to the air, strangling light from the stars and breathing life into the void. On nights like tonight, shadows chased people into their homes, crawled down alleys, and coiled under bridges. On nights like tonight, the flicker of gassed flames did little to drive back the dark. It was the sort of night Bodie’s maman (mother) said sent the Devil prowling. The sort of night you heard about in stories, where you couldn’t tell if it was the wind or something far more sinister howling. The perfect night for hunting monsters.
This story felt like a tiny thread in a large tapestry. I always enjoy “monster hunter”-styled stories, and also a big fan of 19th century London locales and backdrops. The characters are nicely written and there’s plenty of action in the pages. It’s fun, with a great villain to take down. If this is not part of a bigger story – it is something to consider and could easily be built upon. Plenty of ideas of my own sprung to mind when reading this piece (As a writer myself- I love when that happens.)
Okay, so that’s three of my faves- but there is plenty to like in this collection. It was actually hard to pick which ones to write about.
We have end of the world scenarios, with monsters gnawing at your heels. Satirical takes on famous characters with a sly wink and smart writing. Evil lurking under beds, in shadows and some controlling the world below from towering office buildings. AI. Ghosts. Dead babies stuffed in rabbit holes. Nonsensical riddles. Explosions and terrorism. Jabberwocks.
It may not be “horror” on its face, but it is there in most of the stories. Plenty of dark fantasy to love here. Fans of Alice in Wonderland are bound to find a fave or two. Even non-fans can enjoy it, I think. (Knowing details of the material does give some of the stories added appeal, though.)
A unique collection, with enough variety to satisfy readers of all types. And that is one of my favorite things about anthologies: you never know what the next story will be.
You don’t want to be late, do you?
Take a trip to Wonderland – but keep an eye on that white rabbit. Fall down that hole, and try your best to ignore the maniacal screams in the distance.
“OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!”
From the greatest names in fantasy and horror comes an anthology of stories inspired by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
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?
Brian Bogart is an American author, residing in Northern Ireland. His love of genre fiction started at an early age, consuming every horror and fantasy book available. He has been published in various degrees online and contributed a short fiction piece, “TOCSIN”, to The One Million Project (OMP) Thriller Anthology in an effort to raise money for cancer research and the homeless. He loves to share his enthusiasm for the horror genre with others and help promote other authors.
His latest story, alongside many other authors, can be found in the pages of EPIC FANTASY SHORT STORIES, coming soon from Flame Tree Publishing.
Purchase OMP THRILLER here: Amazon UK
Preorder EPIC FANTASY SHORT STORIES anthology here: Flame Tree Press
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Official Blog https://www.dreamdarklyblog.wordpress.com