Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Latest Oz Reading

Yes! At last! A post that isn't about a new comic strip! I am slowly getting out from under a pile of all kinds of stuff and catching up on others, such as my reading. I have a number of Oz and Oz-related books I've recently reread, so here are a few quick overviews:

  • Rinkitink in Oz by L. Frank Baum. Yeah, this was not supposed to be the next volume of my reread of the entire Famous Forty (and related books). But with the book being the main theme of this year's OzCon International, and me scheduled to give a keynote speech on it, I figured I'd better jump ahead and tackle that. Since the original non-Oz version of the story was written around 1905, not long after The Marvelous Land of Oz, I figured I was justified anyway. I have always felt Rinkitink is an undersung Oz book, because it is one of Baum's most tightly plotted books, at least for nineteen chapters, and the development of the three main characters over the course of the book is a great added layer. I really enjoyed reading this again, and I found all kinds of extra bits that I'd never noticed before (or at least don't remember).
  • The Curious Cruise of Captain Santa by Ruth Plumly Thompson. Another of our theme books, and one I needed to read for a panel. This is a fun little romp about Santa Claus sailing around the ocean finding new toys. It was aimed at younger readers than the Oz books, and it shows. Heck, it took me only an hour to read. It ended with the hint that there may be more adventures, and it's too bad she never wrote them.
  • Captain Salt in Oz by Ruth Plumly Thompson. Okay, no justification for reading this one out of order, except it was yet another theme book at the convention, and the other book that went with The Curious Cruise of Captain Santa on one panel. Like the previous book, this is basically an excuse to write about a trip at sea. Captain Samuel Salt, King Ato, and Roger the Read Bird (last seen in Pirates in Oz) are off to find new islands to become part of Oz. (Yeah, at one point Ozma apparently had dreams of empire. Some have said it was just an excuse to get Sammy out of Oz and Ozma's hair!) It's a pretty straightforward, episodic tale, but the throughline is Tazander Tazah, the young king of Ozamaland who was kidnapped, and found on one of the islands. He is suffering from, as Ato put it, "ingrowing Royalitis", acting high and mighty and treating his rescuers as his servants. It is Roger who is the main one to gently tamp that down and bring out his true nature, but Sammy and Ato also help to truly integrate him into the crew. Tandy's growth and development is not something seen in a lot of Thompson's books, and it gives Captain Salt in Oz a lot more depth than should be expected. This is one book I haven't read as much as some of the others, but I am certainly glad I got the chance to read it this time. (And it's far enough back in the series, by the time I get to it in the proper order, I will likely read it again!)
  • Toto in Oz by Chris Dulabone. This is the twentieth anniversary edition of the first book Dulabone published, way back when his imprint was Buckethead Enterprises of Oz. I've been supporting Chris and his books from the very beginning, so it was a lot of fun to revisit this one again after so long. Fortunately, this edition has much better typesetting (if you've ever seen the first edition of this book, you'll completely understand why this is a good thing). Toto, not feeling appreciated and having no title, runs away from the Emerald City and, through a few misadventures, ends up as the leader of the small kingdom of Arfrica. He tries to do a good job and bring about reform, but he also finds it isn't as easy as it looks. Of course Dorothy ends up looking for him too. It all comes to a satisfying, if somewhat rushed, ending.
  • And finally (for now), Visitors from Oz by Martin Gardner. I got interested in rereading this while reading A Bouquet for the Gardener on my last wave of reading. This is Gardner's only Oz novel, and it is certainly far from the best. But it is a lot of fun, particularly if you know about Martin Gardner, his place in Oz fandom, and his other interests. It acts as two books, with the first part being a typical journey by Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Woodman through Oz. Along the way, they meet up with the Greek gods, take a side trip through Wonderland, and deal with a detective bear and a giant. But it's the second half where things get real different. The three of them have been requested to visit America by a movie mogul and Oz fan making a musical film version of The Emerald City of Oz, so that they can drum up interest and publicity. Naturally, the rival studio boss doesn't like it much, and uses nefarious means to deal with the Oz people. Of course, magic gets involved and things all turn out well in the end. Having Dorothy and friends in New York City is a different setting for an Oz book, and Gardner has some fun with it. From this author, one would also expect some mathematics, so naturally a Klein bottle is used to travel between Oz and Central Park. It is a fun little romp of a book, and I'm glad that Gardner was finally able to fulfill that old Oz fan saying, "Scratch an Oz fan, find an Oz book."
Okay, that's all the recent rereads. Soon, I hope to report on some stuff I've read for the very first time!

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