Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Dinamonster of Oz

In 1941, Kenneth Gage Baum, L. Frank Baum's fourth son, sent a manuscript to Reilly & Lee for an Oz book. It wasn't rejected, per se, but they decided not to publish it. Probably because they didn't want to drop John R. Neill as writer of the Oz series. They did consider the Baum name a possible selling point, but likely the immediate value was not impressive given they'd recently concluded 19 moderately successful years with Thompson.

Finally, in 1991, it was published, thanks to Kenneth's daughter, granddaughter, and Chris Dulabone, who published it under his Buckethead Enterprises of Oz imprint.

The Nome King has made a Dinamonster to invade Oz: a mechanical giant with cranes for arms, a three-story office building for a head, and trapdoors in its feet to capture people with. And its first Ozzy prisoners: Dorothy, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion.

Inside the Dinamonster, they meet a boy from Omaha named Tripp who has a rocket plane he built with his dad. He manages to use the plane to get to Oz to get help.

In Oz, Glinda and the Scarecrow join Tripp as they head back across the desert (which isn't deadly anymore... umm...) to rescue the captive Ozians. But, even if they can, can they stop the Dinamonster and the Nomes once and for all?

To be honest, this isn't a bad Oz story. But I do have to wonder: how familiar were Baum's sons with their father's work? Not only is the desert around Oz just a desert, the Magic Picture has been replaced with a telescope, and Ozma's on a retreat, and once she returns, I realized she was acting just like Glinda, and Glinda was acting just like Ozma.

An even bigger underestimation of his father's creation occurs in Kenneth claiming the people of Oz ignore "modern science," electricity, and chemistry in favor of magic. In the original Mr. Baum's work, Ozma, the Wizard, Glinda, and many other magic workers do all of these combined into one art, and, in fact, seem to be ahead of the Outside World, but the people of Oz seem to prefer a simpler way of life. (Probably something to do with immortality. They're set in their ways.) Blatantly saying they've been ignorant of it and saying they need to adopt it is just so un-Ozzy.

Tripp's a good, strong boy character, but he felt a lot like Speedy, who I would have preferred, though that would have been impossible.

Overall, I can see why Reilly & Lee said it would need work. A lot of the errors I pointed out could have been fixed and the story would have been intact. (Though given the editors they had on staff, I wouldn't have held my breath.) Kenneth does keep a good pace, but the inaccuracies are glaring, and the focus on introducing "modern science" to Oz bogs the story down because it is not needed.

Wait... Is it just me or is the idea of a mechanical giant invading a country reminding anyone of The Magical Monarch of Mo?

It's worthwhile reading for a curious story from the Baum family. The book edition, though, has a problem with footnotes added to attempt to explain the glaring inaccuracies. I think it would have been better if an editor had been brought on to correct the inaccuracies, or have them noted elsewhere, or not noted at all.

Dorothy Gita Morena provides illustrations, but as whimsical as they are, there are far too few.

The book is still available from Chris Dulabone for $10.

1 comment:

Nathan said...

I agree that the science vs. magic theme was really out of place with Oz as the elder Baum wrote it. I suppose it was an all right story otherwise, but that bothered me so much that I didn't commit much of the rest of it to memory.