Friday, September 25, 2009

Magician of Oz...

I've already reviewed this on Amazon.com, but I have decided to do a longer review here. I want to note that this is not a reflection on the writer of the book, but of the writing. As tempting as it is to make personal remarks against someone who has labeled himself Ozma's Royal Liasion, I shall refrain.


Where to begin... Early on, the writer asked me to look at his blog and told me any assistance and advice would be appreciated. I declined on helping him out, as I was working with another writer on his Oz book and wanted to avoid unintentional copying of ideas.

However, for awhile, I did follow the RSS feed of his blog. His story sounded interesting, I must admit. The idea of the Wizard having a grandson who lives in the US is an interesting concept. Eventually, I decided to buy and read the book, review it here, and even told the writer I might consider an interview with him for a podcast.

Well, the book arrived, and I started reading.

I noticed that save a picture of tree branches twisting into the letters "O" and "Z," the book was not illustrated. (I initially thought the cover was also an original design, but have since discovered it is a Lulu.com template.) It is a grand tradition for an Oz book to have at least a few illustrations, though some good ones have gone without it. The fact that the writer had not sought out an illustrator was a bit of a disappointment.

So, we dive in and find the Diggs family eating potato soup and... ummm... They really like their soup, don't they? Then they go to the attic and find a trunk and find what seem to be instruments for magic tricks, and so they send the son, Jamie, to learn magic tricks.

It struck me as odd that Jamie knows that magicians are tricksters that are not to be trusted, but yet he wants to learn from them.

So, we spend about seven whole chapters where Jamie learns parlor tricks, the family moves, picks mushrooms, Jamie makes new friends, they eat more potato soup... It began to feel like I wasn't reading an Oz book at all. Then, bam! Jamie wakes up in Oz. Not a cyclone, not a storm at sea, not an earthquake, not a whirlpool.

(I remember reading a bit where a friend of Jamie's comments on his mother's potato soup and says the morel mushrooms were great. I thought, "No kid comments on mushrooms anymore... Unless they're a very different kind.")

So, he wanders around, runs into some characters, and ends up at Glinda's Palace. There he meets Glinda, Dorothy, and Ozma. And after these famous female heroines from Baum's books came in, my hope for a good Oz story really began to despair. All three were little playful giddy girls. (Yes, even Glinda.) If this is who's in charge of Oz, no wonder no one's conquered it: it would not be worth the trouble.

So, they head off to the Tin Woodman's Palace where Aunt Em and Uncle Henry are so Aunt Em can make them some... Yeah, you guessed it... Potato soup. Ugh...

Meanwhile, the Fighting Trees (who have become Tolkien-esque talking Huorns somehow?) plot revenge on the Tin Woodman... It made no sense why they'd wait so long for revenge, and it describes the Tin Woodman cutting down entire trees, when I only remember him chopping branches off.

I found the writing to be pretty poor. Apparently, the writer could not get a good editor in. It went more than a misspelled word here and there (I remember once reading about the "Noma King" in a copy of Ozma of Oz), sentences were structured incorrectly and improper verb tenses used.

I found a number of contradictions to Baum's Oz: Dorothy calling people "peasantry," when Oz, being free of money, has no rich and no poor. (The "peasants" are in fact farmers, and it seems Dorothy would not call them peasants, as she lived as a farm girl for her early years.) The Tin Woodman denies being royal, when Baum firmly establishes that he's a very vain fellow, and even calls himself "Emperor of the Winkies," when the Winkie Country is a kingdom at best.

And it seems Ozma wanted to bring Jamie to Oz so Dorothy would have a play mate. What happened to Trot, Betsy Bobbin, Button-Bright, Ojo, Scraps, the Scarecrow, the Woozy, or Toto and Eureka? And it even says some citizens of Oz are tired of Dorothy trying to befriend them, when Baum clearly stated that everyone loves Dorothy.

Based on some reviews posted on Amazon.com, it seems that children love this, but adults, especially those well-versed in Baum and Oz, don't. If the writer has failed to appeal to audiences of all ages, he is definitely not a successor to Baum, Thompson, and even more contemporary authors like Eric Shanower and Edward Einhorn.

I find us wanting kids to just read rather than caring that they are reading quality works. When I was growing up, aside from Baum, I loved the works of Mark Twain, C.S. Lewis, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Washington Irving, L.M. Montgomery, J.M. Barrie, Lewis Carroll, Beverly Cleary, Lynne Reid Banks, and I loved books like "The Yearling" and "Treasure Island." Every book that proved a challenge to read was an adventurous delight. Nowadays... (Did I just say that?) Nowadays, kids read what's popular and their parents don't care because their kids are reading. While I find it commendable that we are not quite so in danger of having a generation of illiterates on our hands, I wish we'd worry more about the quality of the books we give our children. To treat "Magician of Oz" as a masterpiece of literature when it clearly is not just because it brings a smile to child's face is a shame. (Aside from the classics I read, I did read some rather forgettable books that I did enjoy.)

After posting some of my initial reactions to the book online, some countering opinions were expressed. Apparently, a silent revision was done after I had bought my copy. The writer said he would send me a new copy, but never contacted me for my mailing address. But you know what? Forget it. I don't want to read this book ever again, and don't want to give it away so someone else would read it. There's only so much potato soup I can stand.

I want to apologize if my harsh expressing of my opinions have offended anyone. I find it irritating that this book has been getting some positive press when I found it to not be a good book.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you.

I saw some potato soup at Jason's Deli, and nearly threw up. Not because it was disgusting, but because it reminded me of this awful book.

As for kids loving it... I tend to think that's hearsay based upon the positive "reviews" his book has received. I don't know any kids (and I know many) who'd love it.

Aaron Solomon Adelman said...

Don't feel too bad about giving a bad review. Potential buyers need to know what they're buying. And as for the author, he/she needs to know when he/she's screwing up. If the book gets horrible reviews, then this may be a sign that something went very, very wrong in its writing and editing which needs to be changed if the author is going to produce something good.

Chris Dulabone said...

Umm...you are being far too polite. You know that this is YOUR blog, so why are you holding back so much? This book deserves a far less glowing review.