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Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West Paperback – November 28, 2000
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"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Learn more
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"It's a staggering feat of wordcraft, made no less so by the fact that its boundaries were set decades ago by somebody else. Maguire's larger triumph here is twofold: First, in Elphaba, he has created (re-created? renovated?) one of the great heroines in fantasy literature: a fiery, passionate, unforgettable and ultimately tragic figure. Second, "Wicked is the best fantasy novel of ideas I've read since Mervyn Peake's "Gormenghast or Frank Herbert's "Dune. Would that all books with this much innate consumer appeal were also this good. And vice versa.""--Los Angeles Times""An outstanding work of imagination.""--USA Today.".". [a] magical telling of the land of Oz before and up to the arrival of Dorothy and company.... A captivating, funny, and perceptive look at destiny, personal responsibility, and the not-always-clashing beliefs of faith and magic. Save a place on the shelf between "Alice and "The Hobbit --that spot is well deserved.""--Kirkus Reviews""A magnificent work, a genuine tour de force."--Lloyd Alexander, author of the "Chronicles of Prydain "Maguire combines puckish humor and bracing pessimism in this fantastical meditation on good and evil, God and free will, which should...captivate devotees of fantasy.""Publishers Weekly"Listen up, Munchkins. Stop your singing, stop the dancing. The Wicked Witch is no longer dead. But not to worry. Gregory Maguire's shrewdly imagined and beautifully written first novel, "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, " not only revives her but re-envisions and redeems her for our times.""Newsday"Children - children of all ages, as Maguire reminds us in this splendid novel - need witches. Gregory Maguire has taken this figureof childhood fantasy and given her a sensual and powerful nature that will stir adult hearts with fear and longing all over again. It's a brilliant trick - and a remarkable treat.""The Times-Picayune"It is to [Maguire's] everlasting credit that he has succeeded so admirably that his book stands as an independent and inspired whole; it is also very close to being an instant classic.... Maguire has hit a home run his first time at bat. That "Wicked is a first novel is remarkable because it is so fully realized, so rich and involving. It is the most seamless interweaving of fantasy and reality since John Crowley's peerless "Little, Big, written in poetic language as graceful as a Ray Boldger tap-dance.""The Commercial Appeal"It is for good readers who like satire, and love exceedingly imaginative and clever fantasy.""School Library Journal
From the Back Cover
When Dorothy triumphed over the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum's classic tale, we heard only her side of the story. But what about her arch-nemesis, the mysterious witch? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked? And what is the true nature of evil?
Gregory Maguire creates a fantasy world so rich and vivid that we will never look at Oz the same way again. Wicked is about a land where animals talk and strive to be treated like first-class citizens, Munchkinlanders seek the comfort of middle-class stability and the Tin Man becomes a victim of domestic violence. And then there is the little green-skinned girl named Elphaba, who will grow up to be the infamous Wicked Witch of the West, a smart, prickly and misunderstood creature who challenges all our preconceived notions about the nature of good and evil.
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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.
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.