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gareth.barsby has commented on (1) product.

Looking Glass Wars by FRANK BEDDOR
Looking Glass Wars

gareth.barsby, September 15, 2006

First of all, let me tell you that I am a major fan of Alice in Wonderland, and of American McGee's video game Alice, and of other great Alice adaptations such as Jonathan Miller's and Jan Svankmajer's. I am also British, so you know that I do tend not to like it when Americans get their grubby little paws over our great literature.

Secondly, let it be known that I am writing this review because there are far too many positive reviews. Or perhaps a more accurate description would be that there are far too many GLOWING reviews for it. I am sick of hearing this mediocre book being praised as the next big stepping stone of literature, that it's the next Harry Potter, that it's BETTER than Harry Potter, it's groundbreaking, imaginative, blah blah etcetera.

Why do so many people like this book? Maybe it's because they like the idea behind the book: that Wonderland is real and Lewis Carroll got the whole thing wrong. The premise of the book is its greatest strength and its greatest weakness. The premise itself gives the book so much chances, but they are all blown. Or maybe people like the book just because it's entertaining.

Well, I found it mildly entertaining, and had it been merely an 'average' fantasy novel, I wouldn't feel the way I do about it. However, everyone's claiming it's the best thing ever, and the author, Frank Beddor, wants the book to have a million tie-ins, the truth must be told: this book SUCKS.

Don't get me wrong, I given this book a chance. I read it once and found it okay. I read it twice and found it okay. I re-read and re-read and then I found the whole thing stinkin'.

So, anyway, people think the premise is original and has potential. And they're right. With a premise like that, the book could have been a brilliant satire or parody. But NO. The book takes itself way too seriously, smugly belieiving itself to be a great epic for the ages. How can anyone think the Mad Hatter as a superhero ISN'T hilarious?

Not to mention, with the material we've got here, basing itself on Alice in Wonderland is somewhat of a crime. It would be bad enough as an original story, but it's crossing way over the line by messing with a great classic. It takes everything that made Alice in Wonderland so great, crumbles it up and throws it in the wastebasket. Whle in the original, all the Wonderland characters were rarely ever nice to Alice, everybody loves the pretty princess Alyss except the bad guys and the meanies in the real world. And while the Alice books differientiated themselves from the rest of the oeuvre at the time with the lack of a moral (see the Duchess' obsession with finding them in everything), Looking Glass Wars has a tacky moral about 'the power of imagination', the same things Barney tells the pre-school kids.

Rarely, if ever, does Looking Glass Wars take advantage of its source material. Remember the aforementioned American McGee's Alice? That took the traits of the characters and twisted them in morbid ways. The Duchess' exploding pig babies! The Mad Hatter's clockwork robots and toxic tea! The characters in Looking Glass Wars couldn't be any more distanced from their 'originals', this distance due to the fact the author wants to say to his audience: 'I AM ULTRA MATURE AND OH SO DIFFERENT FROM KIDDY BOOKS LIKE ALICE IN WONDERLAND!!!'

The Looking Glass Wars is like a ten year old child trying to look adult by saying swear words and telling dirty jokes. When fight scenes appear in a novel, they should be eliticing indescribable emotion in the reader, while here, they're just here as a lame attempt to shock the readers and give the children who read this a sense of self-superiority.

Perhaps the violence in this story would mean something if the story had living, breathing three-dimensional characters. It has none. Pretty Princess Alyss Heart feels more like a little girl's self-fulfillment fantasy than an actual character. When she loses her imagination, one would expect her to face the baddies without magic powers, but she regains them and becomes like a goddess, thus ruining everything that made her sympathetic and relatable. Hatter Madigan is little more but another of the author's failed attempts to look cool, but his spin-off comic book is marginally entertaining. And Queen Redd is the lamest, most cliched villain ever, no different from any Saturday Morning cartoon baddie. She laughs maniacally, makes 'witty' one-liners and bosses around her henchman. And she has black pointy teeth as well (ooh, scary!) And don't even get me started on Jack of Diamonds and the Cheshire Cat. None of the characters in this book, or most of the events, are realistic enough to be part of a 'true story'. If you had lived a happy life for seven years in a magical fantasy world, only to be exiled, live on the poor, wet, cold streets of London with orphans for a while, get constantly mocked and teased at for your heritage and then have your entire life story changed entirely, would you:

a) Try your best to fit into society?
b) End up in an insane asylum screaming and raging?

The style of this book is poor and underwritten. Onomatopeia is used constantly until it completely grates the readers' nerves, important events are glossed over, Beddor keeps breaking the 'show, don't tell' rule and there are also some unnecessary 'thought balloons' for Alyss, even though in this situation it would be obvious to a moron what she would be thinking. The emotion in this book feels contrived and syrupy, making it feel more like a Disney movie than...well, the Disney adaptation of Alice in Wonderland.

Are there any good points about the book? Well, the scene where Hatter Madigan meets Lewis Carroll and scares the crap out of him was funny, as was one scene with the Caterpillars concerning deja vu. And it inspired me to write a fanfic. Anyway, in spite of this book's flaws, I intend to get the next volume, because I do forsee great improvement in this series (but maybe I'm being optimistic) and I will buy the tie-in soundtrack, because I like music.

So, in conclusion, give this book a miss. No-one's stopping you, no-one's forcing you to like it. This book is basically everything the publicity said it isn't: unoriginal, badly written, immature and pedestrian.
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