09th Sep2013

Book Review: Bedlam Stories

by Phil Wheat

BEDLAM-header

Written by Christine Converse | Based on a story by Pearry Teo

Bedlam Stories is an intriguing concept. The oft-told tales of Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz filtered through the twisted vision of film maker Pearry Teo whose work has always been marked by a dark, sinister edge. Here Teo teams with author Christine Converse for a tale that takes the works of Lewis Carroll and L. Frank Baum as a starting point and crafts a startling new tale of madness that is certainly not your parents fairy tale!

Of course re-adapting fairy tales and folklore is nothing new, ABC have had success with their series Once Upon a Time whilst NBC turned Grimm’s Fairy Tales into a fantastic horror-tinged police procedural show. But whilst both of the aforementioned are superb in their own right there is nothing (and I mean nothing) that can prepare you for Bedlam Stories. From the very first page Christine Converse’s prose grabs you by the rough of the neck and takes you on a dark, twisted, surreal and insane (apt given the setting) journey through the halls of Bedlam Asylum and beyond.

The official log line goes like this:

Hoping to draw public attention to abuses within women’s mental institutions, journalist Nellie Bly fakes insanity in order to be committed to Bedlam Asylum. Her expose takes an unusual turn when Nellie meets a quiet teenager named Dorothy who insists that a magical land called Oz is not just a figment of her imagination. At first Nellie dismisses Dorothy’s claims, until she actually sees Oz for herself after going through a series of experiments.

Digging deeper into the asylum’s hidden secrets, Nellie learns about a failed test subject called Project:Alice that ended with disastrous consequences. By recreating these experiments on Dorothy and Nellie, the doctors at Bedlam have inadvertently released demonic creatures into Oz – refugees from a place called Wonderland.

Now Nellie must uncover the truth behind Project:Alice before Bedlam’s dark past repeats itself and the demons from Wonderland gain entry into our world.

But that is only half the story… If you’ve seen Teo’s Hellraiser-esque flick Necromentia you”ll know [some]what to expect from this book. It features the same lyrical storytelling, the same nightmarish imagery and the same sense of dread and foreboding. Yet at the same time this feels totally fresh, new and VERY exciting. It’s the kind of book you pick up and literally don’t put down till you’ve finished the very last page. Which in all fairness is a complete rarity for me – I can drag out reading books for days, nay weeks. But not with Bedlam Stories.

I was surprised to discover that author Christine Converse had, under the pen name Christine Cain, only previously penned numerous strategy guides. She has a real flair for prose and the way in which she describes every gory detail of Bedlam Stories (no doubt helped in part by the imagination of Pearry Teo, whose “baby” this project is), yet never goes too far in her descriptive, really allows the reader to truly use their imagination to fill in the visual gaps – something which cannot be said for a lot of other modern horror fiction today.

Going into Bedlam Stories as hardcore fan of Pearry Teo’s film work I knew it would be too easy for me to heap praise on this book so I’ll be honest I was looking for something, however minute, to criticise. Happily I can report I found none. I can only hope that the proposed multimedia behemoth that follows, including apps, a movie and more, can live up to the promise of this novel.

A twisted, surreal, imaginative and captivating piece of storytelling, Bedlam Stories can be pre-ordered at the official website. I heartily suggest you do.

***** 5/5

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