First, an introduction: Readers, meet Frank Beddor, 1981 and 1982 World Champion Freestyle Skier, movie stuntman, actor, producer of 1998's "There's Something About Mary", CEO of Automatic Pictures, creator and writer of the graphic comic "Hatter M.", and, oh, yeah, the author of this book. Frank, readers.
A look at Beddor's credentials, the list of movies and television shows he's been involved with, and the content of his "Hatter M." comics reveals a man who revels in aggressive and controversial behavior. Beddor is a hands-on guy, the kind of guy who shoots first and maybe, just maybe, talks second. His life is filled with lots of aggression, lots of energy, and lots of hyperbole. So is his writing.
The Looking Glass Wars
is the first book in a new trilogy called, well, The Looking Glass Wars
. In it, Beddor details the 'truth' behind Lewis Carroll's books "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking-Glass". The truth reveals several things, the most important being that Alice Liddell is really Alyss Heart and that she did not fall down a rabbit hole into Wonderland but rather fled a war-torn Wonderland and entered our world through a puddle of water.
It's an interesting idea and one Beddor took to with gusto. Entrenched fans of Carroll and Alice probably shouldn't read the book, though. Outside of their shared world (at least in name) and similar characters (sort of), the books don't have much in common besides being populated by living decks of cards and giant hookah-smoking caterpillars. Beddor does do a neat job of demonstrating his research by weaving several facts from Carroll's life story into this tale (including the fact Carroll was nothing more than a pen name). Several reviews state he has said the idea originated as a sort of retaliation against the Carroll books which, even reading them as a child, he felt were terrible and far too girlie. He's definitely turned things around in this book.
Beddor writes way over the top. He has an anything-goes approach that works simply because his writing reads so fast there isn't time for contemplation. This is totally glossy surface writing. Movie writing. Appropriately, Beddor is heavily marketing the book while simultaneously writing the follow-up, the comic and the screenplay. He is taking full advantage of all the considerable power of the movie industry to create the next speculative fiction film trilogy. Visit www.lookingglasswars.com for a sampling of what's to come.
Taking all the above into consideration, it's easy to understand why the book is a breeze to read. There are no secondary conflicts, no subplots, easily defined characters, no characters of any depth (although I will admit Hatter Madigan presents much potential - perhaps that's why he got the graphic comic), and not much of surprise other than whatever fantastical element Beddor's mind can think of next. Being able to play in a place called 'Wonderland' provided endless possibilities and Beddor capitalized on the chance to write a book with the rare combination of science and fantasy and actually made it work. Though the story is technically the standard one about a future rulers metamorphosis from spoiled royal brat to mature, responsible wonder woman it actually spends far more time on the tactics, casualties, and devastations of warfare. It tries to be an exploration of faith and belief; an analysis of trust, loyalty and attitude; but it cannot do more than allude to such ideas between exploding cannonball spiders, carnivorous roses, hit squads and diabolical laughter. The growth of the main character seems more a byproduct of the story than the impetus of the plot.
It is also quite violent, far more so than the Young Adult label would have you believe. There are many dramatic deaths and gruesome scenes that are glossed over or left so quickly behind they are generally replaced by the next story scene before they have a chance to sink in. The effects of concepts such as warfare, drug usage, dictatorships, elitism, classism, monopolization, even vengeance - they're all presented, displayed with inglorious detail, and then left behind without another thought. The ARC I have says it's for readers 10 and up; the letter enclosed with it says 12 and up. My youngest is in third grade (9 years old) yet reading at a seventh-grader's level (13 years old) and there is no way I'd let her read this book right now. As written, I'm not sure how a movie based on this book could escape an R-rating. Though most of its characters are imaginary hybrids of fantasy and science fiction, they and the few humans present do suffer far more physical and mental trauma than many of the characters in today's superhero movies. But Beddor is
the movie producer.
I think the book works fine as a stand alone novel, seeming to wrap things up quite succinctly. Though I'm not sure what direction any sequels might take, I would anticipate them being darker and more violent. I discovered an interesting observation under Wikipedia's Criticism at Wikipedia
, discussing how the book's plot parallels that of Disney's "The Lion King".
Beddor has done one thing well - selling his story. I'm curious as to how he pursues the adventure, so I'll be reading at least the next book. I just wouldn't recommend this book to the younger readers it seems to be aiming for.