Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Insanity by Cameron Jace

Okay, okay, last Alice in Wonderland-esque book that I'm going to review...for awhile. Taking a leaf out of the book of American McGee, Insanity is an attempt at not only making the story modern, but also dark and creepy. I really enjoyed American McGee's Alice and Alice: Madness Returns and when I saw this I thought maybe this is the closest I'd get to getting the same thing in book form. Let's dive right in.

Alice Wonder is a young girl who has been locked up in Radcliffe Lunatic Asylum for causing an accident and killing everyone in her class, including her boyfriend Adam J. Dixon, and claiming a mysterious rabbit-man was really responsible. Of course nobody believes her until a new resident at the asylum arrives. Carter Pillar, a hookah-smoking criminal mastermind and serial killer, believes that Alice is innocent and her claims are true. Working together, Alice and Pillar decode clues found in Lewis Carroll's paintings and photographs to find Wonderland and return its murderous inhabitants back there.

Lots of things in this book show not only vast amounts of creativity, but also an understanding as to how much work was actually put into this book. The author uses a lot of creative tie-ins to Carroll's original story that most people wouldn't think of. How Carter proves that Alice is the one he's looking for is actually really clever and something that you'd never think of, unless you read the original book. The author also points out that the facts concerning Carroll's life and Oxford University are completely true, as well as the existence of an Alice in Wonderland shop and the unusual event known as Kattenstoet in which residents of a town in Belgium celebrate throwing cats out of their windows. Yeah.

The characters in this story are all very well written. Alice is quite unlike most Alices you find in these kinds of stories. Her sanity really is in question most of the time, as she can't help but have flashbacks out of nowhere and can't seem to remember things that others say she'd said or done. She also possesses odd quirks of only being able to walk on white tiles and a terrible fear of mirrors. She's a fascinating little thing. Carter Pillar is also a curious piece of work. You want to know him, but you'd be afraid that he'd kill you the whole time. He's a deadly balance of charm and threat, and I love characters like him. The villain of the book, the Cheshire Cat, is a terrifying presence with a surprisingly sad backstory, yet you want to see him stopped as opposed to redeemed. I really appreciate the time and effort put into these characters and they're great to read about.

Sometimes, though, the information regarding where they're going or what they're doing kinda gets in the way. It sometimes feels a bit like an information dump as opposed to clever exposition. Fortunately, the information is pretty interesting, and the real-life locations are described really well. I like the information, I just wish the plot didn't have to sit down and take notes along with the rest of us. There are some other slightly unrealistic bits that seem kind of out of place. A fight in the Vatican that nobody seems to notice is a bit of a stretch and I have a hard time picturing how a girl eating cheese in the Great Hall of Oxford would suddenly become a viral sensation on Youtube. The formatting of the book itself is also kind of strange. The words just kinda stop or drop off leaving large blank spaces that would normally mean you've reached a new chapter, but just keep going on the next page. I don't know if this was an attempt to add to the insane nature of the book or if something went wrong with during the printing process. Kinda strange, but if the formatting of the book is the thing I have the biggest problem with, that's actually a pretty good sign.

Final Verdict
While not quite as haunting as American McGee, this book was still an enjoyable, creepy trip with great characters and genuine threats. The adventure of the story, the threat of the villain, and the question of whether it's real or not drags you in and I'd say this book is definitely worth your money at your local bookstore.

Have you read the book? Do you want to read it now? What's a good example of a twisted tale done right? Comment below and share your thoughts.

Next time: And with the pricking of my thumbs......

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