Wednesday, September 05, 2012
Beginnings: A New Novel Set In Oz
From the back cover, I deduced that it was a prequel to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but it wasn't until yesterday that I actually gave the back cover a good look. So many grammatical errors. (Scan below: click to see it yourself.)
I know the publisher's name: iUniverse also publishes Paul Miles Schneider's Silver Shoes and Powder of Life, but how could they also turn this out? Turns out, yes, they are a platform for self-publishing.
The back cover clued me off that the writer was more familiar with the MGM film than with the original books, and upon reading it, yes, a Wizard rules Oz in these days before Dorothy. There is no mention of lines of kings named Oz or queens named Ozma, nor of Pastoria.
The story is supposed to show how Oz became what it was when Dorothy arrived, and we've seen this before. We've had the book and musical Wicked, Donald Abbott's books about the Wizard's life in Oz before Dorothy arrived, "Oz and the Three Witches" by Hugh Pendexter III, Lion of Oz and the Badge of Courage by Roger S. Baum (and its animated movie adaptation), and next year Disney is presenting a similar story in Oz: The Great and Powerful.
I, of course, can't judge the latter, but what made all of those prequels work (even if some weren't that good) is something that Beginnings sorely lacks: character development or well-defined characters. In this book, characters are introduced then quickly told about. The book itself is under 100 pages, so one can barely expect it to get any better. There's also developments with Dorothy showing that her trip to Oz wasn't just a fluke. A big item setting it apart from the books (even The Wonderful Wizard of Oz) is that Dorothy isn't an orphan here. Her parents left her with Aunt Em and Uncle Henry while going to take care of some business.
There's no real plot, just a bunch of vignettes put together. Considering all the other prequels actually have a plot, this one just feels inexcusable. I can't get on him too much, though. This reminds me of some of my earliest fan writings, which I'm glad to say I never published and never will. There's many offenses to English teachers as well in the text. So much that it actually makes the story difficult to follow. When you have a gap between paragraphs in a book, this usually indicates a time lapse or going to another scene. In this book, it often happens in the same scene and it took me awhile to realize that this was going on. I consider myself pretty well-read, so if this is throwing me off, this is pretty bad.
The back cover says the writer majored in computer graphics and art design. Well, I'll give him that the cover looks very nice. Guess he skipped English classes, though...