Revisiting Oz

Mention “Wicked” to most people, and they will think of the musical. But “Wicked” is actually the first book in an excellent series (called “The Wicked Year”) written by Gregory Maguire. I just finished reading the series again, and I’d like to recommend it. “The Wicked Years” is really the story of Oz and the Thropp family: Nessarose, Shell, Elphaba, Elphaba’s son Liir, and Elphaba’s granddaughter, Rain. Maguire has taken the foundation created by L. Frank Baum in the first four Oz books, and used that as a framework to tell an excellent political story, interwoven with magic and adventure. This isn’t just Elphaba and Galinda as portrayed in the musical. The musical focuses on the friendship, and this story is much much more. Beginning with Elphaba’s birth, the series looks at Elphaba’s rebellion against the Wizard, and how things as the Wizard cracked down politically against his enemies whilst searching for the Grimmarie, the big book of magic. It is a story of the effect of repressive governments, of theocracies, and of political power abused. It is also the story of how to fight that political power.

The Wicked Years actually consists of four books: Wicked, Son of a Witch, A Lion Among Men, and Out of Oz. Of the four, Out of Oz is my favorite, because by the fourth book, Maguire has become so comfortable with the environment that he can joke a little. There are numerous contempory Oz references, such as to the book Gone With the Wind, the quality of Judy Garland’s singing, as well as good reuse notions introduced by Baum, such as Mombey, General Jinjur, and the Queen of Ev. He makes this all work in an excellent fashion.

I encourage you, if you only know Wicked, to read the entire series. I think you’ll enjoy it and it will move Oz from being a childrens story to a wonderful fantasy universe.

Music: The Producers (2001 Original Broadway Cast) (Matthew Broderick And Ensemble): I Wanna Be A Producer