X out of Wonderland

X out of WonderlandX out of Wonderland
by David Allan Cates
Published by Steerforth

The Global Free Market will solve all ills: That is the premise which propels “X,” the protagonist of Cates’ satirical novel X out of Wonderland, on a journey from successful radio talk-show host to third-world sweatshop laborer, from kill-or-be-killed soldier to oversexed commune citizen. Make no mistake, X out of Wonderland is diatribe — but it’s the funniest and most poignant diatribe about the state of our current society you may ever read. No matter how many times X loses all that he has, no matter how much pain he suffers, he still trusts in the redemptive power of the Global Free Market. Wonderland contains genius twists and turns of phrase which alternately delight and horrify; its only fault is that the novel is rather plotless, moving from one circumstance to the next literally with every gust of wind. But at a breezy 140 pages, this fact can be easily overlooked as we enjoy our light-hearted tour of the rife hypocrisy that passes daily under our noses. Despair over the hopelessness of life on earth has never been so much fun.

January 9, 2006 – Matthew Kressel (courtesy Earthling Magazine).

The Water Mirror: Dark Reflections, Book 1

The Water Mirror: Dark Reflections, Book 1The Water Mirror: Dark Reflections, Book 1
by Kai Meyer, translated by Elizabeth D. Crawford
Published by Simon & Schuster

What do a blind orphan girl with mirrors for eyes, mermaids, Egyptians, flying stone lions, and urban Italy all have in common? Apparently nothing — until you pick up Kai Meyer’s The Water Mirror and begin floating with her down the canals of Venice. This first volume of a young-readers series, originally published in German, centers around Merle, a bold and curious orphan who begins an apprenticeship under the reclusive magic-mirror maker Arcimboldo. In the spirit of Pullman’s His Dark Materials, The Water Mirror‘s Venice exists in an alternate universe, where mermaids are raised in farms, stone lions guard the submerged city from imperious Egypt, and magic roams as freely as the flowing waters. And just like Pullman, Meyer leaves us waiting for the next book in the series. The author hints of great wonders — two expelled wizards whose aged towers lean uncomfortably close, gigantic underwater cities abandoned to the ravages of time — but she often gets caught up in relating this backstory, and long stretches of the narrative refer to events long ago, or are revealed rather awkwardly as conversations inside Merle’s mind. Nevertheless, The Water Mirror is imaginative enough to evoke wonder, and one hopes that with the scene now completely set, Meyer can open the floodgates of her creativity onto Venice with the next installment.

January 9, 2006 – Matthew Kressel (courtesy Earthling Magazine).