Okay, it’s October and I am already well behind my horror blog writing. This month, as with every October, I will be reading exclusively horror – either books that are in the horror genre or have many horrific elements. This year I have chosen to kick things off with Alice: The Wanderland Chronicles by J.M. Sullivan. As some of my more astute readers may have already noticed, Wanderland Chronicles is another book from Dreamcatchers publisher, Pen Name Publishing. Rest assured, I shall endeavor to remain objective.
So, first thing’s first: I don’t care for Alice in Wonderland. It’s not that I hate it, I have just never invested in Lewis Carroll’s universe the way that some others have. While I’m a big fan of fantasy, I’m also a big fan of logic… something that vanishes rather quickly as we journey down the rabbit hole. It is impossible to deny the impact that Carroll has made on writing and on imagination. Nevertheless, it’s never been my tea party.
Yes, but what if there’s zombies?
This the question author J.M. Sullivan asked when she re-imagined Carroll’s world as post-apocalyptic fantasy. Gone are the over-sized rabbits and the disappearing cats. In their place are the Momerath, virus-infected human beings with a bad temper and an appetite for human flesh.
And it’s not Wonderland anymore, it’s Wanderland – or what’s left of Phoenix. No rabbit hole required for entry. All that Alice Carroll (see what she did there?) needs to do to get in is simply walk… and not die. That’s the rules for Wanderland: keep walking, try not to die, and stay on the good side of the Red Queen.
Wonderland vs. Wanderland
While Wanderland Chronicles abandons much of Lewis Carroll’s nonsensical scenery, its characters nearly all have counterparts. Apart from Alice, Wanderland inhabitants include Chess – a boy with unnaturally quick reflexes, Bug – a surveillance expert with a passion for smoking, and Dr. Matt Hatta – I’ll let you figure that one out on your own. And, of course, the kill-happy Red Queen.
For the most part, Sullivan does an admirable job fitting these characters into their new roles in the zombie-filled wasteland. The only unfortunate side effect is that it does make the plot fairly predictable, something that takes all the air out of any tension she is trying to build. We know before she leaves what Alice will find in the Wanderland. Luckily, the book’s climax does add some twists away from the source material.
Writing in Wanderland
J.M. Sullivan crafts strong characters with believable (love triangle excluded) emotions and reactions in Wanderland. Her Alice is a fun protagonist, if one who goes from introvert to extrovert very quickly. Chess, Nate, and the Red Queen round out a compelling support cast. The plot hops along at a brisk pace, never dallying in any location too long.
If I have any complaint about the writing, it is that it violates the “less is more” rule. This is author J.M. Sullivan’s first book and I could tell that she didn’t trust her language, often repeating or going too simple. I’m from the school that taught me to avoid repetitive words on a page. Never give two sentences of explanation when one will do. Lewis Carroll owned the lingo of his fantasy, but this is the area of all others where J.M. Sullivan feels like a tentative tenant.
I hope that, in the sequel, she finds a stronger voice to suit her strong protagonist.
Alice: The Wanderland Chronicles won’t make you a believer in the zombie genre – it’s not World War Z. For those who don’t care for either Lewis Carroll’s world or horrific undead cannibals, I would advise giving this one a pass. That said, any out there who enjoy a fun zombie-filled romp should sink their teeth in. Wanderland Chronicles is the perfect popcorn to open up a fun-filled October.