Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Latest Oz Reading

Yes, I'm still at it. So, let's jump in!

  • A Brief Guide to Oz by Paul Simpson. This appears to be part of a series of "Brief Guide" books in Britain, and despite the title, it is a long and thorough look at Oz. The cover claims it's about "75 Years Going Over the Rainbow", clearly to tie in with the latest anniversary of The Movie (this was published in 2013), but the contents go way back even further, with the life and career of L. Frank Baum and the Oz books he wrote. Simpson even writes short synopses and reactions to all of the Famous Forty books, something most comprehensive guides to Oz like this almost never does. Simpson doesn't dwell much on any one topic—even The Movie doesn't dominate—and this book covers stage shows, other movies, television, and even radio. It doesn't dwell too deep on any one topic, but what it does cover it does thoroughly. The occasional tiny error creeps in (and the section on the musical Wicked keeps calling the author of the original book Gregory Mitchell, which is even more surprising when they get it right in the section on the book), so a quick vetting by an Oz expert might have been a plus. But overall this book makes it clear just how broad the topic of Oz is. Even more surprising is that the book and the author are British, which probably threw up a few road blocks while researching.
  • Fables, Volume 9: Sons of Empire by Willingham. This is a seriously cool comic, and I'm really glad that the extremely tenuous Oz connection means I get to read the whole saga (even if I'm not quite going about it in the right order, since I started with issue #101). In this collection, the Adversary and his allies—including a very Neillesque Nome King, who is running Oz—begin forming their plans to rid the Mundy world of the exiled Fables and invade for themselves. Meanwhile, Bigby, Snow White, and their children continue to explore the cubs' heritage by finally meeting their grandfather, the North Wind. Plus, Amrose meets Santa Claus (another Oz character, but I doubt he's in this series because af that connection). Bufkin the Flying Monkey has a decent role in this volume, upping the Oz interest even more. Plus, in one issue, Willingham wrote a series of very short stories to answer reader questions about the series, a very nice touch (and probably also made for a good filler issue in case production went astray). One of the questions is about Bufkin, and another is illustrated by Eric Shanower, so even more Ozzy interest. (But if you're not an Oz über-completist like me, I wouldn't worry about trying to collect all of Fables. Instead, you should collect, or at least read, all of Fables just because it's so good.)
  • Small bonus story today was "...And the Power..." by Rachel Cosgrove Payes, part of the anthology And Walk Gently Through the Fire and Other Science Fiction Stories, edited by Roger Elwood. A pair of researchers are investigating faith healers, and are trying to determine if there is a scientific basis for it. They find one who seems to be the real thing, but when one of the researchers gets sick, he may not be powerful enough to cure him. A nice little story, but what impressed me is what other authors are also in the book: Ted White, R. A. Lafferty, Barry N. Malzberg, Robert Bloch, Robert Silverberg, and Philip José Farmer, among others. That Rachel is in a book with some of the biggest names of mid-twentieth century science fiction says a lot about her and her works. So yes, I do plan to read the rest of the book as well, but I'm not expecting any Oz connections (except possibly from Farmer)
And there will be more soon, including one from Rachel Payes' other popular genre.

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