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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Raw Deal
This is a good translation from the original Spanish of a well-written novella from the viewpoint of a young Mexican boy. Tochtli, whose father is a drug baron. For obvious reasons, Tochtli lives in a bizarre heavily-guarded world of obscene luxury, and brutal amorality, where his father allows him to see men being tortured, as part of ensuring he grows up to be suitably...
Published on 11 Dec 2011 by Antenna

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tochtli in Wonderland
'Down the Rabbit Hole' is a slight novel about life inside the bizarre world of a Mexican drug baron as seen through the eyes of Tochtli, a nine-year old boy. Except of course that the title 'Down the Rabbit Hole' has echoes of Alice in Wonderland, that strange distorted fantasy world as seen through the eyes of child experiencing something unusual and that link, that...
Published 8 months ago by Sofia


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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Raw Deal, 11 Dec 2011
By 
Antenna (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Down the Rabbit Hole (Paperback)
This is a good translation from the original Spanish of a well-written novella from the viewpoint of a young Mexican boy. Tochtli, whose father is a drug baron. For obvious reasons, Tochtli lives in a bizarre heavily-guarded world of obscene luxury, and brutal amorality, where his father allows him to see men being tortured, as part of ensuring he grows up to be suitably macho, and Tochtli casually announces that the corpses of those who have fallen foul of his father end up being fed to the lions and tiger kept in cages in the garden. The boy is obsessed with death, body parts and the number of bullets needed to kill people, according to the organ damaged. His corrupted child's perception of the world is darkly tragicomical, his misreading of situations, such as the visits of a prostitute for his father, sometimes amusing, his casual acceptance of violence and lack of "normal" feeling are often shocking although understandable.

This is an imaginative but bleak parody of the predicament of a child, subject to a distorted socialisation, deprived of the company of other children so unable to relate to them, indulged by having his every material whim satisfied, even to the extent of being taken to Liberia to capture a pair of the pygmy hippopotami with which he has become obsessed, bored by the narrow repetition of his daily life. His only real moment of closeness with his father is when the latter says that one day Tochtli will have to kill him to save his honour i.e from gaol, like a samurai in one of the violent films they love to watch.

Something of a "one trick pony" in the essential point made, the book can be read too quickly for you to worry that you may have wasted your time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tochtli in Wonderland, 7 April 2014
By 
Sofia (Bristol, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Down the Rabbit Hole (Paperback)
'Down the Rabbit Hole' is a slight novel about life inside the bizarre world of a Mexican drug baron as seen through the eyes of Tochtli, a nine-year old boy. Except of course that the title 'Down the Rabbit Hole' has echoes of Alice in Wonderland, that strange distorted fantasy world as seen through the eyes of child experiencing something unusual and that link, that other-worldliness is very evident within this book.

Tochtli isn't your average nine year-old, he's lived in isolation from the rest of the world, apparently all his life, he lives in the middle of an emotionless world, where he can count the number of live people he knows and he's well aware that people turn into corpses for reasons he cannot understand. His is a selfish, self-centred existence, that of a little prince, whose life is devoid of any notion of love, but full of possessions, demands and whims.

So the novel is original and different, and Tochtli is weirdly diverting company, but that's all. This is a novel set in a Mexican drug cartel that says nothing about drugs, corruption or violence, except to portray the latter, off scene, as a normal part of life. This is a novel about a child, that says nothing about childhood and a novel about selfishness that refuses to do anything other than highlight it. For me 'Down the Rabbit Hole' needed to go somewhere morally, to make some kind of judgement about its weirdness, rather than be content to be modern day Alice in Wonderland, just looking wide-eyed, like a child at this strange world someone else calls normal.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny and unsettling, 7 Sep 2011
By 
Eleanor (Oxford, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Down the Rabbit Hole (Paperback)
The narrator of this novella is the child of a Mexican drug lord living in lonely luxury in a heavily guarded palace. Tochtli is both childishly innocent and also horribly knowledgeable about things like bullets, corpses, and their disposal.

Juan Pablo Villalobos (and Rosalind Harvey the translator) have got Tochtli's voice spot on. This child's obsessions (hats and Liberian pygmy hippopotamuses among other things), petulant scorn, and relish in words like 'sordid', 'immaculate', and 'enigmatic', are amusing and charming. The reader, however, is also aware of the loneliness of Tochtli's life and the dangerous undercurrents of his father's business. A sense of unease, which sometimes turns into outright horror, is present throughout.

I very much enjoyed this novella (ideally read in one sitting) and I felt immersed in its world, admiring what Villalobos reveals through the voice of his naive narrator. "Down the Rabbit Hole" which is the first publication of the small press And Other Stories is nicely presented and comes with both a glossary explaining some of the Mexican references and an introduction by Adam Thirlwell.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Alice in Mexico, 20 July 2013
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MisterHobgoblin (Melbourne) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Down the Rabbit Hole (Kindle Edition)
Down The Rabbit Hole is a short, sharp tribute to Alice in Wonderland, translating the story to the heavily fortified palace of Yolcaut, a Mexican drug lord. The story is told by Yolcaut's seven year old son, Tochtli, who may or may not be precocious. He has certainly been inducted early into the world of adults. His father sees him as part of the gang and has done nothing to shield Tochtli from the violence and threats that are part of the drug lord's daily existence. But for all the wealth, Tchtli is unhappy. He has no friends of his own age; he is privately tutored and only occasionally leaves the palace.

Tochtli is on his was to becoming a little emperor. Most adults do what he tells them, simply because they are afraid of Yolcaut. This gives Tochtli power that he doesn't have the maturity to understand. He is unable to see the damage he does to himself as he indulges his every whim; and nor does he see the damage he inflicts on others. He obsesses about the mechanics of killing - the number of bullets required in a particular location to turn a person into a corpse; or the semantic difference between a corpse and human remains; but he makes no real link to the permanence or impact of death. He also has a fascination with hats.

Half way through the novella, Tochtli decides he wants Liberian pygmy hippopotamus. He asks his father's staff to get him one and, because none can be found in Mexico, they all hare off to Monrovia to try to catch one. The grotesqueness of Tochtli's confined world in Mexico is swapped for a vast, wide open space in Liberia where the scale of everything is wrong. The hippos are small; the child is bossing the adults; the distribution of wealth is wonky.

There are frequent references back to Alice in Wonderland, not least in the notes at the end that explain that the weirdly named characters all carry the names of animals in the Nahuatl language. The whole piece is a kind of mad hatter's tea party but without any obvious Alice character to ground anything in reality.

The novella is short, it ends somewhat abruptly and some of the symbolism of the character names would be overlooked until the reader gets to the end pages. One presumes this is intentional since only a minority of Villalobos's intended readers in Mexico would understand Nahuatl. The novella is intriguing but is possibly too short and too matter of fact to allow the reader to really get stuck into it. Perhaps the answer is to read it again when some initially hidden details have become known and see whether Tochtli still seems quite so naive.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Through the Looking Glass darkly, 27 Aug 2013
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This review is from: Down the Rabbit Hole (Kindle Edition)
Life with a South American drug baron through the all seeing but not all comprehending eyes of his 10 year-old son.

I think I myself am too naive to be able to join the dots properly - in the end the truth of the events described remained obscure.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but short, 10 Aug 2013
This review is from: Down the Rabbit Hole (Kindle Edition)
Enjoyed this v much but was too short- just as I was getting my teeth into it it was over- problem of ebooks is you can't judge how many pages are left in the same way you can with a paperback. Would recommend.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking, 6 Mar 2013
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Very cleverly written. Seemingly about a small child in a violent adult world however, it is a message about the dangers of allowing our children to be brainwashed by the never ending bombardment of violent games and pornography. It is shocking in its juxtaposition of the innocence of the small child and the violence of the world in which it lives. There is an undercurrent of menace and violence that pervades throughout.Very very good.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Curious read, 8 Oct 2013
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This book seemed to promise much more than it delivered The perspective of the young boy is interesting at first but soon palls. read to the end on principle but was not enthralled
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant Debut Novella, 28 Mar 2012
By 
Simon Savidge Reads "Simon" (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Down the Rabbit Hole (Paperback)
All Tochtli, the seven year old narrator of `Down the Rabbit Hole' wants in life is to have a Liberian pygmy hippopotamus. We all want crazy outlandish pets as children (I really wanted a panther, I was bought a duck I named Rapunzel) only for a child like Tochtli this wish could actually be a reality as he lives in a strange wonderland (not quite the rabbit hole Alice fell down) where as the son of a very rich man anything is possible. Only it is the reasons behind his wealth and his father's position in society at which this book gives a sly, often funny, sometimes horrific and occasionally disturbing look at over its shoulder. There is a lot more going on with this tale than initially meets the eye.

Child narrators are something which either work superbly in a novel and make it or can completely ruin it with a more saccharinely sweet, naive and possibly precociously irritating tone. It is a very fine line and one that an author has to get just right. When done well they can be used as a way of innocently describing much more adult themes in a book or for leaving gaps in which we as adults can put the blanks, this is the way that Juan Pablo Villalobos uses his narrator Tochtli. Tochtli is a wonderful narrator as he describes the strange circumstances, somewhere in Mexico, he finds himself in as the son of a drug lord - of course Tochtli doesn't know this but through what he doesn't say we put the pieces of the puzzle together. I will admit Tochtli is rather precocious, almost spoilt and yet he didn't grate on me in fact I found him rather endearing in a way, often funny even when the things he discusses are horrendous. Villalobos uses this tool of child narrator adeptly and it shows the power of Rosalind Harvey as a translator that she makes this voice carry on ringing so true.

The other thing that Juan Pablo Villalobos masters so well is making so much happen in so little time and space, both in the period that the book lasts but also with so few pages. To give too much detail would be to spoil what is a wonderful read. There are other things going on in the background the more you look at the book (and I read it twice once just before New Year and again just after) such as the fact that in translation Tochtli's name means `rabbit' and his fathers `rattlesnake'. It alsmot sums up the relationship in the book. More clever games are played with humour, there are some darkly funny moments yet soon there are some simply darkly disturbing ones. I think I can say that I wasn't expecting the ending at all and it left me with a very strange and uneasy feeling and one that has lasted with me for quite some time, it hit me even more the second time round and I wondered what Tochtli's future might be. I shall say no more here though; I would love people to discuss this with though if you have read the book, maybe by email in case of spoiler.

`Down the Rabbit Hole' is a short, sharp (both in its humour and its subject) book of brilliance which can easily be devoured in one sitting, and I would almost recommend you do sit and read it in one go to truly absorb its power. I haven't read anything quite like it and its once more highlighted the fact that I don't read enough translated fiction, of this book is anything to go by there are so many worlds and experiences that I am missing out on and I am now desperate to discover more.
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1.0 out of 5 stars maybe too short, 1 Dec 2013
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This review is from: Down the Rabbit Hole (Kindle Edition)
Could be definitely tagged interesting at first reading, but I have to say I found the storytelling quite irritating in the end. Maybe because, on the contrary to other short stories, the narration seems to be still in the middle of the story when suddenly the book ends. Really not sure about this book
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Down the Rabbit Hole
Down the Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos
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