Oz Reimagined: New Tales from the Emerald City and Beyond by John Joseph Adams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Why I read it: It came up as an option in NetGalley, and I always look forward to anthologies by John Joseph Adams. I was actually sent a review copy in audio too, but passed it on to another reviewer for SFF Audio. When she has reviewed it, I'll post a link!
I struggled with this anthology at first. Don't get me wrong - I almost always love the JJA anthologies and own several. I blame myself for never reading the original Oz books. I've always meant to and wanted to but never got around to it, so my only experience is through the movies of the Wizard of Oz and Return to Oz. I know that the original book had emerald glasses, but I don't know any of the other characters, back history, weird details, etc. So it made it hard for me to know which of the ideas in these stories were borrowed and magnified from the original, and which were unique to the contributors. This is all on me, but the best readers to enjoy this anthology will know Oz the way Baum intended it before digging into it reimagined.
Now I really want to read the Oz books. But first, comments on the stories in this volume! The basic premise is the Oz story or characters or setting - reimagined into something new. The authors, well-known for stories in science fiction and fantasy, all go in slightly different directions.
One of my favorites was "Dorothy Dreams" by Simon R. Green. The first line:
"Dorothy had a bad dream. She dreamed she grew up and grew old, and her children put her in a home. And then she woke up and found it was all real. There's no place like a rest home."
Ha! That made me laugh, but after I was done laughing, I enjoyed the bittersweet story very much.
A similar premise was "One Flew Over the Rainbow" by Robin Wasserman, which I think Baum would have liked, considering the veins of insanity that seem to underlie some of the original story (from what I understand). The reference should be obvious, I think.
In "The Veiled Shanghai" by Ken Liu, the story is about Shanghai revolutionaries, with the same characters. I liked this spin, but I wish it had slightly less of a "The City and the City" premise. He also included paper animals like in his short story, "The Paper Menagerie." It also had a silly line (many of them make references like this) that said "I'm certainly not on Kansu Road anymore." Har har har.
Another favorite, even though it also utilizes the simultaneous city idea, is "Off to See the Emperor" by Orson Scott Card, which suggests the basis for the entire world, in a real town in Kansas that also had an Emperor of the Air.
This isn't all the ideas. Other stories feature tornados employed for even worse purposes, Dorothy becoming a witch, girl detectives, murder cases, cyborgs, automotons, steampunk, and some stories from the perspectives of minor characters - a cobbler, a window washer, a farmhand. This is definitely an enjoyable read. The more you know Oz, the better.
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