Authors: Kaye Chazan, Amanda Ching, Hilary Thomas, C.A. Young
Editor: Kate Sullivan
Title: (re)Visions: Alice
Publisher: Candlemark and Gleam (2011)
Disclaimer: Copy received for review purposes.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“In 1865, an English author and scholar with an abiding interest in mathematics and logic published a tale originally told for the amusement of a friend's young daughter, Alice.The resulting novel, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, was largely ignored at first, but then rapidly rose to fame, with such prominent admirers as Queen Victoria and Oscar Wilde; its nonsensical language and endearing characters have made it beloved of generations of children and adults alike, and the escapades of young Alice have inspired writers the world over. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland has never gone out of print.With such universal appeal, it's no wonder that the quasi-logical tricks and banter of Wonderland have cast a long shadow on modern fantasy. Echoes of the Queen, the Cat, and others can be found in tales old and new, and the idea of falling into a strange, bewildering world is one of the favorite tropes used by authors of the fantastic.The (re)Visions series seeks to bring classic works of speculative fiction back into the modern consciousness, examining how tendrils of the fantastic spiral through all that we think and do, even decades after a work was penned. First, read Lewis Carroll's (extremely) original work; then, let your mind wander through the gardens and passages of Wonderland, guided by four very different modern authors.And don't forget your flamingo.“ GoodReads’ blurb
Fans of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland will rave about this one... and even those who never got the hang of the original will enjoy the new takes on the story! I know because I had a lot of expectations going into (re)Visions: Alice, and every single one of them was surpassed.
That’s coming from someone whose relationship with the classic is complicated. But let’s take a closer look at this book.
The compilation offers the Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, plus four short stories of four very talented authors, who each twist and spin the weirdness of Wonderland in their own way. I have to say that this was the first time I read Lewis Carroll’s tale as it was meant to be of course, I’d gone through it before, probably a bit too early to truly enjoy it, but it was the Spanish translation. I didn’t get half the story, and that’s why I said my relationship with Alice is complicated: I’d not learn to appreciate it until much later, when we went over it in a literary translation class, with a great professor who took the time to explain the symbolism and to make sense of things. And that was the French version. So, now I came back to English and I’ve to say that I loved this chance: understanding now what it was all about and experiencing the language almost as if it were another game of Alice’s Wonderland was amazing! I’m really glad that it’s included in the anthology.
The first story afterwards, What Aelister Found Here, by Kaye Chazan, now... beyond amazing, it was a bomb! I whish I could share my thoughts on it without spoiling the whole thing. Let’s just say that the author brings Wonderland to us, rather than the other way around, and that the choice of setting and historical background couldn’t be better – you’ll see the play on words as soon as the events start unfolding in Victorian London. It’s true that the “other shoe” will truly drop only if you’re up to date on your wizarding history, but... Well. The thing is that I was, that I knew who Aelister turned out to be the moment he said his given name at the end, I knew what he’d do in the future and... Wow. Still, even if all that says nothing to you, the style itself, in present, with a fourth wall that not always exists, and the mystery of who – and what – each character is keeps the reader immersed on the text.
The second story’s called House of Cards, by Amanda Ching, and, again, a detailed explanation of what worked to well would spoil the game for you. It’s a narration that feels almost surrealist, as it goes from one place to another, and then to another character... Except, as it progresses, we begin to understand the jumps that aren’t quite jumps. Or at least, not the kind we thought them to be. Suddenly, in the end, every piece falls in place, so neatly that you can almost hear them going ‘click’ in your head, and Alice and her trip to Wonderland, the Queen of Hearts, Cheshire, Duchess... it all takes a whole new depth to the old meaning.
Then, we have Knave, by Hilary Thomas, which is, perhaps, the tale that felt further from Carroll, in a style so different that comparing the two would have felt odd, and yet, it might have been my favorite version of them all. The story follows Jack Knave, some sort of head of security or detective working for the Queen... and Wonderland is up to its neck in a turf war. Yes, there’s gangsters and guns and noir. No, you’d not have imagine Alice to be quite like this. Yes, I loved every minute of it, from the original setting to the unique voice of Jack, and his competence tinged with just a bit of corruption in a world that’s made of shades of grey.
Last story is The World in a Thimble, by C.A. Young, and I’ll be damned if first appearance of Alice didn’t freak me out. The main character, luckily for me, is not Alice but Toby, a guy who’s not very good at dealing with problems or standing up for himself. We get to see how he gets plunged in Wonderland and learns to find himself – the only other choice is to be completely lost forever! This story touches some very interesting aspects of having your own principles and beliefs, of the power of imagination and dream alike, and I found it to carry a bright message amidst Toby’s tension.
All in all, as you can see, I thoroughly enjoyed this anthology. Fresh, original, hooking... I hope that now that we’ve gone a bit over all the stories included, you understand why I think that you’ll like it. Certainly, it’s a recommended read for all except those with a deathly aversion to short stories. And I don’t know who’d have one of those...