Steam Engines of Oz
Are you a stickler for a story to be exactly what you grew up knowing? I’m mostly just curious. This is a judgment free zone. Or something. I mean to say for me, the whole concept of it is situational. There are times when changing stuff to change stuff annoys the hell out of me. And then there are times when the changes make for such a good addition to the mythology of story that it is worth checking out.
I find myself at such a crossroads with Steam Engines of Oz (Arcana 2013). On one hand we find ourselves back in Oz. Some of the old familiar characters are there. There are touchstones in place to grab you by the nostalgia. But there are moments where the changes and characterizations are such to make you question the thing in front of you.
But maybe that is just me…
The story itself is a new imagining. It all takes place around one hundred years after Dorothy and her fated visit to the mystical land of Oz. But for me one of the hardest bits to stomach of the changes is the villain of the story. See, they have expanded on the knowledge we have of the tin woodsman. In doing this they have created a background for him that can lead to where we find the world of Oz in the story. Personally, I find the reasoning a bit forced. I mean this is the tin woodsman we are talking about. He found. The heart to stand for his ideals. And so, it seems a bit odd to have him throw it all away in these alternate stories of the Oz we have all grown up with. But I could be wrong, it has happened once or twice before. Maybe there is some legitimate justification for where we find ourselves in these stories.
But in following that path, I have now steered away from the path I had intended to explore. I had thought to explore a bit of the new version of Dorothy for these stories. By that I mean the character Victoria Wright.
The girl is a native of Oz. You would think this would throw off the foreigner narrative we had with the original Dorothy. We won’t have as much open space to explore the various oddities of living in a strange land. They achieve it with her being a worker that lives below the main city working on the machinery and such that allow for organized survival in the modern world. Even in that, it isn’t the main gist of what is going on in this set of stories. Or more to the point, this particular series from the set of stories.
To be more precise, she works on the machinery below the city and she is collected by flying monkeys and given the task of stopping the Tin Man and his push to control the whole of Oz. By the nature of this story, it is essentially, the opposite of what we had with the original. We still end up on a quest to find a wise man to guide them and they eventually end up turning back around toward the city of Oz to find this wisdom.
But the moments along the way feel more like distractions for the reader than they do something that fits within the story itself. We are being led through the 100 years of change in the land of Oz instead of a story taking place within the world itself.
I feel like we have missed some opportunities within the building of the world and are only shown a bare skeleton based on memories that the reader should have from the many years that the Wizard of Oz stories have been a thing. It isn’t simply an allusion to the original stories, nope, this is a blatant reliance that we should know those stories before we even dip a toe within the pages of these new stories.
But then, this might also just be me. It is always possible that I am looking for something more than what they intended to put there. It always comes back to our own expectations when we pick up something that plays in an established sand box. There are laws and rules, set pieces, if you will of how the world should already be portrayed. Sometimes when you go against those established ideas in a story world you didn’t create, you run the risk of splintering the readers who have their own thoughts of what they should experience.
In the end, this was an interesting diversion, but not something I would go out of my way to explore. There is a second series in the same world out there. But I am not inclined to go out of my way to find it. There is so much other stuff I can fill my time with that this isn’t a high priority for me.
If you enjoy these stories, consider leaving some coffee money in the jar or you could buy a book or two. Either way helps keep the stories flowing.