Many times, when someone mentions fairy tales it evokes images of little girls and fluffy princess movies. However, fairy tales of the past were fierce, violent tales of morality where good did not always triumph with the perfect happily ever after. So, too, are the fairy tales of the future in Once Upon a Time Machine. This anthology is chock full of fairy tales set in a world beyond the present, where Pinocchio is an artificial intelligence and the Tortoise and the Hare are gigantic fighting robots controlled by kids.
Each tale has a unique author and illustrator, but science fiction creativity flows throughout the entire volume. There are utopian and dystopian futures that mimic our greatest hopes and fears. Some are hilarious and whimsical while others are deadly serious. None of them portray the same world, but all of them pull from a classic tale or character. Even better, while some of the stories retell Western fairy tales included in any edition of the Grimm brothers, others portray tales from other cultures and traditions around the world. There are also several one or two page spreads that simply show a visual reimagining of a classic story spaced in between the actual tales.
The imagination put into these tales is astounding. The clever adaptations take stories that can seem old fashioned in our modern era and throw them into the future. Some of them take huge liberties with the stories, keeping only the merest essence of the tale while others pack in the tiny details in a new way. Either way, the tales have something to satisfy every reader, fairy tale fan or not.
The art varies from tale to tale, with some very cartoony drawings packed in next to gorgeous watercolors. Some of the most stunning artwork lies in the one or two page images that separate the full stories where they have to tell the essence of the story in a single picture. However, no one skimped on their illustrations anywhere in the book, in spite of a very diverse range of styles and character depictions.
In a 400 page book it would be easy to lose interest in a clever concept that might not have great follow through. Short stories collections are easy to put down and forget to pick back up again. However, I found myself eager to get reading again, even with the grainy PDF ARC I downloaded from Netgalley. This excellent effort appeals on multiple levels, from classic fairy tales re-imagined to fun sci-fi short stories set in clever, new worlds.
Once Upon a Time Machine
by Lee Nordling, Jason Rodriguez, Tara Alexander
Art by Charles Fetherolf, Khoi Pham, Nelson Evergreen
Dark Horse Comics, 2012