Saturday, 14 February 2015

Review: Bad Wizard

Bad Wizard
Bad Wizard by James Maxey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's just as well that I didn't remember until I finished this book that I'd previously read the author's [b:Nobody Gets the Girl|397756|Nobody Gets the Girl (Whoosh! Bam! Pow!, #1)|James Maxey||387219], and heartily disliked it for its dark and cynical tone. That would have prevented me from reading this one, which wasn't like that to nearly the same extent, and which I enjoyed.

There are a few reimaginings of Oz around these days. Wicked (the show and the book) and the movie Oz the Great and Powerful spring immediately to mind, and there's also been an anthology of short stories. This one, although it includes characters from the second book (Princess Ozma, the witch Mombi and, by reference, Jack Pumpkinhead), basically starts from the first book of the long series, the one everyone knows because of the classic movie, and considers only it to be "canon".

About a decade after the events of [b:The Wonderful Wizard of Oz|236093|The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Oz, #1)|L. Frank Baum||1993810], Dorothy is working on a newspaper, trying to expose the Wizard, Oscar Diggs, who has risen to be US Secretary of War under President Teddy Roosevelt and is using his position, his personal wealth, and his flim-flam to assemble a force loyal directly to him which can invade Oz by zeppelin. (This gets the book referred to as "steampunk". Even though we see airships and a steam-powered exoskeleton, though, it doesn't have much of a steampunk feel to me.)

I liked the fact that two of the characters have completely incompatible world views. Esau, known as the Flying Monkey because he's a hairy man who performs an aerial act, is a devout Christian; Dorothy, disturbed and disillusioned by her youthful experiences, is a principled atheist. They manage to work together with a minimum of argument, united by their conviction that Diggs must be stopped from regaining power in Oz. That neither one is depicted as "right" while the other is "wrong" shows a restraint in the insertion of authorial personal philosophy that isn't, sadly, all that common.

Something I didn't like is that Dorothy's late fiance (who she once refers to, in an apparent continuity error, as having been her husband) is the exact male equivalent of a Woman in a Refrigerator: a character who exists only so that their death can motivate the protagonist, not as an actor in their own right. I see no reason why swapping the genders would make this trope OK, though doing it to a woman, that is, a member of a group often already deprotagonised, is worse.

Apart from a few words missing from their sentences and a couple that are misused ("enormity" for "enormousness" and "adverse" for "averse"), the editing is good, and it very nearly made my "well-edited" shelf.

Overall, apart from the Man in a Refrigerator, this was a well-motivated, well-plotted tribute to the Oz stories, and enjoyable as an old-style adventure quite apart from its literary origins.

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