Dorothy Must Die Stories Volume 1 (2014) by Danielle Paige

Posted in books, Classic literature with tags , , , , on February 16, 2017 by Paxton

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A week or two ago I reviewed Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die. It’s the first in a series of books that take place several years after the original Wizard of Oz book by Frank Baum.  It reimagines Oz as a place in serious peril where Dorothy has returned but she’s changed.  She’s become obsessed with magic and has essentially usurped Ozma as the ruler and with the help of Glinda starts literally strip mining Oz for magic.  It’s an interesting enough premise and the author really digs in and reuses characters from the books in very interesting ways that made me want to continue the journey into this Oz.

Aside from the main books in the series, Paige has written a series of novellas that act as prequels to the books.  I went to my local library and I found the very first collection of novellas called Dorothy Must Die Stories Volume 1.

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This book contains the first three prequel novellas; No Place Like Oz, The Witch Must Burn and The Wizard Returns.  I didn’t really know anything other than the titles going into these but I was intrigued. Mostly by The Wizard Returns since that character is very cagey in Dorothy Must Die so I was very interested to hear how The Wizard got back to this particular Oz and what his agenda may be.

No Place Like Oz
The first novella, No Place Like Oz, is very Dorothy-centric.  It’s also the longest one by about 100 pages.  It picks up with Dorothy a few years after her original return to Kansas from Oz.  It’s her sixteenth birthday party.  We see that Dorothy is sort of unhappy as many people think she’s crazy with her ramblings about a fairy magic land with talking lions and people made of tin.  Even some of her friends don’t believe her.  Plus, Dorothy is finding out that life on the farm in rural Kansas is not as exciting as it was in Oz.  Once you’ve encountered magic, nothing else can really live up to it.  So we see this Dorothy, who’s become a little bitter because no one believes her about Oz, even her friends.  Plus she sort of enjoyed the fame that her disappearance caused in Kansas and once that started to fade she began resenting her life there.  After her birthday party ends embarrassingly bad, Dorothy shuts herself up into her room and opens a mysterious gift to find a pair of red, high heeled ruby shoes.  She puts them on, clicks them together just as Aunt Em and Uncle Henry walk into her room and transports all three of them to Oz.

This is the gist of the story.  Dorothy is back in Oz, this time with Em and Henry. She meets Ozma and reunites with her old friends.  And being back in Oz, instead of making her happier, starts to enhance some of her feelings.  You see her obsession with magic really take hold.  It’s a really good story.  I feel like Paige made the reason that Dorothy sort of turns bad believable.  It’s not a 180 with no explanation.  It makes a bit of sense.  And you get to see the setup for Dorothy as we find her in Dorothy Must Die.

The Witch Must Burn
The next story, The Witch Must Burn, is told from the point of view of Jellia Jamb, the head house maid in the Emerald City.  She plays a fairly big (and ultimately important) part in Dorothy Must Die.  And Jellia’s story here is really a vessel to tell the story of Glinda and her possible future plans for Oz.  You also get to see a bit of just how horrible Dorothy has become, but it all leads to Glinda “borrowing” Jellia from Dorothy and what happens to Jellia because of this.  I was not expecting this story but it was a good read.

The Wizard Returns
Like I said, the third and final story is really the one I was most interested in.  The Wizard Returns starts off with the Wizard leaving Dorothy at the end of the original Wizard of Oz.  The hot air balloon he’s in crashes and we see him land in the very same poppy field that Dorothy was trapped in.  Fast forward twenty five years and The Wizard is awoken and he has no memory of himself or his past actions.  This particular story started off a bit slow, but the back half really saved it.  You still don’t really 100% know The Wizard’s agenda by the end, but you know what happened to him before the events in Dorothy Must Die.

All three of these stories are honestly good and do a great job of setting up the world we see in Dorothy Must Die.  However, I thought my favorite story was going to be The Wizard Returns, but honestly, I think it turns out being No Place Like Oz.  I’m glad I read this collection.  There is another set of prequel novellas that take place after this.  They are about Dorothy’s friends; Heart of Tin, The Straw King and Ruler of Beasts.  However, I’ll probably get the full sequel novel The Wicked Will Rise and read it before delving back into these prequel novellas.

I guess the ultimate question with these prequel novellas is, should you read them before or after you’ve read Dorothy Must Die.  It could go either way but I’d recommend reading them after DMD.  They fill in the world of the books and I feel like you may want the basis of the full novel first before the novellas.  But I think if you did the prequels first and then DMD, it would honestly still work.

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I return to an alternate Oz with Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Posted in books, Classic literature with tags , on February 3, 2017 by Paxton

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From time to time I’ll read stuff that isn’t part of the established “Oz canon”, but is directly inspired by Baum’s Oz works or it takes Oz and re-interprets it in an alternate way. The 1985 movie Return to Oz would be an example of this.  Or Gregory Maguire’s Wicked series.  Whenever I read this stuff I’ll try to throw a review up to add to my ever growing Oz review archives.

Recently, after watching Return to Oz for the Cult Film Club podcast and reading its novelization, I decided I was ready to try another “alternate Oz” story so I pulled the trigger on a book I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about; Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige.

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I wasn’t for sure what to expect from this book when I started to read. Was it a reboot of Wizard of Oz? A sequel? A sidequel? I had no clue.  So I loaded it on my iPad and hoped for the best.

It starts off a little slow.  Amy lives in Kansas.  Her father left her and her mom.  The mom has become an addict.  Life is not good.  And we sort of get beat over the head with this for the first 75-80 pages.  Amy’s life sucks.  I get it.  This early building of character angst for Amy is sort of tiring and why I no longer read as many YA books as I used to.  That being said, the fun begins when the freak tornado hits and Amy wakes up in Oz.

What this book turns out to be is a sequel to The Wizard of Oz.  I’d like to definitively say it’s a sequel to the book or the movie, but, like Return to Oz, they sort of hedge their bets and use iconography from both.  Mainly, of course, it’s the damn slippers.  But Paige is a little bit more ambiguous about the slippers.  She mentions that Dorothy wore silver slippers, however there are statues in Munchkinland featuring Dorothy in ruby slippers and when we finally meet her, Dorothy is wearing ruby slippers.  She never takes them off actually.  But it’s honestly a minor thing, there’s a lot more going on than the slippers.

The biggest strength of this book’s story is the world building.  The events in this book seem to take place many years after the original Oz book/movie.  From context clues in the story it seems like events in the first two Baum Oz books (Wizard of Oz, Marvelous Land of Oz) happen as normal.  It’s Dorothy’s return in the third book (Ozma of Oz) that events seem to “take a turn”.  Many years before the events in this book, Dorothy returned to Oz from Kansas and Ozma made her a princess.  Those events basically happened in the Baum books, but over the years Dorothy sort of becomes obsessed with magic.  This obsession changes Dorothy’s behavior.  It makes her more erratic.  And with this change, her closes friends, Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman and the Lion sort of change with her.  Dorothy supplants Ozma as the ruler of Oz and conscripts Glinda to enslave the Munchkins to start mining Oz for magic.  Oz’s magic lies deep within its land so everyone is busy strip mining Oz and hoarding magic for Dorothy.  And like I said, Dorothy’s friends sort of follow her lead. Scarecrow becomes obsessed with getting smarter.  He starts experimenting on Oz citizens like a mad scientist.  Studying their brains and creating weird monster hybrids. The Tin Man is in love with Dorothy and becomes the captain of her guard.  The Lion goes savage and starts just indiscriminately eating people and drinking in their fear.  It’s a very interesting idea that the gifts bestowed upon Dorothy’s friends (brains, heart, courage) are the very thing that are driving them mad.  It can be dark and frightening, but I’m enjoying the world that Paige is building up.

Wanted: Dorothy

So Amy shows up in the middle of all of this.  We slowly learn all the backstory stuff I just talked about.  Amy is put in a dungeon by Dorothy but is saved by The Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.  The Order is a group of the witches of Oz that have banned together to stop Dorothy’s tyrannical rule.  They include Gert, the former Good Witch of the North. Glamora, the twin sister of Glinda.  And Mombi, the witch that originally secretly held Ozma in captivity from that second Oz book.  The Order trains Amy to go undercover in Dorothy’s court in the Emerald City in order to get close to her and hopefully assassinate her and allow Oz to once again be free.

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The Best Movies I saw in 2016

Posted in movies with tags , , on January 25, 2017 by Paxton

Movie Report

MORE YEAR END ROUND UP ARTICLES!!

Today, I’m not only judging movies that I watched that opened last year, but ALL movies I watched for the first time in 2016.

I’ll start off with a list of my favorite movies that were released in 2016 and I’ll finish up with movies that were released in other years but I only saw for the first time last year.  I may even throw in some honorable mentions as I love to do.

So, without further ado, here are my favorite movies I saw in 2016.  In no particular order.


Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War – This is probably not a surprise.  It was awesome and everything I wanted it to be.  Chris Evans’ Captain America has become my favorite Marvel hero, even over Downey’s Iron Man.  I love all three Cap movies but only love one and a half Iron Man movies.  These just keep getting better.  And the inclusion of all these newer heroes; Ant-Man, Falcon, Winter Soldier, the new Spider-Man.  All, just perfect.  I now want a Falcon-Winter Soldier buddy movie.  Make THAT happen, Marvel.


Deadpool – Exactly what this movie should have been.  I honestly didn’t think Fox could pull it off.  I knew they nailed the lead with Ryan Reynolds, but I honestly didn’t think they’d stick to their guns for the bloody, irreverent tone this movie needed.  I was wrong.  Fun, vulgar and entertaining.


Somm: Into the Bottle – This is a sequel to a documentary that I talked about back in 2014.  Last time they were following several Master Sommelier hopefuls as they prepared to take the Master test.  This time, it’s more of an in-depth look at old world wineries and how they craft wine differently.  It’s fascinating stuff.  You do see the original four guys from the first documentary, but not in an update to how they are doing four years later.  The guys are now a part of the panel of talking wine heads.


Marvel’s Doctor Strange – In a way, this somewhat took me by surprise.  I’m a fan of Doctor Strange.  I read him a little in the late 80s-early 90s and I’ve revisited his Steve Ditko origins.  I love sorcerers, so I always kept my eye on him.  But I was cautiously optimistic that Marvel could pull this off without watering the character down.  And they did it.  Straight up magic and everything.  And lots of humor.  I didn’t expect the humor.  This was a pretty great movie and I look forward to him showing up more often in the Marvel Movie Universe.  One caveat, the wonderful Rachel McAdams is mostly wasted. Hopefully they find more to do with her in future movies.


The Magnificent Seven – You can hear my full thoughts of this movie on the appropriate episode of the Hellbent for Letterbox podcast, but in short, I loved this movie. Lots of good characters, lots of good action. Definitely a fun ride for western fans. And even those maybe not traditionally a western fan.

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Year End Book Report: The Best Books I Read in 2016

Posted in Batman, books, comic books, movies, pop culture, Star Wars with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 12, 2017 by Paxton

Year End Badass Book Report

Here I go, writing another one of these year end round up articles that I’m shocked to be writing every year. 2017. CRAZY. What a ride 2016 was. Hopefully 2017 will give us a bit of a break.

This past year was an interesting year for my book/comics list.  After so many years of logging my books and comics reading via Google Spreadsheet, I actually converted my logs over to an online data tool called Airtable. It’s similar to Access in that it is a relational database but the user entry interface is very simple to create and similar to Excel. Plus being able to link specific information between tables really helps in cross referencing and spelling.  You have no idea how many times I misspelled author names throughout my logs.

Here’s what my book log looks like now on Airtable.  I’ve converted all my logs back to when I first started in 2007.

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The blue colored fields in the screenshot are actually linked to another table.  I was able to also create the Rating field on the right with different color coded ratings to make it easy at a glance to see what is going to make my year end list and what isn’t.  Plus, Airtable makes all of this data entry even easier with a nice app for my iPhone or iPad that makes it easy to log entries on the go.  Google Sheets had one as well but Airtable’s works better.

So that’s all the behind the scenes stuff.  I had a better year for novels.  I was able to pick 5 this year.  Again, comics were booming and I had a tough time paring down to 5.  But I did it.

So, without further ado, here’s the list!

Books


The Old Man and the Sea (1952) – Ernest Hemingway – I don’t read classics as often as I used to.  I really need to remedy that.  There are two reasons why I read this.  #1, it was featured in the movie The Equalizer starring Denzel Washington as a book he’s reading. #2, Steph checked it out from the library with a bunch of other books and I, on a whim, picked it up to read.  It’s actually really good.  I quite enjoyed it.  I’m probably not going to pick up any other Hemingway, but I’ll definitely try to read more classic lit this coming year.  I’ve been wanting to re-read Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, so maybe I can get that done.


Steve Jobs (2011) – Walter Isaacson – I’ve now read two of Isaacson’s famous biographies and let me say that I’m hooked. Back in 2014 I read his biography of Benjamin Franklin and it nearly made my year end best of list.  This one about Apple founder Steve Jobs actually cracks the list. It’s not only a great portrait of a complicated man, but it’s also a great look at the beginnings of our technological age we live in now.  I would love for Isaacson to tackle Bill Gates in a full book, but I’m not sure that’ll happen.  Isaacson did write a book called The Innovators that really digs into the people who created the computer and the Internet; going as far back as Alan Turing and jumping forward to people like Larry Page and Bill Gates.  That will probably be next on my Isaacson reading list and the closest I’ll get to a full Gates biography by him.


Star Wars: Catalyst – A Rogue One Novel (2016) – James Luceno – The “New Canon” of Star Wars books since Disney has taken over has been very…hit or miss.  Since those books started in Fall 2014, only one has made my year end list.  And honestly, I think that one novel (Star Wars: Tarkin), also written by James Luceno, would work perfectly as a side-quel to this book.  This is the written prequel to the movie Rogue One and it’s pretty great.  It digs deep into the relationship between Galen Erso and Director Krennic.  It also explores a bit more the rivalry between Krennic and Tarkin all while adding in backstory to how the Death Star was built and how it works and what they use to power the planet killing laser.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.


Magic Kingdom for Sale–Sold! (Landover series Book 1) (1986) – Terry Brooks – I talked about this book earlier in my High Fantasy Month article back in March.  It’s a different setup for a fantasy series and I really enjoyed it.  I had bought the collection of the first three books in the series, but I’ve not delved into the second book yet.  However, it’s on the plan for this year.

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Predicting Guardians of the Galaxy’s Awesome Mix Vol 2

Posted in movies, music on January 10, 2017 by Paxton

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This week on Nerd Lunch we did our annual Nerdstradamus episode. We talked a lot of predictions, most of which will be crushed underfoot and proven wrong at the end of this year when we do Nerdstradamus again. Along with the predictions, instead of doing the over-under game we’ve done previously with Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Trek Beyond, we decided to try something different. We all tried to predict three songs we thought would show up on the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 soundtrack.

The first “Awesome Mix” had such a great selection of songs we wanted to try our hand at creating the next one.  To date, we had three possible songs that could show up on the soundtrack.  Fox on the Run by Sweet, Come a Little Bit Closer by Jay & the Americans and The Chain by Fleetwood Mac all showed up on trailers and teasers.  That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll show up on the soundtrack or in the movie, but that’s at least a start and gives us an idea of where James Gunn is looking.

So using the three songs above and the 12 songs that showed up on the original soundtrack, I picked 12 songs that I think would make a great Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 soundtrack.  If you want to see my picks in a full YouTube playlist, check that out here.  CT has also selected 12 songs he thinks will be on the soundtrack.  You can check out his Awesome Mix Vol 2 right here.

Without further ado, here’s my song list.  The first three picks in this list are the songs I selected on the show.


Little River Band – Help is on the Way – I really wanted Little River Band on this album. Cool Change is a great song as is Lonesome Loser, but I think this track works the best for the movie.


The Guess Who – No Sugar Tonight – The Guess Who are pretty great and they kind of remind me of Sweet. This is such a great song.


The Hollies – Long Cool Woman – A good, bluesy rock song. As you can tell, this is sort of the vibe I was going for. Fuzzy, 70s type rock songs that I could close my eyes and imagine scenes from the upcoming movie.

Here are the 9 other songs on my own personal Awesome Mix Vol 2:


Steppenwolf – Magic Carpet Ride – I love this song. Sort of a great meandering rock and roll ride of a song. So good.


Stevie Wonder – Uptight Everything is Alright – Stevie is awesome and this is one of my favorite songs of his. I also wanted to get some 60s flavor in here similar to the Jackson 5 who showed up on the first soundtrack.

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A review of Dot and Tot of Merryland (1901) by L Frank Baum

Posted in books, Frank Baum, reviews with tags , , , , , on December 8, 2016 by Paxton

Baum Readalong

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Baum review, so let’s do this.

The illustrator of the first Oz book was WW Denslow.  If you recall, he illustrated only the very first Oz book before John Neill took over in book two and illustrated over 30 Oz books in his career.  Denslow and Baum had a falling out in 1902 over royalties from the first Wizard of Oz musical.  However, before that happened, Denslow had also illustrated Baum’s books By the Candelabra Glare, Father Goose: His Book and another children’s fantasy story called Dot and Tot of Merryland.

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Dot and Tot of Merryland was published in 1901, the very next year after The Wonderful Wizard of Oz although it was actually written around the same time.  As I mentioned, the book is a children’s fantasy book written in the same style as Wizard.  Child protagonists visit a magical fairy land and must find their way back home when they become trapped there.

Yes, that sounds awfully familiar but it’s Baum style, it’s straight up in his wheelhouse.  He managed to make this concept work for like four or five of his Oz books, so I’m not too worried he’ll make it work here.

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The story begins with Dot who is a bit of a sickly child. She’s sent to live in her father’s palatial mansion in the outskirts of town. While there she has the run of the estate. She starts playing with the gardener’s little boy, Tot. They are having a picnic out by the stream that runs through the back yard and they are swept away in a rowboat which takes them through a tunnel in the mountains where they emerge in a fairy land called Merryland.  They meet a crazy cast of characters including a guy with long whiskers called the “Watchdog” that oversees the entrance to Merryland and they meet the ruler of the land who is a walking, talking wax doll.  Dot and Tot are adopted by the queen and go with her to tour the seven valleys of Merryland.

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2016: Jason X (2001) review

Posted in Friday the 13th, Genres, Halloween, holiday, horror, Jason Vorhees, movies, nostalgia with tags , , , , , , , , on October 28, 2016 by Paxton

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Yesterday for my “greatest hits of AWESOME-tober-fest” week, I looked at the novelization for the movie Jason X, of which I am a fan.  I thought maybe for Fangoria Movie Friday I should revisit the movie itself and see if I do still, in fact, enjoy it.  A 15 years later retrospective on a very maligned movie.

In the late 90s, when Freddy vs Jason was still in “development hell”, Friday the 13th creator Sean Cunningham wanted to make another Jason movie to continue fostering interest in the character. Writer Todd Farmer pitched “Jason in space” and develpment began on what would become the 10th Friday the 13th movie, Jason X.

Jason X poster

The movie starts off in 2010. Jason has been captured by the government and kept in the Crystal Lake Research Facility. They have been testing his ability to regenerate tissue and stay alive. After several failed attempts to kill him it is decided to put him in cryo stasis, but certain other shadowy government departments want him for further study so they prep him for transfer to another facility. However, Jason escapes and kills nearly everyone. One of the researchers, Rowan, traps him in the cryo chamber, but Jason pierces the chamber with his machete and both Jason and Rowan are trapped in cryo sleep as the facility goes into lockdown mode.

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Over 445 years later, a scientific team stumbles upon the two and transports them to their ship. The crew revive Rowan from cryo sleep with nanotechnology and just as she is about to warn them about Jason he revives and starts killing all of the scientists. Rowan and the few survivors must figure out a way to stop Jason and get off the ship before it is destroyed.

That’s the elevator pitch, there’s a little bit more to it. But not much.  Getting this out of the way, the movie is ultra low budget.  Especially for being in space.  The actors are mostly unknowns but the lead girl, Rowan, was on Andromeda, as was one other cast member.  The cast is as good as any other standard Friday the 13th.  The kills are pretty good.  One of the more infamous being the “liquid nitrogen head smash”.

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For the characters, Rowan is pretty good as the female lead. The other “lead” if you want to call her that is an android a la Data from Star Trek: TNG named KM-14. You also get the typical smattering of other character types; “the tough military sergeant”, “the computer dork” and “the outspoken one with loose morals”. They work as well as any of the other F13 movies. Certainly no worse than Jason Takes Manhattan or New Beginning.  But saying “they work as well” and “they are good and interesting characters” are two different things.  They do what they need to do but they aren’t great.

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As far as the story goes, I like the idea of the government wanting to test the captured Jason’s supernatural healing abilities. He has this ability to regenerate after nearly 100% damage. Of course the government is going to want to study him.  I also like the idea of trapping people on a spaceship with a hunting Jason. You can tell the premise of this movie was “borrowed” from Alien. As a plot device, for me, it works.  What also works for me is the idea of Uber Jason.  Towards the end of the movie, the android character gets “an upload”, becomes Rambo and “kills” Jason by shooting off his leg, part of his rib cage and part of his head.  And despite the fact that Jason hasn’t died from some seemingly fatal wound at least 5 times before this, everyone assumes he’s dead.  Then the damaged medical station thinks Jason needs to be fixed so it takes over and rebuilds Jason.  As a cyborg.

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And so is born the best thing in this movie, Uber Jason.  We get precious little time with Uber Jason.  He’s awesome and should have been onscreen more than 20 minutes.  He’s relentless and kills gloriously.  The movie really picks up and seems more fun once Uber Jason is on the scene.  Here’s a nice gallery of Uber Jason pics.

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At one point they trap Uber Jason in a simulated 1980 Camp Crystal Lake environment.  He gets to kill two simulated co-eds by smacking their sleeping bags against a tree.  It’s a pretty great homage to past movies (the sleeping bag stunt was done back in Part VII).

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So, is this a great movie? No, not really. But it’s fun. It has fun with the concept of Jason and the idea to move him into outer space and turn him into a futuristic cyborg Jason was a clever idea. Did everything 100% work? No, of course not. The budget is uber cheap and you get what you pay for with the actors. But I had fun with what the filmmakers were trying to do and I still say I enjoy this movie.


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Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.