Christie Burke's Infinite Booklist

The Looking Glass Wars October 7, 2010

Filed under: adventure,crossover,fantasy,fiction,guys,science fiction,series,YA — Christie @ 9:14 pm

I broke a cardinal rule last winter and booktalked Frank Beddor’s The Looking Glass Wars without having read it first.  (In my defense, I didn’t actually talk much – just showed the book trailer and noted that we own the book.)  It’s a reimagining of Alice in Wonderland; I talked it up as a fractured fairy tale.  Having just finished it, I think it’s more a SF/battle story that happens to use Alice as its backdrop.

 

The story begins with Alyss Heart’s seventh birthday and a palace coup that forces her to flee Wonderland through the Pool of Tears.  She lands in Victorian London and makes a life for herself with the Liddell family (Alice Liddell was the actual little girl for whom Charles Dodgson/Lewis Carroll wrote the original Alice stories), until eventually she’s brought back to Wonderland as an adult and takes on a fight for her rightful throne.

 

Frank Beddor walks a fine line in this book — Wonderland is recognizably the world of Alice, but it looks a lot different from the way Lewis Carroll brought it to us.  The events of the story are plausible in that world, but completely new and intriguing.  On top of that, The Looking Glass Wars is the start of a trilogy and is followed by a series of graphic novels dealing with Hatter Madigan (Alyss’s royal bodyguard).

 

Though I found this book slow at first, I think that may have been me and not the story.  It picked up considerably about a third of the way through and really kept me going from then on.  So I was wrong about the fairy tale situation — sorry, high school kids.  You should probably read this book anyway.

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The Maze Runner August 3, 2010

The Maze Runner (cover)Dashner, James.  The Maze Runner. Random House (Delacorte Press), 2009.

Thomas is the newest arrival to the Glade, a compound where preteen and teenage boys are fending for themselves and creating a life with no adults.  Up to the time he arrives in the mysterious lift (called The Box), a new Glader just like Thomas has arrived every month, with no recollection of his previous life and no information about himself except his first name.  It happens once a month like clockwork – until 1) another person comes through The Box the very next day who is 2) a girl and 3) is clutching a note that says, “She’s the last one. Ever.”

The Glade, thus far, has proven inescapable.  It’s surrounded by a giant maze that changes every day.  A team of eight Runners goes out each day to try and find an exit, but none has been found and the Runners are beginning to think it’s unsolvable.  Thomas wants to be a Runner even though he’s new to the Glade, and the presence of the girl is making him think he might have some answers if he could just get to his memories.

The Maze Runner is a terrific follow-up recommendation for kids who are reading the Hunger Games series, with some similar themes of beating the system and sticking it to the man.  There’s lots of action here and while the author classifies himself as a fantasy writer, I think sci-fi readers would enjoy it as well.  I will say this: I hated the ending, but it is the first in a series (The Scorch Trials is due out in a couple of months, and we can only hope it has some answers in it).

 

The Eyre Affair June 21, 2009

The Eyre Affair, cover image from Penguin.com

The Eyre Affair, cover image from Penguin.com

The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde.  Viking, 2003 (or possibly 2001 – there may be a UK/US publishing thing here).

The Eyre Affair is the first in a series of slightly loony detective novels featuring Thursday Next, an operative with the Literary Detectives arm of SpecOps in a twisty parallel version of late-20th-century Great Britain.  Certain people travel freely through time; others (including Thursday) are the proud keepers of reconstituted dodos and other extinct species, recreated through DNA sequencing.  Air travel is via dirigible rather than by plane – that’s just how things developed in this world. In this installment, characters from classic fiction are being kidnapped and worse.  It’s up to Thursday to set things right and to apprehend the criminal mind who wants to change literature forever.

The Thursday Next books are pleasantly silly, laced with puns and unexpected literary humor.  They’re also solid stories.  Thursday is a strong and interesting protagonist with realistic problems (like her One True Love, who is marrying someone else, and her unwillingness to play along with the shady intentions of the government).  Fforde’s writing is laugh-out-loud funny, and it takes a LOT to get me to say that.  This is good stuff, recommended for readers who like Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett.  I’d also give it to readers of detective stories, but with a little more forethought.

Related:

Please, please take some time to poke around in jasperfforde.com.  Hilarious.

Jasper Fforde on Wikipedia.