Thursday, 23 May 2013

Dorothy and the Wizard in OZ

Dorothy and the Wizard inOz
Dorothy and the Wizard in OZ
L. Frank Baum
 "Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz: A Faithful Record of Their Amazing Adventures in an Underground World; and How with the Aid of Their Friends Zeb Hugson, Eureka the Kitten, and Jim the Cab-Horse, They Finally Reached the Wonderful Land of Oz is the fourth book set in the Land of Oz"

 As with the previous novel in the Oz series, Ozma of Oz, the title here is a little misleading as again, only the final few chapters of this novel take place in Oz. The rest of the book taking place in a series of lands at the centre of the earth.

Inspired by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the book sees Dorothy in California on her way home from Australia. When she is picked up from the train station, there is an earthquake and she, a boy named Zebidiah and their horse and cart fall through a crack in the ground to the land of the Mangaboos, the Wizard also falls through the hole and is reunited with Dorothy.
The group then travel through various lands underground in an attempt to get back home.

I’m honestly not sure if I liked this one. It’s more of the same, a problem which seems to haunt Baum himself. His intro to the novel almost begs that his fans allow him to tell tales from outside of Oz. He seems desperate to try something new. This lack of interest on behalf of the author hurts the book greatly, frankly, a lot of the magic has gone.

That’s not to say there aren’t enjoyable moments, just that there are far fewer of them and the cast is lacking the spark of the previous books.
We’re introduced to the Mangaboos, a race of vegetable people, a land plagued by invisible bears  (Oh my!), baby dragons and a land of wooden gargoyles. A set of interesting ideas, but they feel phoned in and none of them ever pose any real sense of peril to the travellers.

It’s nice to get more of the wizard, who is easily the most enjoyable character here. He’s his own bumbling self, a humbug, in his own words and he delights in tricking people with an illusion where he uses slight of hand to remove piglets from his pockets. There’s a bit of history revision here though and his backstory from Ozma of Oz (where it is revealed he conspired with Mombi to get rid of Ozma) is dropped. This is a shame as the sinister elements in his past were pretty interesting and it would have been nice to see them explored a little more.

Eventually the group return to Oz, leading to a series of chapters where every effort is made to shoehorn in almost every character from the last three books. The scarecrow, Nick Chopper and the cowardly lion all return of course, along with Ozma. But do we really need more from the sawhorse? The Wogglebug? The hungry Tiger? Even the Gump gets a few lines. It’s just unnecessary.

There are a few nice moments in the book, and a couple of scenes, the invisible bears and the city of the Mangaboos (which is made of organically growing glass), wouldn’t feel out of place in a Richard Brautigan novel.
Sadly though, the whole thing just feels a little damp. Baum’s heart clearly isn’t in this one and it makes it hard for the reader to invest theirs.
Unless you’re desperate to read the whole series, I’d give it a miss.

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