Friday, 12 July 2013

The Road to Oz

The Road to Oz - L. Frank Baum
The Road to Oz 
L. Frank Baum
"Dorothy and her friends follow the enchanted road to Oz and arrive in time for Ozma's birthday party."

Boy this is all getting a little samey. Once again, Dorothy is minding her own business when suddenly she finds herself whisked of to another adventure that leads her to Oz, this time by road.

The storyline is near identical to the previous books. She makes her way to Oz, making a few friends along the way and encountering various groups of people and having encounters with them along the way.
This time around our cast of travellers include The Shaggy Man, by far my favourite character in the novel, Polychrome, the daughter of the rainbows who’s pretty wafer thin in terms of character and Button Bright, who may be the most annoying character I’ve yet encountered in the series. His trademark is that he answers very question he is asked with “I don’t know”. If you were to take every use of the phrase out of the book he’d have about two lines of dialogue and his charm wears off almost instantly.

As for the adventures the group have, they’re by far the weakest to date. While none of the encounters in previous novels ever posed any threat, something at least happened during them. Here they meet some foxes…and leave, meet some donkeys….and leave, meet a man who speaks in music…and leave. There’s only one meeting where anything happens, when they meet the Scoodlers, two faced creatures who throw their heads and intend to turn the travellers into soup. But even this encounter is solved by simply running away.

Eventually the group make it to the emerald city where Ozma is having a birthday party. We’re then treated to Dorothy meeting the guests for said occasion. At first glance this reads as a monotonous list of new characters who we know we’ll never see again. The gingerbread man comes in, then a princess, then a king, then another princess, then the candy man, then a rubber bear, even Santa Claus makes an appearance. When I did a little research though I learned that these are cameos by characters from Baum’s non-Oz books (probably included to try and draw attention to the books he actually enjoyed writing). This makes the scene a lot more interesting but seeing as Baum’s non-Oz works are now pretty much forgotten, the scene doesn’t hold up well to the passage of time.
We are also forced to sit through yet another instance of Baum trotting out almost every character from the previous books again. Scarcrow, Tin man, lion, tiger, Jack Pumpkinhead, Tik Tok, Wogglebug and the Sawhorse. Once more ticked off one by one, yet again, none of them doing anything.

Once again this book just seems forced. Baum makes clear in his intro that he’d rather be writing new things but the sad fact is that his other books just didn’t sell, forcing him yet again to return to Oz and a group of characters he no longer has any interest in.
It’s sad to feel, with each passing book, Baum’s passion for Oz disappearing. The same tropes forced out again and again for the ever recurring, ever elusive “one last time”.

L. Frank Baum: The Royal Historian of Oz

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