cornerofmadness (cornerofmadness) wrote in 50bookchallenge,

Books 13-14

The Wizard of OzThe Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Like so many people, the movie has been part of my life since I'm old enough to actually have a memory of it (literally sitting down with the family on Thanksgiving and watching this back in the 70s are among my first memories) but I have never read the book. Why I would have thought they were similar I have no idea but really in most ways but the most basic they are not.

I found it interesting that Baum's introduction to this said he wanted to write a less violent children's story than the old folktales but in reality he doesn't. It's interesting how many reviewers glibly state Dorothy enters the story with one murder and goes on to commit more. To be fair, her house kills the Wicked Witch of the East (even if the Munchins do credit Dorothy and give her the silver shoes as a trophy which is kinda weird if you think about it). But there is more on page violence. The tinman beheads 40 wolves, the scarecrow wrings the neck of 40 crows and the cowardly lion kills a giant spider (but who cares, it's a giant spider) and Dorothy of course does kill with the Wicked Witch of the West but by accident (having no idea she would melt because who would know that?) and all four do reluctantly take the assassination assignment from Oz himself so there's that. It is not significantly less violent than anything the Grimm brothers wrote.

And man does Kansas not come off well in this. It's gray and ugly and it's people gray and ugly. No seriously, Dorothy's uncle works so hard he doesn't even know how to smile and Aunt Em is so off put by Dorothy's child-like glee at things she often covers her ears and screams. I'm with the Scarecrow who looks at Dorothy and wonders why she would have ever wanted to leave beautiful Oz for the ugliness of Kansas. Dorothy tells him that's because he has no brains which he agrees is a good thing because if everyone was like him, Oz would be crowded and Kansas empty (given my choices, I'd pick Oz, sorry Kansas).

So what are the difference in this from the movie. Many, and without ruining them all, there are not just munchins. Every cardinal direction has some group of people (and a mage) living there. From people made entirely of China to ones with springloaded necks and battering ram heads. The Flying Monkeys are far more interesting in the book than the movie. There are many more trials for Dorothy to face. The Tinman's story is much more tragic and creepy.I know there is supposed to be political subtext but I don't know what it is (I would probably have to read some scholarly work for that).

If you look at Dorothy through today's lens, she is at least a female lead and she doesn't require that much rescuing. In fact the other three credit her for rescuing them and making their dreams come true but it's more about the teamwork. On the other hand, she's also rather flat and seems immune to the magic around her. She never wavers from her desire to go home but never seems to see Oz for how magical it is which was disappointing.

And oh those ruby slippers....that's all Hollywood.

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Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl, #1)Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

So I really wanted to like this. The idea that Leprachaun came from a corruption of LEPRE-Con, a police-like force that keeps the humans and faeries apart and safe from each other is fun and having a hidden code for the kids to solve was fun too but there were so many things in this that I just couldn't get past.

The basic plot is actually sound and interesting. Artemis (no explanation for his female name) is the son of a crime lord. In fact the Fowls have been criminals for generations. This twelve year old boy is both a genius and alone, sort of. His father is missing presumed dead and his mother is severely mentally ill as a result of her mourning. All he has is Butler, who is his servant and body guard and Butler's young sister Juliet, wrestling enthusiast and maid (I'm not sure I got a handle on how old she might be, the same age as Artemis perhaps).

Artemis has figured out that faeries aren't entirely magical. Much of their 'magic' is superior technology that he wants to steal and sell (evil genius, remember?) He manages to trick a fallen faerie out of her book which basically is a rule book of how to deal with the fey and all the rules that bind them. And kudos to him, he keeps copies of the book in many different places in case the fey steal it back.

Holly is the agent assigned to stop him. The novel has a save the environment theme to it. So, see that sounds interesting and exciting so how did it fail so hard for me (because seriously one of those stars was because it's won so many awards that obviously people are seeing something I'm not).

For one, maybe it's not a racial slur in Ireland but 'mud people' is a long standing derogatory term for PoC here in America. Maybe the kids this is aimed at wouldn't know it but the adults surely would. Now in the book it refers to all humans and not just PoC referring to the mud huts they originally lived in back a few thousand years ago. Whether or not it's a slur in Ireland is beside the point. This book was put out by Disney-Hyperion. Was there NO editor anywhere in this thinking, hey we can't call it that! Can you imagine someone overhearing a conversation about the 'mud people' not knowing this book? Are they going to call them that in the movie?!? There surely had to be a better term than a horrible racial slur for the faeries to use (granted they are slurring the humans).

And then there's how women are depicted in this thing. Now it's nearly a 20 year old novel but that's not really an excuse for something written in the 21st century. Juliet comes across as dim witted and basically exists to serve Artemis (well she is a maid and her youth might be why she isn't so bright). Mom I'm not counting because of her mental illness so that leaves me with Holly and it's her character that really gets under my skin.

I do like her a bit (she at least is smart enough to not be waiting around for rescue) but here in the faerie world where they're so much more advanced and better than humans, Holly is the 'test case' female LEPRE-con agent. Blinks. So faeries are so misogynistic that they don't allow women to be cops? Great. Her boss wants to replace her because she's not up to snuff (but later calls her one of his best agents) and says he's so hard on her because everyone wants her to fail because she's a woman and she has to be better than the best. Okay maybe Colfer is trying to comment on how women are treated in male dominated jobs because I've been here and done this but it came off terribly (and again keep in mind the faeries are supposed to be advanced over us Humans).

And to top it off Artemis gets her because of something she does that is so blindingly stupid and proves the point that women shouldn't be in this role. (mild spoiler) she lets her energy stores deplete in spite of knowing their importance. So Holly comes across as a complete idiot. And all of this novel's plot is because she's NOT smart about her job. It feels even worse when you realize we meet Holly after fighting a troll, something hard to do and all Colfer had to do was say the fight drained her and she had to go recharge, putting her in Artemis's path weakened as the plot needed without Holly looking like a complete moron and proving women truly aren't good enough. Sigh.

No, don't see me reading any more of this.

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Tags: fantasy, urban fantasy, young adult

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