Ozma of Oz is the third in the Oz series, but, as is generally the case with the Oz books, it’s not that important to read them in order, especially when it comes to the first few. This one harkens back to some earlier events and brings up characters who are introduced in the second book in the series (The Marvelous Land of Oz) but if you’re familiar with the Wizard of Oz, you’ll have no problem picking up on the plot. Dorothy Gale has returned to Kansas and is headed on a voyage to Australia with her ailing uncle. As befits our disaster-prone heroine, the ship hits a storm and Dorothy is swept overboard. When she wakes up, she finds herself in a strange land with a talking hen named Bill, and is quickly caught up in an adventure to rescue the kidnapped royalty of this new world (the land of Ev) that involves some familiar faces (the Scarecrow, the Tinman, the Lion) and some new ones (a thinking/talking/walking robot, Queen Ozma of Oz, and the evil Nome King, among others).
I’m one of those sad souls who doesn’t like The Wizard of Oz. The movie, I mean. Again, I thought I’d see if “the book is always better” would hold true by reading L. Frank Baum’s original tale. It was an improvement but, like withJurassic Park, not all of the differences were in the book’s favor. Some of it works, like the Wizard’s way of wowing the residents of Emerald City (they must always wear green tinted glasses that fool them into thinking it’s all emerald). Other parts had me wanting to revisit the movie to see if my opinion might not change, like the weakly written death scene for the Wicked Witch or the less catchy phrase Dorothy must say in order to return home.
All things considered, I’m still not a great fan of the story in any of its forms, Syfy’s Tin Man being the exception. While it’s meant for children, I couldn’t help but feel the moral of the story, that their level of courage, heart, or brains was all dependent upon them, was overly telegraphed from the start. The Tin Man, for example, claims to have no heart, yet he cries for things he inadvertently steps upon and kills. The Lion shows courage early and often in helping Dorothy upon her way. And the Scarecrow knows a lot more than what he says you don’t need brains to know, which is what’s “obvious.” For a children’s story, that’s probably par for the course, but I just never liked that “you had it all along” message, even as a kid.
The Wizard of Oz is also extremely “safe,” which is what Baum was going for. The Tin Man’s back story is dark (he accidentally lops off body parts until he’s made entirely of tin), but it’s tame outside of that. I can’t even say I find the winged monkeys, which everyone seems to be terrified of, all that frightening. The story seems to lack stakes. Dorothy can’t get home? First of all, I don’t know why she’s so homesick. She never provides an adequate explanation, in my opinion. Second of all, Oz sounds like a place worth staying in, especially now that the Wicked Witch is gone. Dorothy could have people looking at her as a god, just like the Wizard, Lion, Tin Man, and Scarecrow. Except she’s insistent upon returning home.
Making up for this is Baum’s writing ability; I don’t care for the story, yet like the way he tells it. That’s really its only saving grace, I think. To those who love the movie, however, by all means pick it up and give it a read.
Travis Smith’s blog, containing this review, as well as others, photography, and more, can be found here.