Cheshire Crossing: Works better in print than audio

Cheshire Crossing by Andy Weir science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsCheshire Crossing by Andy Weir science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsCheshire Crossing by Andy Weir

Before Andy Weir became famous by writing The Martian, he used to post fanfiction and webcomics on his website. After he was famous, publishers got interested in his pre-Martian work.

One of his webcomics has now been published by Ten Speed Press under the title Cheshire Crossing (2019). It’s a mash-up of Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and The Wizard of Oz in which the three female protagonists (Alice, Wendy, and Dorothy) meet as teenagers when their parents send them to an asylum. Everyone, after all, thinks that these girls, who insist they’ve traveled to other worlds, are insane.

But it turns out that this new place isn’t an asylum. It’s a research facility run by a scientist named Dr. Rutherford (perhaps based on Ernest Rutherford?) who believes the girls’ stories. He is assisted by a nanny who is very practical and has some special talents of her own. You will recognize her.

When Alice, who is not a very nice girl (probably caused by the horrible things she witnessed in Wonderland) steals Dorothy’s slippers, she and Wendy end up in Oz. Dorothy and the nanny must somehow bring them back, but they don’t have the slippers, so how will they get to Oz? Meanwhile the Wicked Witch is eager to get her hands on those slippers, so she teams up with Captain Hook, who wants revenge on Wendy. Chaos ensues across three fantasy worlds.

Cheshire Crossing by Andy Weir science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviews

Random House Audio decided to make an audiobook edition of this graphic novel and they sent me a copy for review. It’s read by a full cast and is just over 1.5 hours long. You can try a sample here. The audio version has helpful sound effects (e.g., doors opening, wind blowing, birds tweeting, etc.) and the full cast does a wonderful job with the characters. A narrator helps us out by setting the visual scene:

Upstairs, a tall woman in a blue dress and a white apron leads two young girls down a wallpapered hallway. The taller girl has red hair cut short, a curious expression on her face, and a knife hanging from her belt. The other girl’s face seems carved in a perpetual scowl…

I thought the concept of Cheshire Crossing was clever and I enjoyed seeing the girls meet and size each other up. The best part of the story were those initial moments when we see how each girl’s personality and behavior has been affected by her earlier experiences and the way she’s been treated since. But once the Wicked Witch and Captain Hook showed up, I found myself losing interest in this frantic, often silly, adventure, though I did appreciate the “girl power” vibe.

Wondering if I’d like the print version better, I took a look at it. Because Andy Weir’s art is, in his own words, “crap,” Ten Speed Press brought in Sarah Andersen (of Sarah’s Scribbles) to re-do it. Her art is fantastic and I loved the way she drew the three girls. The art is better than the story, so even though the audiobook performance was excellent, if you’re going to read Cheshire Crossing, I’d choose the print version.

Published in July 2019. Number-one New York Times best-selling author Andy Weir tackles what transpires after “happily ever after.” What happens to Alice when she comes back from Wonderland? Wendy from Neverland? Dorothy from Oz? The three meet here, at Cheshire Crossing – a boarding school where girls like them learn how to cope with their supernatural experiences and harness their magical world-crossing powers. But the trio – now teenagers, who’ve had their fill of meddling authority figures – aren’t content to sit still in a classroom. Soon they’re dashing from one universe to the next, leaving havoc in their wake – and, inadvertently, bringing the Wicked Witch and Hook together in a deadly supervillain love match. To stop them, the girls will have to draw on all of their powers…and marshal a team of unlikely allies from across the magical multiverse. Written by the number one New York Times best-selling author of The Martian, Andy Weir, Cheshire Crossing is a funny, breakneck, boundlessly inventive journey through classic worlds as you’ve never seen them before.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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One comment

  1. I love this artwork! The story has a little resonance with Seanan McGuire’s novella series. Nice concept.

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