Tuesday, February 07, 2012

A Review of "Out of Oz"

 Note: this is Nathan DeHoff's review of this book. You can find Jared's here.
Out of Oz, by Gregory Maguire - The fourth and presumably final volume in Maguire's Wicked series ties up many of the loose ends left in the other three. I have somewhat mixed feelings on Maguire's books, due to being a big fan of the original Oz series, and hence feeling a little bitter that Maguire's Oz books have largely overshadowed L. Frank Baum's in recent years. Not that I blame Maguire for this, as he's actually been pretty open about his influences, but the reviews that appear on the backs of these books sometimes give the impression that modern critics think there was only one book and the movie about Oz before Maguire came along. Really, Oz is a rather fully realized magical land, and it sometimes bothers me that Maguire chose to build so much of an already existing imaginary country from the ground up. It seems like his main goal might have been to make his Oz less silly. For instance, he doesn't use very many place names from the original series. If you look at Maguire's map, he does use the names of the four main countries plus Ev and Oogaboo, but even those he alters slightly. Most of the other place names are just ones he made up. As someone who liked the silliness in the original series, Maguire's Oz often comes across as dreadfully mundane. I have to wonder what people who have only read Maguire would think of Baum's Oz books. Would they be disappointed due to the lack of grittiness and such?

Anyway, Out of Oz was a good read, although it got off to a slow start. One thing I've noticed about Maguire's books (and I've only read the Oz material, but I've heard it about some of his other books as well) is that parts of them tend to drag. Here, I thought the part with General Cherrystone slowly taking over Glinda's house went on rather too long. It became more interesting when it started expanding into other parts of Oz. The main focus this time is on Elphaba's granddaughter Rain, and while some elements from The Marvelous Land of Oz are incorporated, they're largely in the background. Dorothy also returns to Oz and is put on trial, something I've heard of many school classes doing to teach kids about the court system. We actually did that in one of my classes, although it turned out rather sloppy. In the book, the trial is part of a political maneuver by Mombey (another name with its spelling slightly changed by Maguire). While Dorothy is also instrumental in the confrontation with the Emperor toward the end, sometimes she doesn't show up for long periods of time, almost making the reader forget she's there. But then, Maguire's Dorothy is based more on Judy Garland's character than on Baum's active and charismatic Dorothy, and is hence a much more passive character than I'm used to seeing. The ending actually resolves quite a bit while still remaining a bit open. A lot of Maguire's original characters make appearances, and I have to admit I'd forgotten who some of them were.

There were quite a few references to the Baum books scattered throughout, although most of them were simply names or brief cameos. Tip plays a significant role, and his story does turn out much like in Land. Items in a junk shop call to mind Jack Pumpkinhead and Tik-Tok, and even Ruth Plumly Thompson's Handy Mandy appears as a character in children's books that Rain reads. It's pretty obvious that Maguire is familiar with many elements of the original series, and picking them out can be fun, if a bit sad at times.

In case you're interested, here are my reviews of Maguire's other Oz books:
Wicked (You might have to scroll down the page a bit, but it's there.)
Son of a Witch
A Lion Among Men


Eric said...

Since Out of Oz is one of the next Oz books I plan to read, I purposely didn't read most of the review — yet. But I will point out that, thirty years ago, Phillip José Farmer's A Barnstormer in Oz was the hottest Oz book around, and was regularly outselling and overshadowing the regular Oz books from which it arose. But Barnstormer is now long out of print and forgotten, while the Baum books have now been reprinted in their glorious Books of Wonder editions (and others), and the rest of the FF has also been reprinted. Although I suspect Wicked and its sequels will have a lot more staying power, I very much doubt that they're going to completely overshadow the originals, and certainly not in the hearts of those who love the books by Baum, Thompson, et. al.

Sam A M said...

I can do so without Maguire's Oz books and the movie/s that come from it. I think I can live without reading the other reviews too, though I'm sure you would have done a good job too.

Eric, thanks for your comment: I certainly hope BAUM's Oz lasts and lives much longer than Maguire's dark and far-fetched revisions.