Sunday, January 01, 2006

Son of a Witch

Son of a Witch

I thought i was finished with the Wizard of Oz saga. The Judy Garland movie is shown at Halloween and Easter every year. I read two or three of the fourteen books at Project Gutenberg. I had this idea i'd read them all. I figured that Frank Baum wouldn't write any more books. I had no idea that so many others had written about Oz.

My local library had a copy of the audio book Son of a Witch on CD, read by the author in a capable way. More entertainment for my long commute. I haven't experienced Gregory Maguire's first book, Wicked, but it seems clear that it isn't required for comprehension. Now it appears worth seeking.

While Dorothy and the Wizard play parts in this story, they aren't big parts. While the world is similar to Oz, there is much that is new. Also, the point of view is so different, that its nearly unrecognizable. It really could have been a new place. However, the new point of view seems to have been part of the point, without having to write the other view.

The story seems to meander for about three quarters of the volume. I had the impression that were i reading it on dead trees that i might not have had enough momentum to finish it. The main character doesn't seem to accomplish anything, and sometimes beats himself up over it. Then, when everything is all set, the most meaningless bits are gathered together and used to accomplish goals on a grand scale, much to the hero's own surprise. Well, it was my surprise too. And, the story was worth waiting for.

The theme that no one is evil in their own eyes is not explicitly stated, but central to the structure. The Wicked Witch of the West is dead, so she can't tell her own story. Rather, she had a son, who tries to discover things about her after her death. In this way, it is like Fred Saberhagen's Dracula series, where the story is told from Dracula's point of view. Dracula is a vampire, yes, but also a devout Catholic. He's not afraid of crosses as evil incarnate fearing ultimate good, rather he respects them and will not desecrate them.

Another feature of the work is that the author raises difficult questions and answers them. These questions often have multiple answers, and over the course these answers are enumerated. They aren't forced, but seem to organically come up when the hero has some decision to make. Some of the questions are normally recognized as rhetorical, and they are answered anyway, and the answers are worthwhile after all as they sound like wisdom. And why not?

In an afterword interview with the author, he makes a reference to the Harry Potter series. In particular, as Rowling broke the various rules of books for children and teens willy nilly, Gregory feels the confinement of these rules relaxed. Rowling has real depth in her stories, book five has extraordinary length. Obviously, kids of all ages are instantly addicted to them. Publishers recognize that the numbers show that the rules can be irrelevant. Other authors have been more critical of the new giant.

And yet, it should be pointed out that Son of a Witch is not a kid's book. It was written for adults, with adult language, and adult themes. While going through it, it seemed for a bit that it could be salvaged for younger readers without damaging it too much, as Card says he did with his Enderverse. You know, fix the foul lanuage, trim here and there. Maybe. And maybe not.

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