Alice’s Adventures in Steamland: The Clockwork Goddess by Wol-vriey (Submission)
Release Date: June 27, 2012
Genre: Bizarro fiction, steampunk, fantasy, wonderland, soft core porn
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Summary: Alice Sin is your typical prostitute turned hired assassin, living in a steampunk version of America divided between the queendoms of New York and Texas. Hired by Lady Busybody to kill her husband Lord Busybody (AKA the Mad Hatter), Alice must use her feminine wiles to kill the mad scientist, keep her true purposes a secret, deal with a cake making arsonist Caterpillar and befriend a wind-up robot.
As prior instances have shown, I can’t say no- insert song and dance number here- to Alice in Wonderland themed anything, much less literature (see HERE and HERE). Throw in some steampunk and I’m all in, which is why when Bizarro Press offered us a Kindle version of this book I knew I had to review it. I first encountered Wol-vriey in the anthology Tall Tales With Short Cocks, where he wrote a fantastical tale set in a kooky world that was almost a little too strange. Thankfully for Wonderland, there is no such thing as too strange, but there might be such a thing as too much semen. You have been pre-warned.
The novella is set in Victorian America, AKA a steampunk version of America ultimately divided into two territories. Half of America is run by Queen Victoria Busybody, dubbed the Queen of Hearts because of her choice of heart embroidered wardrobe. She runs the queendom of New York, while her sister Queen Anna runs the queendom of Texas- where everything is bigger. Anna goes by the moniker Mech-Anna or “the Clockwork Goddess”. Both sisters have torn the country apart, all over the state of Kansas, which is a hotbed of coalfields. Enjoy it Kansas, this will be the only instance where people actually fight over control of you, fictional or otherwise.
Also in the Busybody monarchy is the sisters’ brother, Lord Dudley Busybody, a mad scientist people refer to as the Mad Hatter, so called because of his enormous hat. Inside the hat are various drawers he keeps a never ending supply of objects in, including teacups, but sadly no drunk mice. Think Mary Poppins’ bag. At one point he even locates what appears to be a rubber caterpillar inside its depths. He found the object, which fell from space and placed it inside his hat to study later. Because it’s logical to put things that fall from the sky like a meteor in your wardrobe. Later, when the caterpillar inexplicably comes to life/reanimates and we get some “Who are you?” jokes, we learn his name is Baker and he makes exploding cakes. Rounding off the royal family is Prince Jackson, who may or may not be a homosexual incestuous Mama’s boy with homicidal tendencies.
The heroine of our story, Alice Sin (originally Alice Cinnamon) is hired by the Hatter’s wife to assassinate the Hatter for all the reasons women kill off their husbands. Possibly also to become a Queen. Alice looks like a young Lady Marie Busybody and uses this to her advantage when seducing Lord Busybody, pretending to be a reporter with a weak constitution. A word of caution to anyone planning to read this tale. At times, it reads like a soft core porn. If you read it I hope you like penises (peni?) as major plot points.
As expected, the story is laden with references to the original tale, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the talking animals in particular. In New York, the streets are patrolled by March hares, whose species as their names indicate are prone to professions containing marching. I.e. the military, marching bands, the Einsatzgruppen, you get the picture. These rabbits also have a propensity for checking the time, which is strange because the same can be said of the few White Rabbits we see. Cheshire Cats are equally present and also seem to be drawn to one profession: particularly butlers. They use their strange powers to pop in and out where needed, sending messages and ignoring social mores such as knocking before entering rooms. This also helps with population control. The Cheshire Cats all look the same and are all named Cheshire, leading Alice to postulate that all Cheshire Cats are just the same cat masquerading as a species. Racism against the Cheshires is pretty rampant.
As if all this plot wasn’t enough, there is also a serial killer on the loose known as the Ripper who targets prostitutes. Unfortunately for them, unlike the British counterpart who doesn’t seem to exist in this alternate history, there is no medical precision and instead the victims are eviscerated with a scythe and their entrails are strewn everywhere. Lovely. As explained by the Hatter, he is named the Ripper because of his resemblance to a reaper… What? Then why isn’t he called the Reaper!?!
To heighten the ties to Wonderland, Wol-vriey has tables set with tortoises that stand in as serving trays and birds with fused wings that are used as cups. Too bad for the diners, they seem to work better as croquet mallets and this use of fowl is merely foul. Yes, I just went there. There are also magical cakes which give the eaters super powers (x-ray vision, astral projection, teleportation), affect the size of the eater’s characteristics, their location, etc, etc, etc. This second half of the novella feels more Wild Wild West than Alice, complete with Mech-Indians who are partly mechanical Native Americans. There are even walking robot spiders. Wiki wiki wild!
The main problem, sans the reliance on sex, is that Alice in Steamland often suffers from too much explanation. Where the original is so wonderful because nothing is explained, Wol-vriey seems to want to explain almost every little joke and pun. Alice is so fun because it doesn’t require or supply answers. It doesn’t need to! A little less tell and a little more show next time would be nice.
-Wonderland meets steampunk, end of story
-Nice blending of traditional and new characters
-Great to see original elements tackled in fun and interesting ways
-Bit reliant on semi-graphic sex, particularly semen
-Suffers from explaining things too much, not what Alice is about
Move over Snow White, you have nothing on Alice! She’s been in horror, fantasy, and now steampunk. Is it any wonder that I love the shape-shifting little girl who fell down the rabbit hole? Sorry Disney Princesses, this crinoline wearing lady will always be number one in my heart.