The Wizard of OZ: A Steampunk Adventure Review
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What S. D. Stuart didn’t know when he sent me an advance reader copy of his book, The Wizard of OZ: A Steampunk Adventure, was that I cannot stand The Wizard of Oz. That’s right. Call me a party pooper, but after having my mother play it once a week to keep us kids quiet—and after singing “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” in elementary school every year in programs over and over again—I became rather burnt-out on the whole munchkin and wizard world. So when I opened Stuart’s book on my Kindle, I wasn’t sure that I’d read it all the way through. I was ready to put it down at the mere mention of a yellow brick road or a dog named Toto. But that moment never came.

In The Wizard of OZ: A Steampunk Adventure, Dorothy Gale becomes an orphan, losing her mother to a gunfight and her father to a kidnapping. She trains while living on Uncle Henry and Aunt Em’s Farm for Displaced Children, waiting for the day when she knows where to look for her father. That day arrives when a transmission comes in from the Outcast Zone (OZ), the Australis Penal Colony where undesirables are sent from good society. Dorothy travels to OZ, only to get mixed up in the backstabbing politics of Marshal power. Dorothy must use her wits and allies (if such thing exists in OZ) to keep herself alive, find her father, and get out of the Outcast Zone.

As I read The Wizard of OZ: A Steampunk Adventure, I enjoyed finding a story that’s very different from its namesake. Stuart makes a nod to several of the American classic’s icons; Dorothy’s gang includes a robot she calls Scarecrow, a lion named Caleb, and another robot called Woodsman, whom she asks to “have a heart” at one point in the novel. The Witches are Marshals in Stuart’s world, and Toto is nonexistent, though there are attack dogs. Stuart’s references are tasteful without overbearing his story, which is refreshing. I kept waiting for a reference to ruby slippers that never came, but because the ending leaves room for a sequel, I may not be disappointed.

Some plot twists feel forced within the narrative, and at other times there seem to be factual discrepancies. Meanwhile, punctuation fanatics, such as myself, will be bothered by some run-ons and awkwardly long sentences. The second sentence of the first chapter (not a run-on) is a whole forty-two words long, and there are a few more long sentences that stick out as being unnecessarily wordy. The run-ons—mainly compound sentences lacking commas—eventually stopped bugging me as I progressed through the adventure with Dorothy and stopped wearing my editor cap.

Overall, I enjoyed the story, and I look forward to reading more of Stuart’s work soon. Maybe I’ll even grow to like The Wizard of Oz again.

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