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The Looking Glass Wars
Frank Beddor
Egmont, 365 pages

The Looking Glass Wars
Frank Beddor
Frank Beddor is CEO of Automatic Pictures, a film, television, and interactive game production company. He produced the film, There's Something About Mary, which grossed $385 million worldwide for 20th Century Fox. Beddor also produced Wicked starring Julia Stiles. He comes from from Minneapolis, and attended the University of Utah, where he trained for the U.S. Ski Team. As a freestyle skier, he competed in the sport for five years, and was twice crowned World Champion.

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A review by Nathan Brazil


'"I'll tell you what sort of world this is," the rook said, answering his own question. "It's one that can't last."

"No," Dodge said. But he was no longer thinking of the rise and fall of queens, the corruption of general populations. He was thinking of something more personal, his motivation for waking up in the morning: assassination of The Cat.'

The premise of this book is both intriguing and audacious, with a hint of healthy disrespect. Alice In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll was, it seems, a lie. The girl of the title, Alice Liddell, was actually Alyss Heart, a princess of Wonderland and heir to the throne. The Looking Glass Wars, we're told, is the result of five years research by the author, who has unravelled the literary and literal conspiracy, to present the world with a tale of identity, revenge and revelation. No white rabbits, no tea parties, just an epic battle for power. It is the first in a trilogy. Debut author Frank Beddor says the idea to rework the original came to him when he saw a pack of old playing cards with Wonderland-esque figures during a visit to the British Museum. His grandmother and mother had made him read Lewis Carroll as a child, and he'd thought it 'a terrible girl's book.' So rewriting it was also an act of revenge. Now aged 35, Beddor grew up to become a ski champion, stunt double, producer and actor, who on his publicity photo bears an uncanny similarity to a younger David Hasselhoff. He is currently CEO of Automatic Pictures, a film, television and interactive game production company. Beddor also produced the hit movie There's Something About Mary. But, the big question is, can he write?

It is perhaps a contemporary American trait that any such reworking should involve conflict. The plot eschews the opportunity to reimagine Alice in a strange and whimsical manner, in favour of straightforward Hollywood violence. Clearly writing with the movie and game versions in mind, Beddor dispenses with complexities like characterisation and devious plot twists. Instead, what is presented is a tale where everyone is exactly who they seem. Black and white, good and bad with no shades of grey to trouble readers. Even within these self-imposed limitations, there's invention worthy of note. The Mad Hatter is replaced by Hatter Madigan, a cross between the most recent incarnation of Van Helsing and the Scarlet Pimpernel. There's also Dodge Anders, a Wonderlander boy in love with Alyss, The Cat, a shape-shifting feline assassin who has, quite literally, nine lives, and a suffocating Wig-Beast brought to life by the mad bad and dangerous to know Queen Redd. Alyss, cast out of Wonderland during a Coup by her evil auntie, ends up as the adopted child of the Liddells. Her tall tales about her homeland are watered down and misrepresented in books by the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson -- Lewis Carroll's real name -- who is shown in a manner which hints at paedophilia. Meanwhile, Hatter Madigan, who has also escaped Wonderland, arrives in a different country, and then spends years trying to track the princess down. By the time he finds her, she is in her mid-twenties and about to marry. Over the years, Alyss has forced herself to think of her past as a dream. Until it comes crashing back into her life, and she's dragged through a puddle, to emerge in Wonderland's Pool of Tears.

Reworking classics must always be done with guile and finesse, neither of which is in evidence here. The author seems to have found himself in a position where he knew the right people to get the book published, and they were blinded by his lights. The idea is not a bad one, in fact, The Looking Glass Wars could've been a triumphant blast of fresh air. If only Beddor's skill matched his daring. But, to successfully rework a story as well regarded as Alice In Wonderland, requires a level of skills and experience which are beyond most first time authors. Beddor is clearly a man of many talents, and had he thought with his CEO hat on, he might have employed someone whose primary skill was as a writer. Instead, he did the job himself and produced a sloppily plotted hodgepodge of ideas, which fails to convince.

Copyright © 2004 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at

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