Once upon a time, there was Alice in Wonderland. But this particular Alice is not a blonde, little girl running up and down the green grass of Victorian England. She has a red bob, she is talking selfies to post online to her fellow cosplayers and the year is 2038 in the city of Chongqing. She is browsing books at a very popular bookstore, when she is approached by this man, a foreigner probably, because he doesn’t look right to her: to start with, he’s overly dressed for a day that warm, and his face looks familiar.
But the mystery is quickly solved, as the man, ‘The Storyteller’ as Alice starts to think of him, introduces himself as a writer, who recently presented his book in that same bookshop. He was on TV, Alice recalls, that’s why his face looks so familiar. “If you like this author, then you will certainly like this story” he said to Alice. “What story?” she asks? “It’s the story of a boy, his name was Amos, Amos the amazing, an odd boy roughly your age, who loved books”. Amos. I knew a boy once, whose name was Amos, but it can’t be him, thinks Alice. And while the two of them sit in front of a hot drink, the Storyteller narrates the incredible adventures of this boy that more often than not finds himself in trouble, but that is also the only one who can rescue his grandfather’s soul from the dreamland.
The settings for this solar-punk sci-fi novel are incredible, taking inspiration from Alice in Wonderland, Chinese folklore and Harry Potter (only spicier), and the world that is created is full of colours and imagination and vivid images. Historical facts and cultural traditions permeate the whole book, creating a unique blend and an impressively layered narration. However, we feel execution impacts heavily on the overall beauty of it. There are times where the narration is too fast and descriptions are shortened instead of extensive; when talking about supernatural/fantasy/sci-fi it’s always good practice to set the rules of a specific world early in the narration and reiterate them along the book if and when necessary, because readers are not in the author’s mind. The final result is somehow botched and that’s unfortunate, because there is a lot of potential in this story. But rushing to put words on paper and be done with is not always the best strategy, and writing is also about tight editing and rewriting.
Having said that, we are keen to see what the future holds for Jorah Kai and his work, because he undeniably has great imagination, even greater storytelling skills, and a unique writing style that could really set him apart from the competition.