Archive for September, 2013

Review of Oz Book 15: The Royal Book of Oz (1921)

Posted in books, Classic literature, movies, Wizard of Oz with tags , , , , , , , on September 5, 2013 by Paxton

Following the Yellow Brick Road

L Frank Baum died in May 1919. Baum’s final Oz book, Glinda of Oz, wouldn’t be published until 1 year later in 1920. With Baum now gone, Reilly & Lee, decided to continue the Oz series with a new author. They selected Ruth Plumly Thompson to write the fifteenth book in the series. John Neill would return to illustrate the book as he had the previous thirteen books. However, Baum would get author credit on the cover and not Thompson.

Royal Book of Oz

It has been said that this book was written off the final Oz notes Baum left in his typewriter after he died.  It has never been proven without a doubt that Baum even left final Oz notes.  Regardless, it is pretty much a given that this book is all Thompson.  Thompson trying a bit to write in the style of Baum, but still 100% Ruth Plumly Thompson.  I really love Neill’s cover for this book.

The story itself is interesting.  HM Wogglebug, TE gets the idea that he is going to chronicle the royal lines of Oz in a book called, of course, The Royal Book of Oz.  While pitching the idea to Ozma, Wogglebug insults Scarecrow (former ruler of Oz and current Emperor of the Winkies)  by saying he wasn’t born from a royal family and, in fact, has no ancestry.  It is interesting to note that this is the first time that we see outright annoyance and dislike towards HM Wogglebug.  In earlier books, characters would imply that he’s tiring to listen to, but nothing outright.  In this book, the characters effectively come right out and say, “We don’t f**king like you.  Go away.”  Especially after he insults the Scarecrow.

So the Scarecrow runs away from the Emerald City back to the pole on the farm Dorothy found him.  He slips down the pole to the Silver Islands that exist way below Oz (and far enough down to not be considered a part of Oz).

scarecrow1
Scarecrow tumbles down the bean pole to the Silver Islands

We learn the background of the Scarecrow and how he is the vessel for the spirit of the leader of the Silver Islanders.  We meet his family and learn how he came to be on the pole when Dorothy found him.  However, as these things tend to do, events turn sour and Scarecrow is trapped in Silver Islands and Dorothy and company must set out to find him.  And we learn other cool things like Oz characters CAN die if they are taken out of Oz.  It’s Oz’s magical fairyland properties that are keeping its citizens effectively immortal.  And we get to meet Sir Hokus of Pokes, an elderly, valiant, well-meaning knight who would show up in three more Thompson Oz books (one with the character center stage) and one of John Neill’s books.

Like I said, on the surface, I like this plot.  I like learning back story to a main character.  We see a similar back story for the Tin Man in The Tin Woodman of Oz.  However, and I hate to say this, but the entire endeavor feels hollow.  It feels like Thompson is mimicing Baum’s style but can’t replicate his heart.  There is so much sincere, heartfelt innocence and imagination in Baum’s books, you can’t help but love them.  This book felt like a shallow copy.  Thompson used less of the puns and clever dialogue Baum was known for while simultaneously using multiple plot threads that Baum rarely used.  So I guess, in a way, she didn’t really follow Baum’s style at all.

Overall, I was just bored with this book.  I wasn’t engaged in the story and for the last half just wished it was over.  This is the first time that has happened in my reading of the Oz books.  There were one or two Baum books I didn’t fully enjoy, but I was never bored or wished it to end.  So, no, I can’t really recommend this.  However, John Neill’s artwork is again the centerpiece.  Truly great illustrations.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t envy anyone following in Baum’s footsteps.  And this was Thompson’s first effort.  Thompson eventually wrote 18 more books after this so I assume she gets better the further she moves out of Baum’s shadow.  Looking at the list of her books, a few of them do look interesting; The Cowardly Lion of Oz, The Yellow Knight of Oz and maybe Pirates in Oz,  We’ll see how many I actually get to.

Cult Film Club Episode 10: Miami Connection (1987)

Posted in 80s, movies, nostalgia, podcast, pop culture with tags , , , , , on September 4, 2013 by Paxton

Cult Film Club

So not only did Nerd Lunch hit triple digits last week, now Cult Film Club is hitting double digits.  Welcome to Episode 10 in which we discuss the independent movie sensation of the year, Miami Connection.

Miami Connection

Released to very little fanfare in Orlando (and Germany?!) back in 1987, the film was found on eBay last year and bought by Drafthouse Films for $50.  Now it’s getting worldwide theater and home video releases with the actors reunited for special fan events like every damn week.  It’s nuts how popular this movie has become.  So, being that we are Cult Film Club, we felt it was our duty to forgo our original movie pick for this month and check out this masterpiece of dramatic biker ninja action.  Do you like feathered hair, white ninjas, aligator earrings and orphans reuniting with their dads?  Then you’ve come to the right place.

Download this episode from iTunes or listen to it online right here.

Review of The Talisman for the #Talismanalong

Posted in books, pop culture, Stephen King with tags , , , , , , on September 4, 2013 by Paxton

Talismanalong 1
Talismanalong 2

Well, the Talismanalong I started with Trish at the beginning of August has ended. We’ve all read the book. We had some good discussion on Twitter under #Talismanalong about the book. It was a lot of fun, I enjoyed reading and talking about the book with the participants.  It’s always fun to do these things especially with Trish, she’s just so much fun.  And, she’s due for a tiny human to come out of her at any moment, so let’s all hope that goes well.

Now, though, I guess it’s time to talk about what I thought about the actual book.

The Talisman The Talisman

Going in, I was not overly excited to read this book. I honestly had no idea what type of story to expect as I knew very little about the book other than the fact that it existed.  I think I was also colored by my “meh-ness” about King’s The Stand.  And the beginning of this book did NOT allay my fears.  The first 80 pages or so are rough (ie boring as ballz).  I was concerned that I may have made a huge mistake.  Then we are introduced to Speedy and The Territories.  And the story takes off.

This book reminds me a lot of The Stand.  The long, epic journey.  I said before that The Talisman is The Stand as written by Neil Gaiman.  Speaking of Neil Gaiman, another book that this reminds me of is American Gods.  One, central “evil” character that must be defeated.  Long, epic journeys, climatic final battles.  Many fantastical elements.  Another book this reminds me of?  Odysseus by Homer.  A hero must fight trial after trial on a long journey to find his way home.  So, yes, this is classic storytelling by two masters of genre storytelling.

Things I liked?  I said this book reminds me of The Stand a little bit, but unlike The Stand, this book has a manageable cast of characters and a much more focused story line.  I didn’t feel like I was drowning in characters and plot throughout reading the book.  I also love the idea and execution of The Territories.  I liked the hero Jack.  I liked his companion Wolf.  For the most part, I think Morgan Sloat is a good villain, but he’s surprisingly not that fully developed considering the length of the story.  I also actually like the final confrontations and wrap ups in this book (unlike, oh, I don’t know, THE STAND).

What didn’t I like? Again, I hate to harp on this with King, but, the story is just too damn long.  This book could have edited out at least 100 pages and not really lost anything.  There is A LOT of naval gazing throughout the different parts of this book.  Especially towards the end.  While it’s more focused than The Stand, it still needed some judicious trimming.  I found “story fatigue” setting in around page 550-600 (there were 770 pages in this book).  Even though I liked the book, I was sort of ready for the final act and wrap up.  It really felt like it took a week to read the last 150 pages or so.  But to be fair, part of that is my inability to find time to read outside of work and on weekends.  With a 2 year old and an 8 month old, reading at home is a rare occurrence.

So, overall, yes, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  And that is a surprise to me.  Will I read the sequel, Black House?  A week ago, I was gung-ho to read it, yes.  But now, I think I’ll eventually read it, but not anytime soon.  Plus, the stuff I hear from people about the sequel is not exactly glowing.  And I hear it has a thin connection to the Dark Tower series of which I am not a fan.  So, we’ll see.  But I can definitely recommend The Talisman as a good and interesting story, with good characters and a lot of imagination.

And now that I know I like this book, I definitely be reading Straub’s Shadowland sooner rather than later.

Thanks, Trish and everyone else for joining me on this Talismanalong. I had a lot of fun.