Saturday, November 12, 2011

Out of Oz

Probably you know about Wicked by now. It all started in 1995 when novelist Gregory Maguire released Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. This book provided a bold new re-imagining of Oz as a darker and grittier and much less magical land. Cultural prejudice abounds, and the Wizard is far from Baum's warm and friendly Oscar Diggs. Enter Elphaba Thropp, the child of an affair, mysteriously born with green skin. She will later attend Shiz University with her sister Nessarose and Galinda Upland. Through their lives and endeavors, they wind up becoming the "Wicked Witch of the West," the "Wicked Witch of the East," and Glinda the Good.

Wicked met a mixed reception by Oz fans. Some loved it, some hated it. Others were indifferent. Later, the novel was loosely adapted into a very successful stage musical, and soon, Maguire brought out a sequel, Son of a Witch in 2005. The novel further explored this revisionist Oz after the events we know from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz through the eyes of Elphaba's illegitimate son, Liir. 2008 brought A Lion Among Men, in which Maguire offers the story of his Cowardly Lion, named Brr (after Bert Lahr).

The series got named The Wicked Years, and a fourth (and intended to be final) book was announced: Out of Oz. And it was released early this month.

Me, I didn't like Wicked, and it took some time before I decided to try Son of a Witch. For some reason, I liked it. However, I didn't find A Lion Among Men so interesting. So I was completely unsure of what I'd think of Out of Oz, which was the first Maguire book I bought new.

Munchkinland is at war with the other sections of Oz, "Loyal Oz" in Maguire's revisionist take, refusing to be under the government of Shell Thropp, the current Emperor in the Emerald City.

Lady Glinda (she's not big on doing magic) is under house arrest along with her staff, including a little girl named Rain. Rain becomes a point of attention for General Cherrystone, who begins to teach her how to read. Glinda is suspicious of his attention, and soon suspects he wants Rain to read the Grimmerie, which winds up in her care when they are allowed to see the Clock of the Time Dragon. Eventually, the pressure gets to be too much for Glinda, and when the Clock of the Time Dragon returns, she gives them the Grimmerie and turns Rain over to the company.

Rain gets the most attention in Out of Oz and it's soon no secret that she is Elphaba's granddaughter. She rejoins her parents, and even gets to attend school, where she begins to be enamored with a boy named Tip. (People who've read The Marvelous Land of Oz can guess that won't end well...)

Dorothy winds up back in Oz after an accident on a trip to California while she's in a lift with Toto. After she recovers, she is put on trial for the deaths of Nessarose and Elphaba by the Munchkinlanders, who are set on a guilty verdict and also execution to boost the public morale.

I guess my favorite character in The Wicked Years is Liir, since I was also pretty glad we got to follow him and his wife Candle for a bit.

Out of Oz moves along slowly, though there are signs that things are coming to a head. Maguire, however, isn't one to be fast-paced, and when something catastrophic does happen, he still takes his time.

Surprisingly, overall, I liked Out of Oz. It provides a relatively happy ending for a gritty, somber take on Oz. There are still some threads left hanging, but apparently, Maguire has elected to leave these that way.

Maguire also throws in some humor for Oz fans. Dorothy's trial was originally set to be in a place called "Densloe Den," but when they fear it will be too small for the expected crowd, they go to "Neale Hall." A few sly nods to other books in the Famous Forty creep in as well. There's also talk of people dressing up as Dorothy, such as entertainers and even male escorts who might pull it off so convincingly, they may be mistaken for her.

Would I recommend Out of Oz? It depends on you. If you've gotten through A Lion Among Men, definitely. If you decided you didn't like Wicked and wouldn't read anymore, then that book stands on its own well enough.

So, thanks for an intriguing take on Oz, Mr. Maguire. We'll see you again when Oz pulls you back.

1 comment:

saintfighteraqua said...

I disliked Wicked due the all the adult situations and hopeless feel to the story.
Somehow I enjoyed it though.
I disliked Son of a Witch for the same reasons.
Lion was just dreadfully boring. It was slow and at times repulsive.
By the time I read Out of Oz I really wondered what kept drawing me back.
The writing style is mostly good in the Wicked Years but I get so angry at how he handles our beloved characters. Maybe that's why I read them? It's like a tabloid for Oz almost.

Except for Lion, I did enjoy the series even though I cringed a lot.
I think Out of Oz was the best since Wicked, but it dragged a lot until the last few chapters.

All in all though I felt rather cheated by this one. The ending resolved nothing for me.