Monday, January 18, 2010

The latest Oz reading

I finally got around to reading The Return of Oz by Daniel H. Sundstrom. For such a short little book, it was really hard to read! First off, this goes where I don't think any Oz book should go: Movie territory. Yes, it's a sequel to the famous MGM movie version — and not a very good one, either. Dorothy's daughter, Emily, has been hearing her mother's tales of Oz all her life. So when she finds a pair of ruby slippers in the attic, she has to try them on, and the next thing she knows she's in Oz helping the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Cowardly Lion defeat the Witch of the South. Further throwing things askew is a character called "the profesor," who is clearly meant to be both Professor Marvel and the humbug wizard from The Movie. He helps them out, but it turns out there was a real Wizard of Oz, the rightful ruler of Oz. Oy...

In his author note on the back cover, Sundstrom claims to have researched Baum's early works and incorporated them into this book, but he's extremely circumspect about it. There are a few tiny nods here and there, and an unnamed magic land that Dorothy visits at one point is most likely Mo. Also, somehow Glinda has a sister in the south, who sure sounds like the Glinda of the books, but she isn't given a name. This was just a patchwork hodgepodge of little incidents, it comes to no real resolution (leaving things open to a sequel, I imagine), the Witch of the South is defeated all too easily, there's no strong characterization or growth, the dialog is dull, and the author needs more practice in the general conventions of writing, or at least needs a good copy editor. Most Oz fans can give this one a pass and not miss much of anything at all.

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