Friday, 26 August 2016


Alice by Christina Henry

In a warren of crumbling buildings and desperate people called the Old City, there stands a hospital with cinderblock walls which echo with the screams of the poor souls inside. In the hospital, there is a woman. Her hair, once blonde, hangs in tangles down her back. She doesn't remember why she's in such a terrible place just a tea party long ago, and long ears, and blood... Then, one night, a fire at the hospital gives the woman a chance to escape, tumbling out of the hole that imprisoned her, leaving her free to uncover the truth about what happened to her all those years ago. Only something else has escaped with her. Something dark. Something powerful. And to find the truth, she will have to track this beast to the very heart of the Old City, where the rabbit waits for his Alice.

For ten years, Alice has lived in a mental institution in the Old City, wondering if she was really as mad as her parents thought she was. With nothing to keep her occupied and no one to keep her company, Alice can do nothing more than ponder her fate, taking the medication they give her and behave, or risk them injecting her with something stronger. This is her fate until someone tells her she is not alone.

At first she thought the voice was a figment of her imagination, but when the voice is real, she has a chance to express herself after all those years. Alice soon discovers that the voice in the other cell is Hatcher, a young man by the sound of it who has gone through similar traumatic experiences within the horrific institution that has kept him there for a long time (how long is a mystery in the book) and it is as if time means nothing to those who hold them. Hatcher is a murderer, but he believes that there are reasons beyond his control for why he has become that kind of man, ones Alice finds disturbing, but as he has not hurt her or deceived her, she throws her lot in with him and escapes the evil of the institution after a fire breaks out , yet life on the street also has its uncertainty and dangers; they have to find food rather than be given it daily, and shelter rather than it being already there. Through all this they also have to evade the cruel guards tracking them down wherever they go, though there is another evil tracking them.

Hatcher knows of the monster that has escaped the asylum and tells Alice that he has felt the entity since he has been in the asylum. Now that she has escaped with Hatcher, Alice can discover her own destiny and who she really is without being controlled, but she also has to dodge violent gangs who sound like they have come straight out of Lewis Carroll's novel and a character who is as familiar to us for reading those novels; the Rabbit, though here he is a dangerous psychopath who haunts Alice's dreams and waking life. What we see in both Alice and Hatcher is the fact that they are damaged in some way, haunted by others who would do them great harm, yet their despair and hurt could also make them better people as they set about trying to stop the evil that tracks them as they have a good enough chance of beating it.

As Alice tries to make sense of her life, Hatcher, who struck me as more disturbed than her, he has a temper, dark thoughts and will kill if he needs to which set me to thinking that he might not mind killing Alice if she proved difficult with him. Most of the way through the story, Alice obeys him without fuss, but she needed to be much stronger so that she wasn't pushed around by him. She was playing it safe the whole way through as she never thought she was strong enough to stand up to him and his violent tempers.

There have been other disturbing versions of the Alice in Wonderland novel by other accomplished authors, but this one reads as being much darker than even I expected.