AUTHOR: CHRISTINA HENRY / PUBLISHER: BERKLEY BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
After offering dark twists on the likes of Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and The Little Mermaid, Christina Henry’s latest gives Little Red Riding Hood the same treatment. In The Girl in Red, a young woman must brave her way through the woods after a terrible virus lays waste to humanity. But she must be careful about straying from the path as there are monsters in the forest - both human and inhuman.
There’s a lot to like about Girl in Red. In particular, the titular protagonist is well-crafted; tough, smart and resilient, this Red has her own axe and doesn’t need a heroic woodsman to save her. Through her, Henry also enjoys being self-aware of the tropes of post-apocalyptic fiction, as Red is as much a movie and book buff as many of the readers no doubt are.
Speaking of the apocalypse, this is as grisly and disturbing a Doomsday scenario as anyone can dream up. We pick up a Christina Henry book hoping to be horrified, and Red doesn’t disappoint. There’s gore, blood and guts (a lot of guts), but also a chillingly plausible portrait of the degradation of society. The novel has a sharp thematic core, too. The fairytale’s warning about predatory men is extrapolated by Henry to explore how men can become beasts in times of crisis.
On the other hand, there’s just not as much invention on show here in comparison with Henry’s earlier efforts. Alice and Lost Boy managed to blend the originals with the writer’s bleak imagination. With the folk story offering such slim source material, Red merely employs the flavour of the fairytale to add colour to a fairly familiar dystopian narrative. There’s also a frustrating lack of answers by the book’s end that might work for some but are likely to leave others feeling unsatisfied.
However, this isn’t to say it’s not a diverting way to spend a couple of hours, especially if you’re someone who can’t get enough of The Walking Dead and its ilk or if you're looking for a read starring an LGBT heroine of mixed heritage. If that's the case, you’ll definitely want to take a wander through the woods with The Girl in Red.