Imagine if Tim Burton and Quentin Tarantino sat down at a table to do a book collaboration.
"Let's make a book with tons of over the top violence," Tarantino might say. "Sexual, physical, cannibalism - you name it!"
"Okay," Tim Burton might say. "But only if we get to ruin somebody's childhood classic with an existential nightmare set in a surrealistic landscape of angst and desolation."
"And let's have a female character go on a killing spree as she embarks upon a quest for revenge," Tarantino would add.
"Deal," Burton would finish, "just don't forget the purple spirals!"
That's kind of what ALICE is like. The eponymous main character, Alice, is not the Alice we know. She's a survivor of terrible acts she can't entirely remember, and imprisoned in a mental institution along with folks like Hatcher: a man ten years her senior who murdered his entire family with an axe.
When the two of them escape, they land up in a place purged of all magic, where evil crime lords have carved up the land into slices of terror and poverty and corruption. One of those crime lords is the man who raped and scarred Alice. Another is a brothel owner who tortures the girls in his employ. Another eats the girls he captures alive. And still another is dangerous because his motivations are completely secret. Alice and Hatcher have to deal with all of them in order to survive.
ALICE takes a while to get rolling. I actually started this months ago and lost interest around page 80. This time, I managed to finish the book, and let me tell you, once you hit page 100 or so, it's a nonstop thrill ride. To get the best effect of the world-building, I recommend reading this book at night. I had a graveyard shift last week, and as I headed to my car in the cold darkness, with mist circling the ground, and an eerie silence filling the air, it really did feel like the world of ALICE was not only possible, but also immediate. I locked the doors right away, just in case. ;)
The sequel is getting released this year. I'm hoping I can finagle an advanced copy, because that ending was frustratingly open-ended and I'm dying to find out what happens next.
4 out of 5 stars!