Alice, by Christina Henry

This is an interesting, unusual, and perplexing spin on some of the characters in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Interesting and unusual I like. Perplexing I have more problems with.

In this book, Alice is in prison. She does not see her jailers, cannot see outside, and isn’t entirely sure why she is in prison. All she can remember is a tea party, her friend Dor, and blood. Eventually she hears the voice of the man in the next cell, and through a mouse hole she can just make out part of his face: his nose in one view, his eyes in another. They talk each day and she learns his name is name is Hatcher, and he was given that nickname because he killed a lot of people with an axe.

Through Hatcher she learns a little about the outside world of the Old City. She learns of a magical creature named Jabberwock who is looking for something and about Hatcher’s strange life. Then one day there’s a fire which allows Alice and Hatcher to escape to the Old City. The farther she gets from the jail the more she leaves the influence of the calming powder she was given each day. She learns that she has powers she didn’t remember, and that she had a relationship with Rabbit, who she injured. She learns, also, that women of any age are available for sexual slavery and that Walrus and Carpenter are competing for the nefarious underworld of Old City.

It’s often an interesting ride and a fun adventure, but as you can tell from the brief outline of the plot it’s not a happy-go-lucky book. It’s a dark twist on the tale with sexual overtones and lots of blood. This Wonderland is a place where evil thrives. The perplexing part isn’t so much where it’s taking the reader as why. This is even more confusing in the final pages and a last line that made no sense to me at all. I don’t mind dark books but I like to have an agreement with the author that there’s good reason in the darkness. This book isn’t abstract enough to be bizarre, cogent enough to be horror, deep enough to be symbolic, and at the end all one can really say is: “Well, that was freaky.”