on March 20, 2006
Sorry for the inelegant title. I sat here for a little while... trying to come up with something clever, but nothing captured the scope of my feelings about this book quite as well as that.
I found Wicked to be one of the weakest novels I have ever read and would strongly discourage you from picking it up. I'm not actually in the business of reviewing literature, but I have been astounded by the critical acclaim for this book, despite its incredible lack of depth and character.
Wicked starts from a safe premise: take a well-loved story and write a story within it. Tom Stoppard has made a career out of this, with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead being a prime example. However, Maguire fumbles this by diverging from the source material at almost every contact point. His vision of Oz is pallid and mostly uninteresting. The development of Oz's religions, local customs, and such are limited in scope and generally not fresh. Unlike the world of Harry Potter, where the little touches make you curious for more, I felt very much that Maguire was crassly trying to flesh out the world of Oz simply to create storytelling space for future stories.
The characters are defiantly flat and frequently step out of their own characterizations to do things that are pointless and, often, absolutely baffling. Elfaba, a character who refused to carry out an assassination in the presence of a group of children, randomly, and spitefully, attempts to kick a well-meaning child in the back. Sarima, a widow whose husband disappeared under mysterious circumstances, is not at all interested in discovering the truth about her husband... even with the truth knocks on her door and BEGS her to listen. I found so many examples of behavior incongruous with common sense that I started second guessing my own. Would I, a green girl fatally allergic to water who has, for hundreds of pages, taken extremely detailed precautions to avoid every single drop of water, go ICE SKATING for no reason? Upon further examination, the only thing wrong with me was that I lacked the common sense to put this book down.
Wicked's plot is stilted and stumbles over itself as if it was written in one take without an editor. Maguire introduces plot threads and then does not resolve them, leaving the reader frustrated all every turn, waiting for payoffs that never come. Years at a time pass casually... key plot points are dropped in parentheticals hundreds of pages after you've forgotten their thrust. The plot meanders aimlessly for dozens of pages at a time, detailing the hide-and-seek exploits of minor characters, the sexual fantasies of a young girl, and the thoughtfully-named sisters Two through Seven.
Consistent mediocrity is the prose's hallmark. Maguire attempts to hide his lack of substance behind alternating complex and florid language. The prose is decidedly amateur and takes every opportunity to throw you off of a nice pace with its awkwardly-worded sentences, simplistic imagery, and general vulgarity. Maguire bumbles modern and antiquated phrases and concepts together in a way that makes the entire body seem anachronistic. The overall effect is slapdash and serves to jostle the reader out of the story.
Wicked does have one bright point however: the single worst plot twist I have ever seen. I think even the story editor at General Hospital would wince if you pitched him this one. Elphaba, asked if she is the mother of a dubious tagalong kid, replies to the effect of `well, it doesn't feel like I've ever had a kid... but there was that one time I was in a coma for a year. I guess I could have had him then." The coma she is talking about happened about a hundred pages before - but was not mentioned. I'm sorry... how do you NOT MENTION YOUR PROTAGONIST'S YEARLONG COMA IN A BOOK SUBTITLED "The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West"? Then, as if to demonstrate a complete contempt for the reader, about a hundred pages later, Maguire drops into a parenthetical that the boy is in fact the son of Elphaba's lover... but does not confirm her as the mother.
As for social commentary - which is a key theme of the book, according to the jacket - I found it sorely lacking. If Maguire's aim was to explain the motives and perceptions of evil, we can only conclude that he believes that evil is fueled by society's idiotic, illogical behavior. Having driven the highways of Los Angeles, I can certainly understand this sentiment, but Maguire misses just about every chance to explore the true nature evil. Nietzsche's famous phrase "gaze long into the abyss, and the abyss gazes into you" gets closer to explaining evil in eleven words than Maguire does in 400 pages.
You know how when you read most books, as you get closer to the end, you read faster? Some books, you can't even put them down. With this book, I had the opposite experience. The closer I got to the ending, as I realized there was nothing the author could do to salvage this train wreck, and there was no way for me to reclaim these precious hours of my life, I had to stop often - and could only read a page or two at a time. When I finished, I actually literally physically threw the book across the room.
I have never been this frustrated with a reading experience in my life. After a hundred pages, I decided to read on to see if the book improved. At two hundred, I plodded along out of sheer morbid curiosity. At three hundred, it was too late to turn back. At four hundred, I feel as if my brain has been violated. It may be too late for me - but it isn't too late for you! Skip this book and read something good.
on September 13, 2005
(Note: I agree completely with Bruce Aguilar's review below.)
I was excited to read this book; I expected a great read.
Wicked relies on a gimmick. Though the result could be worthwhile, and I expected it would be in this case, it's not. There's just the gimmick.
Wicked is too long by at least a hundred pages - though the story could easily have been told and done, and the reader is feeling done with it, we're still left slogging along.
Just as the story is building to what turns out to be the (aborted) climax, halfway through, the author suddenly, jarringly, shoves the protagonist into a convent (though she's a complete non-believer), and then has her do absolutely nothing for the next several years (well, she cleans some floors or something).
Though we're still left a couple hundred more pages to wade through, the book is over right there. You keep hoping, expecting, it to somehow start up again, but neither the book nor the characters will every have any interest in anything again. It's over.
The story has, at that point, somehow become a political thriller (Wicked zigzags all about without ever finding an identity). Perhaps the deadness of spirit in a once-impassioned radical, after she's lost faith and/or hope, would have been a worthwhile exploration.
Instead, the story just ends. For some reason, the author keeps writing more pages. For no reason, really.
(The Nature of Evil theme is so incredibly weak and puerile in its rendering as to be nothing more than a tedious distraction from the plot. The characters basically step outside the story for a bit, discuss it, and then go back to whatever they were doing.)
If this were a book of paintings, it would go from lush oil at the beginning to somewhat interesting (dark) watercolors in the middle. After that, there'd be a few nicely shaded drawings, some sketches and finally just stick figures. And that's what you're left with.
It never answers its own questions, never bothers to resolve all the threads that just trail off (and much of what keeps you reading, long after the book has clearly died, is some hope of seeing those resolved - they won't be).
Cruciallly, Elphaba never becomes the Wicked Witch of the West. The author just crams her into that role as abruptly and jarringly as he crammed her into the convent, and suddenly has her say words that have nothing to do with the character we've seen for the past zillion pages.
It's like she was suddenly turned into a puppet, just so Dorothy can accidentally kill her, as if the author forgot she was supposed to be the Wicked Witch of the West and suddenly cut-and-pasted in a brief bit about that so he could have this gimmick to sell it. (That's the climactic confrontation we've been anticipating for 400 pages?)
It's your standard workshop-fiction type of book - lots of attention the phrasing, self-important symbolism, Meaningful (capital M) conflicts, one or two words that might send you to the dictionary - but there's no real fire here, and the author not only doesn't have much of a story to tell, but fails to explore his characters and theme.
If this weren't an alternative view of a familiar character, nobody would read it. There'd be no point. And though that marketing hook will pull many a reader in (as it did me), ultimately there isn't any.
on July 2, 2008
I shall paraphrase the most striking part of this novel:
"You should become a witch," said the Elephant.
"All right!" said Elphaba. "Sounds cool!"
I sat and read it over again, and then I back-handed the book. I will always remember this as the laziest transition ever written.
In my experience, there are some authors who can effortlessly work together thought provoking issues with fiction, keeping it entertaining at the same time they shock. Then there are some who are no good at entwining storytelling with depth and stick to writing for entertainment's sake. I think that Maguire falls into the second category, but just doesn't know it. He just tries too hard and he falls flat on his face. The end result is a book that suffers heavily from trying to figure out which side of its dual personality it wants to be when it grows up.
Maguire can write well. I found the first part fascinating; I looked forward to reading about Elphaba's childhood. Oh wait! Skip that! Instead we pass to college-bound Elphaba! Which leads me to another problem with this book: since Maguire can't figure out whether he's writing to explain a "deep riveting philosophical theme" (pfft!) or an entertaining story with a plotline, every bit of information he presents seems no more or less exciting or important than anything else. If this was written for entertainment, I would be looking for a plotline here (there is none). If it is written for a deep philosophical meaning, it is merely a setup.
In fact, this entire book is a setup. It sets up, and it sets up, and it sets up, and it comes to no conclusion at all. Is there a plot, or some adventure? Well, wait a bit, says the book. Is there some promising deep thought waiting in the wings, asks the reader? Wait a bit, says the book. It's almost like a practical joke with the perpetrator laughing his way to the bank.
Also, it's worthwhile to note that Maguire has an unhealthy fixation on sex and (ugh) urination (really, why?). He has a remarkable skill for writing sex scenes. I suppose that's nice, but when he was describing a traveling party going up into a pass between two mountains and compares those mountains to a woman's "inviting open legs" I realized the man was past obsessed. Ah, X-rated geology. That's one thing I'll probably never forget, if only for the fact it was the moment I experienced a striking realization: that I hated this book and I wanted to burn it. Frankly, if you can see sexuality in the landscape you are watching too much porn.
Nevertheless, this book is fascinating in a way I can't quite explain; I honestly wanted to find out why the Witch was the way she was. I thought the idea was clever. Instead we get hackneyed characters (all of whom are unlikeable), and a dreary Oz more akin to a third-world dictatorship than a fantasy fairytale land. All the magic is removed. Nobody really "loves;" the only character I even halfway liked was Boq (poor fellow, what a name, what a life). It's a sick and dreary and nasty story that left me feeling depressed and foul, like I had just taken a leap into an open sewer. It has nothing new to present, no plot to speak of, and the Witch's and Nessarose's lives don't justify their "larger than life" personas. They're just too bland, too mild, almost stupid. Why did the Witch gain her reputation? Honestly, the book doesn't present any good reason why. I was wondering to the very last page.
Maguire really wants this book to be an exploration of the notion of evil. It's really just an exploration of how not to write. Whole sections of this book should have been knocked out. Many characters should have been excised. Characters were mostly two-dimensional and boring. The sex was all pervasive, foul, cold, and selfish. Avoid. this. book. Don't even start it. Just don't. Yes, it'll suck you in. Yes, it will promise you a fascinating ride. But it's no good, it has no point, and it's downright filthy in a myriad of ways. Get it at the library if you must.
The story's "idea" is so excellent that I often hope an ambitious writer will re-write this premise and knock the socks off of this particular pretentious piece of garbage.
I dare you, whomever you are. Go for it.
on August 8, 2007
I've read many of the reviews of Wicked and I just don't get it.
So many, even when they revile the plot, the content, the story itself, deem Mr. Maguire a "literary genius" with words. I see none of that. In a great story, especially one of fantasy, we should feel swept away by the tale, captivated by the writer's language and enveloped by every sentence. Instead of creating this safe haven for us to enjoy by making his words RELATIBLE, he seems to go out of his way to show us what fancy verbiage he can pull off, regardless of whether it improves the story for it's reader or not. It doesn't.
I'm not impressed by Mr. Maguire's vocabulary. In fact, it is one of the most annoying parts of an amazingly annoying book.
These are my complaints, along with the verbiage issue:
1) Mr. Maguire makes the book excessively complicated by adding in made-up factors which are essential to the plot, but which he never explains to us,
regardless of how verbose he is.
For example, by the time I was 2/3 of the way through, I realized that I still didn't understand the "time dragon" or any of the religions or basic politics that are so crucial to his story. He never bothers to explain these things, but carries on long, boring conversations between his characters that revolve around them. It's like sitting down to a meal with 20 people speaking a foreign language. After a while it just exhausting and mind numbing.
2) Mr. Maguire jumps around - usually just when things are getting good.
We spend goodness-knows how many pages dealing with Elphaba and her family before she even utters her first word and then, just when the plot FINALLY goes somewhere...*poof*....she 17 and off to college. This happens continually. I kept thinking that it was going to become some sort of cliff-hanger where he goes back and we get to REALLY hear the good stuff. Nope. He moves on and that's it. Where's the payoff for the reader? We put up with all of that blah, blah, blah and then he just SKIPS ahead when it gets good?
HE DOES THIS EVERY SINGLE TIME. Beware. You have been warned.
3) He skips the interesting characters and spends pages and pages on the ones that you could care less about.
In another one of his jumps, we never know what happens to Elphaba's TRUE father because it just ends with all of the characters in limbo, then, in a passing phrase, we find out that he was murdered - something to do with that 'ole time dragon again. Then he's on to something else. Hundreds and hundreds of words and pages have gone plodding by, and one of the more interesting things gets nothing more than a passing reference.
4) He spends pages and pages on THINGS that you don't care about, describing them into minutia with his wordy, verbose language.
I think that if I had had to read one more word about Elphaba's journey to the castle, I was going to tear my hair out. The description went on and on and was so boring and wordy. Blech. Skip that stuff! Geeze - tell us the GOOD stuff. Tell us exactly how they killed Fiero. Oh, I forgot, he skipped that part.
5) Elphaba is nasty, annoying and never grows emotionally.
Get some therapy, Elphi. Her POV was just annoying, hardly sympathetic. Obviously, after she learned to speak , she simply became a teenager and never grew past that.
6) The sex scenes and the violence are dull. Just because there is sex between humans and other species doesn't make it good reading or erotic. It's been done before and CERTAINLY done much better.
and the very worst thing:
THERE IS NO PAYOFF. NONE! I hung in there, and hung in there hoping that he would wrap things up and explain things at some point and give SOME sort of emotional satisfaction for having dealt with pages and pages and hours and hours of his slog, and he just rushes through the Dorothy part and it's over. I'm furious.
Overall, I hated it. I'm astounded that so many liked it. I regret picking it up. Unlike others, I wish that I could give it "no stars" - the writer's ability create an imaginary world should be a given and he gets no credit for that from me.
SEE THE SHOW: The broadway show is wonderful and amazing. It is everything that this book is not. However, don't go thinking that they have much in common, because they don't. The plot in the show makes sense, is interesting (far more interesting than the plot in the book), creates characters with whom you really become involved AND gives you a GREAT payoff in the end, explaining things in a MUCH better way and giving you a WONDERFUL and different point of view of the whole story of Oz. The show is one of the best that I have ever seen, and I have seen quite a few. Don't miss Julie Murney as Elphaba, if you get a chance.
THE SHOW: 2 THUMBS UP, 4 STARS, DON'T MISS IT!
THE BOOK: 2 thumbs down, 0 stars, skip it.
on August 25, 2005
After hearing so many sparkling comments and reading stellar reviews, I was eager to begin Gregory Maguire's novel, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. As I began the story about little Elphaba and her promiscuous mother, her zealous father and the world they lived in, I waited patiently to get to the meat of the story, and the history of a timeless character. Unfortunately, I waited, and waited, and then finally reached the back cover and realised I was still waiting!
Even early on, I had trouble connecting with a single character. I found myself not really caring what happened to any of them, but I pressed on. As I did, it became clear that the reason I felt so disconnected was that the characters were equally disconnected. There was no feeling, no devotion, no love, no admiration, no hatred, no disgust. I knew that people were friends because I was told. I knew that Elphaba felt kindly towards Galinda because it was in black and white in front of me. Relationships came forth like Juno from the brow of Zeus; no development of any kind, simply born whole and unquestioned.
And Love. Love, the fifth element (if I may be so bold), has no boundaries and follows no set rules. But it has to be nurtured as it's as delicate as it is strong. All true loves are disected and picked apart in an attempt to see how they work. Not so with Elphaba and Fiyero. They simply love. We don't get the chance to know about that first flutter in Elphaba's breast, or the stirring in Fiyero's heart. We have no opportunity to question his infidelity with Elphie, but not with his sisters-in-law. What about this woman makes her so special to him? We'll never know.
Nor will we ever understand how Nessarose, the much loved younger sister, is displayed as a tyrant in her world. One moment she is giving out awards at some public event (a very untyrantlike thing to do I add), and the next moment she is a splat on the pavement with a house on her head. Her shoes, her blessed shoes, red and glinting in the sun, a symbol of...what? We're not sure. Certainly the wizard could tell us, but he doesn't.
On and on the story goes, dropping characters in willy nilly without so much as a blurb about their importance. We never meet Shell, the youngest and most complete sibling. Nor do we get a firm sense of Liir and the other (more legitimate) children that Fiyero fathered. And while the subject is touched on, no real reason for HOW the Wicked Witch of the West became just that is ever given.
What we are given is a healthy dose of politics. Politics that go no where, and compare to nothing.
Over all this novel reads like a poorly written assignment handed in by a college freshman who has no experience to draw on or emotions to invest.
"Class, today you will select a person from literary history and give them a new life! Make it 300+ pages, to be handed in by semesters end. Hop to it."
At the end of the day, I felt no richer for having read this book and appalled that it had gained so much praise. But then I felt perhaps some of the blame had been my own. The title is: Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. It implies a straightforward, telling of the happenings and events in this one characters world. It was simply my mistake to assume I'd discover a vibrant flesh and blood character brought to life in these pages.
I've learned my lesson. You can tell a book by it's cover, or in this case, it's title.
on January 2, 2005
*S P O I L E R S* BELOW...
Gregory Maguire took a very interesting concept for a novel, and turned it into a truly boring and rambling story that can best be described if you listen to the song, "Is That All There Is?" by Peggy Lee. After I read the last page, I think I became a book-burning sympathizer.
Elphaba starts out as a very complex intuitive character, who progresses to the point of being part of a huge network of rebels who are trying to assassinate the Wizard (due to his Nazi-like running of Oz). For reasons not truly explained well, she abandons everything she believes in and morphs from a well-rounded interesting character you could empathize with, into a flat character with no motivations and no interests. This transformation lasts through the end of the novel where the eventually becomes a lunatic who causes her own death. (question for those who enjoyed the book: She starts off with this network of "terrorists", yet when she gets back in the game and aligns herself against the wizard again, where has this network gone?)
Major characters you assumed would have important roles in the book were discarded randomly (i.e. Boq), and others were brought to the forefront without any sort of development (i.e. Fiyero). And speaking of random silly characters with no point, can someone please tell me why she spent 1 year with Fiyero's family in a rambling useless 100 pages worth of agony? And can someone else tell me why she spent 6 years screwing around the castle doing nothing after Fiyero's family were kidnapped? One might think they meant nothing to her (As not a single attempt to free them was described), but then you come to her meeting with the Wizard where she pleads through tears to get them back.
One would think that her possession of the magic book would make her somehow stronger or more magical, but you would be incorrect in assuming so. IN fact, Elphaba doesn't really do anything Witch-like except ride a broom that apparently anyone can operate. Does that make everyone else a witch too?
Lastly, with all the tyranny in the land, her life and her death meant nothing and changed nothing, which is the thing that pissed me off the most about this book. It served no purpose, and if the writer was attempting to discuss the origin or nature of "wickedness", he did a piss-poor job.
For every issue and non-answered question I listed above, there's 100 more. Do not buy this book. IF you must read it, then go to the library or borrow it from a poor chump who has bought it already (i.e. like me).
I loved all the OZ books as a child, collected them, saved them for my grandchildren. I was so excited about the concept of this book! I didn't expect it to be a child's book, but I also didn't expect it to be so absolutely gawdawful! So many good reviews; so little good reading!
This book is just boring. I kept thinking the threads would begin to come together. They didn't. I kept thinking the story would start to develop a point. It didn't. I kept thinking the author was going to have mercy on me and end the loooooong and detailed, navel-gazing, self-absorbed meandering chronicles of things and people that seemingly had no relevance. He didn't.
Every time it would begin to get interesting, the author seemed to lose interest. Forinstance, we read about an interesting underground, revolutionary thing going on in with Elphaba in the Emerald City, but were never given enough information to care what happened to it or her. Then, suddenly and inexplicably, years have passed and she is on her way to the home of her dead lover's widow. Why? Who knows - or cares! -- because you soon realize that this story line doesn't matter either.
I persisted, doggedly and with much whining to my poor husband, until Dorothy arrived. "Finally!" I thought, "Now it will all come together." Silly me. Instead, I read more endless drivel, this time about Elphaba's return to Munchkinland for the funeral of her armless, witless sister, dead under the house. On and on he wrote about Elphaba's obsession with shoes - not because of their powers, but because of her jealousy of her sister's relationship with their father. (You really don't want to know about that; it's boring AND wierdly sick.) In the middle of yet another long and boring conversation between Elphaba and Glinda, I put the book down. I simply realized I still didn't care and never would.
on January 13, 2007
After hearing rave reviews, I picked up "Wicked" expecting a wittily written satire that would give a greater dimension to the original, fantastical Land of Oz. But "Wicked," instead of entertaining, fell flat on its face, bogged down by clumsy attempts at philosophy, political intrigue, and character development.
While concepts of good and evil, the role of religion, disability, society's perception, sentience, etc., in society are all very meaty ideas with great potential, the book's handling of them was maddeningly obscure and aloof. I caught whiffs of a good argument, all to have it suddenly buried under inept metaphors or ill-timed character tantrums. In the end, very good questions are left unresolved - the author either didn't have the gall to answer them, or thought, pretentiously, that by leaving them unanswered it would lend the book a profound depth. The theme of sex and eroticism, I admit, is tremendous in literature and can be used to awesome effect, but in "Wicked" it seems to be inserted only for the sake of trying to elevate this tale to a level of seriousness beyond the original fairy-tale Oz - it is not inserted for a sensible purpose related to the development of the story.
Another factor dragging "Wicked" down were the characters; I kept hoping that by the end I would sympathize with poor, misunderstood Elphaba, but by hopes were dashed. By the time Elphaba dies, I was relieved; at many points of the story, I wanted to bash her myself on the head with a blunt object. Characters are rudimentary, showing some promising stages of growth, but their actions seem not to grow out of their identities; the grow for the convenience of hte plot. Love appears almost spontaneously, as does cruelty, friendship, and hate - there are no clear, logical precursors to these relationships. The result is a disjointed, rickety plot that attempts to hold up seemingly deep themes in a backdrop that is, at best, vaguely explained.
Perhaps the biggest gripe of all was the language; I don't know where the editor was half the time during the development of this book. I think, in his attempt to combine relatable characters and far-reaching philosophy, Maguire tried to mix casual language with poetic. While this can be done, and very successfully, "Wicked" was patchy and unbearably irritating. I can't tell you how many times I squirmed at the alternating awkward and affected phrases littering page after overambitious page. It ranges from, "Elphaba had an okay voice," to "Not about the raw material of life: the muscle structure of angels' wings, the capillary action involved in focusing a gimlet gaze. Nor about the gooery subjects of the empyrean..." Descriptions are liberally scattered, but without much discrimination, and the readers have to suffer through them all.
Needless to say, I was very disappointed. This is the first and last Maguire book I will read; I advise you to pass on this one. There are other, better books worth spending your time on, like "Wide Sargasso Sea" or "Life of Pi." Don't even come closer to this one.
on October 19, 2005
I realize that I am in the minority here as many others greatly enjoyed this book. Though it raised some very interesting questions about good and evil, there are several concerns that ruined the book for me. The sex distracts the reader from a very vital message. Many questions and mysteries go unresolved. Characters drift in and out of this story without ample explanation, leaving the reader completely lost.
I was completely engrossed in the book until Mr. Maguire reached the third section. I was a little put off by all the sexual inuendos during Elphaba's childhood. I felt as though Maguire was using the sex, as well as some of Elphaba's more disgusting behavior (such as the pissing on herself and the floor and then smelling with glee) to shock the reader and personally, I did not appreciate being shocked in that manner. However, I decided to give the book a chance and keep reading.
I was perfectly delighted with the second section once Elphaba reached school. The chemistry between the characters, the intrigue, the political situation... It was all adding up to be a wonderful book. A professor is killed and Ama Crutch turns senile, something mysterious happens in a strip club that leaves you hanging, Madame Morrible tries to engage Elphaba, Glinda, and Nessarose on a secret mission, Elphaba leaves Shiz seeking answers... It was with sincere anticipation that I turned the pages to section 3, the City of Emeralds.
This section started off interestingly enough. Several years have passed since Elphaba left Shiz. Fiyero finds her in a church in the middle of a secret and dangerous endeavor. I was slightly distracted by Fiyero suddenly coming into importance as he was never in the limelight before (In fact, I had to go back to the final pages of section 2 to remember who he was!). Still, I figured there was a good reason for Maguire using Fiyero instead of Boq, who up until this moment was the focal male character, so I continued reading. However, things steadily declined from my initial confusion. Elphaba and Fiyero start a wild love affair which makes absolutely no sense. The entire time, Elphaba's secret and dangerous life looms overhead of the two, leading to more vigorous and explicit sex. Finally, it is revealed to Fiyero and the reader that Elphaba's mission has to do with Madam Morrible. Whether it is to kill her, expose her, or what, no one knows. And equally unexplained is why Elphaba in the end is unable to complete said mission. This part of the story concludes with Fiyero being beaten by soldiers and Elphaba turning up traumatized at the same church we met her at in the beginning of section 3.
Section 4 goes even further downhill. Another several years have passed and Elphaba is now a Sister with a mysterious boy, whom she never claims as her son though Maguire makes sure to point out several times in his narrative that Liir is Elphaba's and Fiyero's son. We find out, once again through Maguire's narrative, that Fiyero was in fact killed in the attack. Elphaba travels to his homeland to seek forgiveness from his wife, as she blames herself for his death. The wife and the sisters are, in one word, annoying. I never understood why Sarima is the only one allowed to have a name and the other sisters are called by a number. Sarima's children torture Liir to such extremes that you wonder how much the author suffered as a child. Elphaba gathers with her a strange collection of animals and suddenly develops this amazing gift of imagining bad things happening to people she doesn't like and then those things coming true! She never gets the chance for her forgiveness and in fact, Sarima, her sisters, and surviving children (as one dies due to Elphaba's new power) are captured by soldiers, leading on to the final section.
Another SEVERAL years have passed by upon the opening of section five. Elphaba is now ruler of Sarima's home, since she claims she tried so hard to free the family and was unsuccessful. At this point, I was so disgusted with the book, I was concentrating on just finishing it. Glinda comes in briefly as a ditsy aristocrat who gives Nessarose's shoes to Dorothy. Enraged that the precious shoes were given away without her consent, Elphaba embarks on a perilous journey across Oz in search of those shoes. Along the way, she always just misses Dorothy but finds every other character from her past, such as Madame Morrible, Boq, and Avaric. When Dorothy is sent to the "Wicked Witch of the West", Elphaba's only thought is on recovering the shoes and sends her beasts out to intercept Dorothy and bring her alive back to the castle (How Dorothy and her companions could have ever mistaken a swarm of bees and a pack of huge dogs as a threat, one will never guess...). Once Dorothy reaches the castle, the book ends much as anyone who had seen the 1930s Wizard of Oz movie remembers.
Where was the resolution? Where did all the characters go? Why introduce such intrigue and then solve none of it? His characters develop and then un-develop in such astonishing fluidty that you wonder why Maguire even bothered including them in the story. For example, Glinda makes a dramatic transition in character from being the snooty, sorority type girl to someone with more brains and tolerance and then by the time you FINALLY run into her again in sections 3 and 5, all that character development is reversed! Also, in section 2, Maguire makes Boq out to be the essentiel male lead in the novel and then excludes him from the rest of the story until section 5 where he makes two minor cameos!! Fiyero, who doesn't even enter the story until the very end of section two suddenly becomes the focal male in section 3 where you are made to care very deeply for him and then he is suddenly and violently killed before section 4! Elphaba herself makes very weird transitions as a character, starting off as a disturbed and burdomson child in the beginning, to a smart and spunky college student, to the Oz version of La Femme Nikita, to a traumatized and bitter woman seeking forgiveness, to finally a shoe crazed witch who in her own obsessiveness gets herself killed. And that's just the problem with the characters. Lets talk about plot now. What the hell was the point of including Madame Morrible's secret mission if you never quite understand the purpose or facts of said mission? What was Elphaba supposed to do to Madame Morrible that fateful day and why didn't she complete her task? What happened exactly to Sarima and her family and why were they taken captive? How did soldiers know where to find Elphaba's apartment and why kill Fiyero instead of Elphaba? Why must several years always pass between each section? Where do Boq, Glinda, and the others go after Shiz? What happened at the sex club that was so bad? WHO THE HELL KILLED PROFESSOR DILLAMOND AND CURSED AMA CRUTCH? Many answers to these questions are hinted at but are never fully explored by the author.
Maguire gets one star for this book rather than zero because a. I can't give zero stars on an Amazon.com review b. section 2 was interesting enough to keep my attention and c. Maguire creates a world where evil thrives unchecked and those who are considered good and those who are considered bad may be more than what they seem. Now, if only he had written a story worthy of such a world, I may have given him more stars.
on July 22, 2006
I'm about to finish translating Wicked for the Italian publisher who chose to buy it, here is my opinion: parts 1 and 2 are ok, but the rest is just a deadly, endless, pointless and pretentious bore. Maguire really seems to have been paid by the word: ok, he is a really learned man, but he doesn't have a clue as to how a decent, credible and intriguing plot is built. It just doesn't go anywhere: as a normal reader, I would have dropped it long ago.