Friday, January 25, 2008
Re-Writing Oz History
Published in the Spring 2007 issue of the Baum Bugle, The Official Wizard of Oz Fan-Club Magazine, Volume 51, Number 1
The very concept is nothing short of brilliant. It is something I haven’t seen done before anywhere. Instead of presenting Oz as an actual land, it presents Oz as merely a place in the storybook The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The primary characters here are four teenagers (one of whom is the author himself) who get caught in the storyline from the book. The problem is that, since they were not in the original tale, their presence is causing the details of the story to change. As a result, the pages in their copy of the book turn blank and the book starts rewriting itself as the altered events transpire. If they alter the plotline too much, they could jeopardize the ending and prevent Dorothy from ever getting home. If that were to happen, they could all be trapped in this unfamiliar version of Oz forever.
The four teenagers start out amiably, but after the group splits up over an argument between Joshua and his sister, things start to become less pleasant for all of them. I’ll not reveal the ending here, but suffice to say that I did not expect it.
The author’s profile states that he has a background in theatre, which isn’t hard to believe when one reads his writing: the novel is told in the present tense, in the style of stage directions. This can get awkward at times, particularly when he shifts tense. For example, a sentence on page 29 reads: “As quickly as it was said, we all rose to our feet and start our long journey to the city of emeralds.”
I had been warned in advance that this book includes killing and death. Although that is true, one needs to remember that this is essentially a re-thought version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. While many modern Oz fans remember the story as seen through the MGM-colored glasses, it actually has a great deal of killing in it. The Tin Woodman chops up an army of wolves (as well as a wildcat); the Scarecrow twists the necks of a flock of crows; and a couple of Kalidahs are made to fall to their deaths. Reading the books side by side, I actually find Baum’s the bloodier of the two. I will mention, though, that as a vegetarian, I was very put off by a segment in which our human heroes are served a type of meat that clearly wasn’t picked from a lunch pail tree. I think it best not to offer details here.
There is one fight segment that I could have done without. The characters with whom we are supposed to sympathize with actually start fighting with Dorothy and her friends. I don’t have a lot of respect for anyone who would punch Dorothy, or bite her or pull her hair. And they also tear the Scarecrow into pieces in that segment. Indeed, as Joshua himself laments later on, “We’re the bad guys!”
Taken as a whole, this book has a lot of action and excitement. I hope to see many more books from this author in the future.