Archive for the Classic literature Category

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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AWESOME-tober-fest 2016: Lot 249 (1892) – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Posted in books, Classic literature, monsters, mummy with tags , , , , , , , , on October 10, 2016 by Paxton

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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story, Lot 249, was originally presented in a collection of medical stories called Round the Red Lamp.

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Published in 1892, this collection of short stories created a scandal when first released. Doyle’s fans were expecting more Sherlock Holmes-type detective and crime stories but this collection featured mostly harrowing medical stories about disease and amputation.

The story I read is called Lot 249 and is about an Oxford college student whose downstairs neighbor may or may not have reanimated an ancient Egyptian mummy through some type of dark magic.  This story was written during a late 19th-Century fascination with Egyptology and was the very first to use a reanimated mummy as the antagonist and would influence horror stories for years afterward.

It’s a short, quick read.  It reminded me a lot of Lovecraft’s Herbert West story in style, which wouldn’t be published for another thirty years.  Lot 249 is mostly three characters interacting over the course of a few days.  We get the details of the events through dialogue after the fact.  We don’t really see any of the mummy attacks.  We actually don’t really even get to see the mummy walking around.  There are a few quick glimpses in the coffin, but that’s about it.  And surprisingly enough, the story is wrapped up completely with no “will the mummy actually come alive again” type cliffhanger ending.  You could almost argue that there’s no definitive proof that the mummy did in fact come alive and start killing people.  Like I said, a lot of the eyewitness testimony is coincidental and hearsay.  Doyle leaves it up to the reader to fill in the blanks however he wants.

It’s an interesting story to read from the perspective of that this will influence the “creeping mummy” horror genre for so many years to come.  I’m glad I included it here, even if it isn’t the most exciting story I’ve ever read.  I’m a fan of Doyle and was glad to be able to include him in this year’s AWESOME-tober-fest.

In 1990, Lot 249 would be adapted as one of the chapters in the Tales from the Darkside: The Movie.  The adaptation in that movie would be written by Michael McDowell who also wrote the movie Beetlejuice and the movie novelization for Clue: The Movie.  It would star a very young Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore and Christian Slater.


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AWESOME-tober-fest 2016: The Ring of Thoth (1890) – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Posted in books, Classic literature, Halloween, holiday, monsters, mummy with tags , , , , , , , , on October 3, 2016 by Paxton

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Here we are! Day 1 of AWESOME-tober-fest! Welcome to my daily celebration of all things spooky. As you can tell, my theme this month is “mummies”! So I’ll be looking at books, comics, movies and TV shows that feature mummies. It should be a lot of fun. Today, we’ll start with a short story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

In 1890, Cornhill Magazine published a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle short story called The Ring of Thoth.

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While this story has a mummy in it, it isn’t technically a “mummy story” like you’d expect. However, it has elements in the story that will clearly influence mummy movies in the many years to come afterwards.

The story is about an Egyptology student who falls asleep in The Louve and winds up locked in overnight and witnesses a bizarre sight.  The overnight caretaker unwraps one of the mummies from the collection, embraces and kisses it, then rummages through some of the jewelry in the Egyptian collection clearly looking for something.  The student is discovered in hiding and the strange looking caretaker reveals his story about living in ancient Egypt, discovering a long living chemical serum and losing the love of his life to a plague.

This story is short, obviously, and very concise with much of the backstory filled in by exposition from the museum’s overnight caretaker.  However, the way the story is written you feel a sense of wonder at the caretaker’s tale as well as a sense of urgency at what he plans to do that very evening.  These two things make the story breeze by.  It’s also interesting and it keeps you reading along with its fantastical story ideas.  Plus, as I mentioned, there are elements within the story that have clearly influenced many successor mummy movies but also the original Karloff Mummy movie.

First of all, the strange looking caretaker, Sosra, is described as being a very tanned and overly wrinkled person.  Someone with much wisdom and experience in his eyes.  From the description, I immediately got an image of Karloff in his Ardath Bey disguise from The Mummy.  There’s even a scene in which Sosra threatens the protagonist with a knife, much like in the picture below.

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Second, the trinket that Sosra is looking for is the title bearing The Ring of Thoth. Thoth is the God of Knowledge in ancient Egyptian culture. His name would be used in countless mummy movies, however, this story would be one of the first. Universal’s The Mummy used it as well in describing, not a ring, but a scroll.

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Like I said, while this story doesn’t necessarily involve a reanimated mummy it does carry several things that would influence mummy stories and movies in the years to come. Including a story Doyle would write just two years later called Lot 249.

Overall, this is a really enjoyable, short read.  The timeline is very compact and you feel like there is some urgency in the main characters.  It keeps the action moving along despite that the majority of the story involves backstory exposition.  This is definitely a recommend.


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AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: Comic adaptations of HG Wells’ The Invisible Man

Posted in books, Classic literature, comic books, monsters, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , on October 5, 2015 by Paxton

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I’ve always been a fan of comic book adaptations of classic literature.  The most famous versions of this are the Classics Illustrated line of comics from the 50s and 60s.  But several other companies jumped on that bandwagon over the years.

The original HG Wells novel was adapted several times in comic book form. Here are a few of them.

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In 1955, Nesbit Publishing released Superior Stories #1 which featured an adaptation of Wells’ novel. Art and inks were done by Pete Morisi.  It was a mostly faithful adaptation except that they ended the story with the death of the lead character and did not include the epilogue from the novel involving the character of Thomas Marvel.  Nearly ten years later this exact adaptation would be reprinted in Fantastic Adventures #18.

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In 1959 Classics Illustrated #125 would feature an adaptation of the Wells novel with art by Geoffrey Biggs.  As in the last comic, this adaptation also ends with the final fate of the invisible man and completely cuts out the novel’s epilogue.  It makes me wonder if these comics were actually adapting the Universal movie instead of the book.

Marvel Comics would adapt the Invisible Man novel twice.

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Marvel Supernatural Thrillers #2 from 1973 would feature an adaptation of Wells’ novel. It had a script by Ron Goulant and art/layouts by Dan Adkins and Val Mayerik.  The art looks pretty great in that early 70s Marvel style that I love so much.  Unlike the Classics Illustrated adaptation above, this comic features the epilogue.

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In 1977, Marvel Classics Comics #25 would again adapt the novel but this time with art by Dino Castrillo and Rudy Messina and a script by the great Doug Moench.  I’m surprised they didn’t just reprint the Supernatural Thrillers adaptation from four years earlier in this issue, but the art and layouts are great here as well in that 70s Marvel horror style.  And yes, this adaptation also includes the novel’s epilogue.  Not sure why the first two comics omitted it.


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AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: The Invisible Man (1897) – HG Wells

Posted in books, Classic literature, monsters, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , on October 1, 2015 by Paxton

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Yesterday, I talked about one of the very first uses of invisibility in literary fiction. Today, I’m going to discuss probably the most well known use of invisibility in literary fiction.  I decided to go ahead and lead with this book because so much of invisibility in pop culture is derived either from this novel or from Universal’s 1933 movie adaptation, which I’ll review tomorrow.

The Invisible Man was HG Wells’ fifth novel after such classics as The Time Machine and The Island of Dr Moreau. It was originally serialized in Pearson’s Weekly in 1897 but collected into a novel that same year.

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Surprisingly, I had never read this book. I thought I would have been assigned it in high school or college, but that can also be said for several other classics I recently read for AWESOME-tober-fest like Frankenstein and Dracula.  Due to this I, again, have to thank AWESOME-tober-fest for manufacturing a reason for me to shoehorn this book into my reading list.  Let’s see if it was as good as Frankenstein or as bad as Dracula.

The book is certainly well written.  It begins with a mysteriously bandaged man arriving at a boarding house in the small English town of Iping.  The bandaged man not only looks mysterious, he is a very impatient man.  He immediately starts rubbing everyone the wrong way and eventually is kicked out of the boarding house when he can’t settle his bill.  This leads us to discover that he was a scientist who invented an invisibility serum and tested it on himself.  He was trying to work on a reversal serum when he arrived in Iping.

While down and out, he tries to rely on several people for help, but can’t seem to get it together.  All the while, he’s slowly going crazy from the chemicals he’s used on himself and fashions the idea that he’s going to take advantage of the invisibility and start a reign of terror to take over the country, starting with the citizens of Iping.  Will he succeed?

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The story is very well told.  I like the “mysterious stranger” beginning of the novel (despite that the mystery is completely dissolved by the blatant title of the novel).  Seeing Griffin arrive, begin behaving strange and treat everyone so contemptuously is a very in your face way to start the novel.  And I like it.  Eventually, the events that precede the novel are discussed at length about two thirds of the way into the story and by then, you are ready and anxious to hear how Griffin got to where he was.  And HG Wells doesn’t disappoint with the “science-y” talk.  While much of it might be well sounding gibberish, it certainly sounds impressive to hear Wells explain the invisibility science through Griffin.  And there were several disadvantages to invisibility that Wells mentions that I didn’t expect to be brought up like not being able to sleep because you can see right through your eyelids, or that you can see food digesting in your stomach for an hour after you’ve eaten.  Even down to the weather like rain or snow collecting on your head and shoulders making you visible again.  Or dirt and mud collecting on your feet and fingernails also making you visible.  I had expected these things to have come out of later novels and movies, but not this original story.

Things I didn’t like.  The book seemed a little long.  It felt like Wells was padding out the pages a little.  Especially during the scenes where Griffin is discussing what he did before the beginning of the novel.  Some of that stuff is great, but it also felt a little too long.  And some of the side characters have crazy dialects.  It’s supposed to be English countryside dialect, and I can’t speak to the accuracy of that, but it’s damn near unreadable.

But those are small nitpicks, honestly.  I would recommend this book.  Is it as good as Shelley’s Frankenstein?  No, but it’s definitely a good, fun read and I’m happy to say not complete garbage like another classic monster book I know (looking at you Dracula).


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AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: What Was It? A Mystery (1859) by Fitz-James O’brien

Posted in books, Classic literature, Genres, Halloween, holiday, horror, monsters, pop culture with tags , , , , , , on September 30, 2015 by Paxton

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And we are off! So, I had planned on beginning AWESOME-tober-fest 2015 on October 1, but I got excited and I’ve decided to start one day early. Today. So, enjoy everyone, my discussion of all things invisible man begins NOW.

Usually with any discussion of invisible men, ground zero is assumed to be HG Wells’ 1897 story, The Invisible Man. And yes, that is probably the most important work on invisibility to date. And yes, I am going to review that book (check back tomorrow). However, Wells’ story wasn’t the first to feature invisibility, or an invisible man.

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In 1859 Harper’s Weekly published a short story by Fitz-James O’Brien titled What Was It? A Mystery.  O’Brien is considered to be one of the forerunners of science fiction.  And this particular short story is considered one of the earliest known uses of invisibility.  It predated HG Wells’ story by nearly 40 years.

I was doing research on invisibility for this month and discovered an anthology from the 70s that included stories about invisibility.  It was called Invisible Men and it’s edited by Basil Davenport.

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I looked through the list of stories included. There is one from Wells himself, but not the titular Invisible Man.  It’s another story entitled The New Accelerator. O’Brien’s short story was also included. Doing a little more research I discovered the history behind O’Brien and this particular story and decided that I should give it a read.

It’s a very interesting and atmospheric story.  It’s based in an old apartment building and features several of the renters.  One of them is attacked by an unseen force one evening.  The unseen force is captured and tied to the bed.  The renters try to figure out what it is and even take a plaster cast of it.  But the invisible being dies before they can discover what it is.  That’s the long and short of it.

It’s structure is very similar to a lot of Lovecraft’s early stuff.  The story is told by a narrator from the present who is relating events that happened in the past.  The events are never really fully explained and it leaves you with an uneasy, creepy feeling.  Another similar story that comes to mind is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short and creepy The Ring of Thoth as well as Lovecraft’s Out of the Aeons.

And that is What Was It? A Mystery, one of the first uses of invisibility in literary fiction.  It was a fun and interesting read.  Especially to set the table for the movies and books to come this month.


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