Using a classic tale for inspiration is very dangerous territory, walking through the Deadlands with a dull pocketknife dangerous… Don’t worry, you will get that reference when you read the book. An author needs to be careful where they tread with such cherished inspiration because they don’t want to rewrite the story and be called a rip-off, but they also don’t want to insult the fans with a poor representation of a hero or story line and be called much worse.
January 9, 2012
BOOK REVIEW: Alice in Deadland
Mainak Dhar used just enough Alice in Wonderland to draw you in and feel a bit more comfortable with a new story, but was independent enough that Alice in Deadland could just as easily be called Rosie in Deadland and not lose much, if any of the overall story and premise by taking all of the Wonderland out of the Deadland. What Dhar takes from Wonderland is a very loose inspiration for character building and reference to the prophecy of a society long since gone (told by a woman with a mind long since gone.)
Alice is not your average 15-year old.
While most girls her age are learning to apply make-up and reading Twilight novels our heroine is applying battle paints and has never even seen a book. The difference is Alice lives in a post-apocalyptic India or better yet, a warzone that occupies the land where Delhi once stood.
Oh and she might just be more cold-blooded than Rambo.
While on her daily rounds of the encampment tasked with her regular duty of picking off Biters, the undead of Deadland, she spots a creative little zombie wearing a set of bunny ears making a quick exit down a hole in the distance. Our curious little girl makes chase and follows her target. Instead of notching another kill she opens Pandora’s Box, changing everything she and most of humanity knows about the great war that brought on the current state of being. Alice goes from just trying to survive, to trying to “live.”
Deadland is a fast book not just because it is shorter in length, but also that book you cannot put down. With a job, wife and child I still put the book away in under 3 days. Since this is an e-book only edition I can only guess somewhere between 300-400 pages, but that is just a rough guess, but I can promise you the book does not slow down.
You can’t help but notice parallels between the Biter Virus that spread and how humanity views and treats the infected and how people diagnosed with AIDS were looked upon in the 80’s. I suppose you can say that if you have read one zombie story you have read them all, but Dhar dove into the science side of things and explored the sentiments of the people who were tasked with finding a cure and the friends of recently infected, “better to be dead than undead,” they would say before plugging a round in their brother’s skull.
Scattered amongst the death, conspiracy and torment of this gripping zombiefest is also some great philosophical rantings disguised cleverly as fiction, but really a mirror to our World today.
“Man had proven to be the most jealous of lovers, preferring to destroy the Earth rather than give her up.”
“That’s always been the problem with humans. You take anything you fear and cannot understand and make it an object of hate. So much easier to hate and destroy than to seek to understand.”
“When people are scarred enough, they begin to accept any form of tyranny because unquestioning obedience to unknown masters is better than facing known dangers.”
“It was vain and stupid to create our own vision of these gods and fight over who’s vision was right.”
Those are far deeper sentiments than the average sci-fi-slash-horror fan expects packed in a novel. But really is it that far science fiction to believe Man is killing the Earth, zombie story or not?
Think Walking Dead meets the X-Files, a whole order of blood-thirsty zombies and a very generous side portion of conspiracy theory. And for .99 cents you can read what I garner will rank somewhere around an 8/10 for you or you can try your chance with a 20 dollar new release… take Alice.
I would give this a 9 out of 10, solid story with great writing. If you need to feel and smell everything the characters experience then be warned, Dhar does not waste time with overwhelming descriptions and paint a pretty picture. What Dhar does is moves the story at breakneck speed penciling you a nice sketch of the Deadlands and letting your mind fill in the colors, smells and texture of the settings. While some people may call this a sign of poor writing I just remind them that one of our most successful writers James Patterson has a similar style. I am a tremendous fan of Stephen King, but sometimes I wonder if a few of his books could benefit from a little less description.