Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
The Skyslanders
Christopher A. Zackey
1st Books, 151 pp.

The Skyslanders
Christopher A. Zackey
Christopher A. Zackey (1949- ) has been writing since childhood and, as an adult, has produced a large body of literary fantasy fiction, fantastical or surrealistic poetry, and philosophical non-fiction. He has been published in literary magazines and has self-produced a whole series of fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction chapbooks, including the self-published Chandelier. He is the inventor of a philosophical system called "The Mythology," which attempts to approach a humanities-based "Theory of Everything." He is listed in both Poets & Writers, Inc.'s Directory of American Poets and Fiction Writers and the 2002 edition of Who's Who in America

Born in Brattleboro, Vermont, Mr. Zackey spent his first eighteen years in nearby Gilford. He has lived in places as diverse as Portland and New York City, and holds degrees in English from Brandeis University and Indiana University, Bloomington. Currently, he resides with his wife, the artist Martha Zackey, in Clinton, New York.

E-TEXT: Sky Island by L. Frank Baum
L. Frank Baum's sources for Sky Island

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Georges T. Dodds

While the back cover of The Skyslanders claims the work's affinity to J.R.R. Tolkien, Lewis Carroll and L. Frank Baum, it is to the latter, and specifically his 1912 Sky Island, that this modern fairy tale is very obviously linked. In addition to the similarities in title and character name (Cap'n Bill becomes Skibill), Mr. Zackey has produced an excellent recreation of Baum's whimsical atmosphere. In Sky Island, Baum has the people of the sky island divided on the basis of colour, pink and blue, while in The Skyslanders the basis of separation is the musical style the musician characters espouse. However, Mr. Zackey's book, with its trans-dimensional doorways and musical war theme is nevertheless quite distinct from its putative roots. While an entertaining, original and not overly sentimental fantasy, considering where its cutesy characters could have led it, its appeal may be limited in that it mimics a style popularized a century ago by Baum, and now rightly or wrongly eclipsed by the all-pervasiveness of the "Tolkien way." Also, The Skyslanders suffers somewhat, even in its 150-odd pages from overstuffing, a number of ideas being thrown into the ring, but not really fully explored.

The Skyslanders tells of four fairy-like "misps," Faith, Tom, Peter and Robin, who with the help of a curmudgeonly stork, Cosmo, and an eccentric pianist, Mark Skibill, and his music-powered flying piano, save the sky island world of Cecilfrusil from the apocalyptic machinations of evil musicians Hyperion Erg and Mephisto Stroon. While misps are presumably more related to whisps of fog than Mobile Internet Service ProviderS or a Magnetically Inflatable Solar Power Satellite, The Skylanders' world includes Xerox™ machines, inter-dimensional portals and dogfights in space with sonic weapons. At first, this can be rather disconcerting when one has let oneself slip into the mindset of Baum's otherwise well replicated 1900-1919 fantasies. However, when one allows these "updates," The Skyslanders becomes quite a fun novel, and certainly one that would be appreciated by children or fans of Baum.

As with Baum and other purveyors of fairy tale-like narratives, the fact that it is clear from the start who the good guys and bad guys are, doesn't ruin the story as it might in other forms of fantasy. Like a Columbo movie, it's no mystery who the good and bad guys are, the fun is in how they are defeated. While a number of interpretations have been given for Baum's The Wizard of Oz (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7), I'm not entirely sure that I can come to any such conclusion for Sky Island or The Skyslanders, particularly as in the latter case there are a great number of disparate themes and events that don't seem to gel into any cohesive "message," besides the obvious "The good guys win." The location and description of Sky Island in Baum's work was supposedly drawn from his love for the coastal region around La Jolla, California; as to whether the landmarks of Mount Chrysen, Lyren and Sryll on Zackey's Cecilfrusil relate to landmarks near his central New York home or from where he grew up in Vermont isn't clear, but it would seem that his landscape is informed in some way by such knowledge.

The Skyslanders is a book which will certainly appeal to those children who have enjoyed L. Frank Baum's Oz books and/or fairy tales in general. The whimsical and somewhat dated style of the tale and the cutesy main characters may not appeal to everyone, but certainly a young reader will not lack for entertainment with The Skyslanders.

Copyright © 2003 by Georges T. Dodds

Georges Dodds is a research scientist in vegetable crop physiology, who for close to 25 years has read and collected close to 2000 titles of predominantly pre-1950 science-fiction and fantasy, both in English and French. He writes columns on early imaginative literature for WARP, the newsletter/fanzine of the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association and maintains a site reflecting his tastes in imaginative literature.

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or other stuff worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide