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Mad Hatters and March Hares - Book Review

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by Jennifer Muirhead (subscribe)
I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma. ~ Eartha Kitt
Published April 8th 2018
Curiouser and curiouser
mad hatters and march hares, Ellen Datlow, fantasy anthology, fantasy short stories, Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland, stories inspired by Lewis Carroll, stories inspired by Alice in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll's surreal children's books Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There continue to enthral and inspire readers and writers alike after 150 years. Mad Hatters and March Hares, edited by the prolific anthology editor Ellen Datlow (Teeth: Vampire Tales, Lovecraft Unbound, and Haunted Nights, among many others), is a collection of short stories inspired by Carroll's setting and characters. There is a bit of variety of genre, but most of the stories are a bit on the dark side, so it likely to appeal most to horror fans. Here are a few highlights:

Lily-White & The Thief of Lesser Night by C.S.E. Cooney

"When a vorpal rose sang, it meant she was happy. Which meant somebody was bleeding."

Someone has been "snatching" the Cheshires- stealing their teeth while they sleep, which means that when they disappear they are unable to reappear and instead are gone forever. The sisters, Lily-White and Ruby-Red set out to find the killer and set things to rights. While it was technically a tale full of murder, this story capture the whimsy and topsy-turvyness of Wonderland in a way that made it more than just another horror story.

Conjoined by Jane Yolen

'"Are you a man," a voice purred, "or a mantle?"

"I am an ape, " I answered in my thick voice. It had taken Barnum many years to get me to sound reasonably like a man.

"What are you aping?" Again that purr of a voice. Soft as a snake through the bends of green. Or the feathers of an own on the hunt.

"Sometimes, " I said carefully, "I ape a man."'

A talking orangutan lives and works in P.T. Barnum's travelling show, alongside the formerly conjoined twins, the Tweedle brothers. One night, while following his instincts to go out and find a tree to sleep in, the talking ape comes across the Cheshire Cat, who leads him to Wonderland.

Mercury by Priya Sharma

Alice lives in a London debtor's prison, taking care of her father, an elderly hatter suffering from mercury poisoning. She struggles to find a way for to pay off his debts, but her options are limited. The story felt like something from Dickens, with the elements from Carroll woven in subtly all the way through.

Alis by Stephen Graham Jones

"What would happen if you crossed Alice in Wonderland with? The Ring" asked no-one ever!

Run, Rabbit
by Angela Slatter

In this story by Brisbane author, Angela Slatter, the white rabbit is hiding out in the real world from the Red Queen, who wants his head.

In Memory of a Summer's Day by Matthew Kressel

Wonderland has become a popular tourist attraction, to which thousands of visitors are drawn daily, despite the dangers they are warned about.

Sentence Like a Saturday
by Seanan McGuire

In a delightful change of pace, this is the story of the Cheshire Cat, who finds herself unceremoniously dumped out into the real world to balance out Alice's entry into Wonderland. Now shaped like a little girl, the cat, or Kitty, as she is now called, must learn to live with logic and try to make a human life for herself until she can find a way home.

Worrity, Worrity by Andy Duncan

A story about John Tenniel, Carroll's original illustrator, who suggested Carroll cut a scene from his book about a wasp in a wig, as mentioned in the footnotes of The Annotated Alice.

The Flame After the Candle
by Catherynne M. Valente

"And do you know the funniest thing? An Oxford don, living in the walled garden of the university, with servants and a snug little house in which to write nonsense poems and puzzles and make inventions to your heart's content- that's more and more permanent a childhood than I ever had."

This complicated tale alternates between chapters about a modern girl exploring Wonderland and a meeting between the grown up Alice Hargreaves (on whom Carroll based his stories) and Peter Llewelyn Davies, who inspired J.M. Barrie to write Peter Pan. The poverty stricken, elderly Alice is a little bitter and happy to let Peter know with her dry wit.

Mad Hatters and March Hares is an enchanting collection of short stories, many very dark, some full of whimsy, humour or a poignant sense of loss. It's definitely worth reading for fans of Lewis Carroll.

Published: December 2017
Disclaimer: I was given a complimentary copy of this book by Tor books, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

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Why? To enjoy the whimsy of the Alice Books again
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