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Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
Gregory Maguire
HarperCollins, 406 pages

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
Gregory Maguire
Gregory Maguire received his Ph.D. in English and American Literature at Tufts University (1990). He was a professor and associate director of the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College, 1979 through 1986. Since 1986 he has been codirector and founding board member of Children's Literature New England, Incorporated, a non-profit that focuses attention on the significance of literature in the lives of children. He has lived abroad in Dublin and London, and now makes his home in Massachusetts.

Gregory Maguire Website
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SF Site Review: Mirror Mirror

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Dan Shade

I'm one of the few. Not the brave but the few who don't like Wicked? How could this be so, you ask, when a successful Broadway musical has been based upon the book for which millions of copies have sold? The book is so well loved that 1,159 people have taken the time to write, sometimes ponderous, reviews of the book. I scanned these and could only find a handful of negative reviews. All I can offer in defense is a bumper sticker I saw while driving across Wyoming. It said, "Eat prairie dog, one millions coyotes can't be wrong." Therefore, if millions of readers say the book is good, then I must be wrong. Patooie!

I found this book to be an implausible prequel to The Wizard of Oz. From an improbable childhood to her college days I found the development of Elphaba to be ridiculous. And how the good witch Glinda could be made into a typical airhead is sacrilegious. Elphaba's history is just one poorly contrived series of events. If you can accept that she is a political activist who wants to save the world from the tyrant Oz, then one has no choice but to accept the premise that Elphaba becomes the Wicked Witch of the West. One almost feels sorry for her as her efforts as an activist are misinterpreted and she gains the misnomer, the Wicked Witch of the West.

There was no logical conclusion for me. If the book were food, I was just as ravished in the end as I had been at the beginning. Rather, I suspect she's sitting somewhere in an asylum for the criminally insane. The other characters are no more than cardboard stand-ups who later become the Wizard of Oz, Glinda the Good Witch, etc. I also question the appropriateness of Wicked as it contains four-letter expletives and explicit sexual content.

To me, the plot is like a giant ball of taffy that has been stretched to its limits. I was required to suspend my disbelief too many times to accept what I was reading. Consider Peter and the Starcatchers, which perfectly sets up all the main characters, even the Crocodile, for the play that we all love so much. Wicked fails to do that. Besides, Elphaba is much too tall to be a Munchkinlander. Furthermore, I cannot accept the development of unlikely characters to become the players in Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz. I have no taste for prairie dog and will feast elsewhere. I may never read another Gregory Maguire book.

(This review first appeared on Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show.)

Copyright © 2010 by Dan Shade

Dan Shade is a retired college professor who loves to read young adult science fiction, fantasy, and horror. But he doesn't draw the line there. He also enjoys writing science fiction and hopes to publish someday. In the meantime, you can find him at (under construction).

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