Christopher Golden and James A. Moore, Bloodstained Oz (Earthling Publications, 2006)

If you think there may be a connection between this book and The Wizard of Oz, go to the head of the class. Set in Kansas, 1933, in the heart of the dust bowl, we meet a farmer family, a convict, and a traveling Romany couple with baby, complete with wagon. The land is parched, crops have failed, life is hard. It’s going to get worse.

A huge dust storm heads the way of the protagonists; the farmers hide in their storm cellar, the convict huddle behind his bars, and the Romany in their wagon. Tornados rip the area, leveling buildings, uprooting trees, piling dust everywhere . . . and also depositing precious objects: dolls, emeralds, and other valuables. Poor and ruined, the people accept that a miracle has occurred. This miracle marks the start of a nightmare, as the owners of the bounty come looking for their items, and for blood.

The dolls come alive, threatening (and worse than threatening) the farmers. The prisoners and jailors at the pen are attacked by emerald-eyed, huge-jawed people that glow faint green. The Romany are beset by fierce, flying monkeys with a taste for Romany blood . . . yes, and the local town is attacked by evil Munchkins. Most of the characters from the movie make an appearance, all with supernatural power and a thirst for gore and blood. The Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Lion are the exceptions, as they are still on the side of good, or at least not on the side of the Oz vampires (although the Tin Man is controlled by an evil Munchkin and the Scarecrow has pretty much checked out, and can only offer a brief warning before he expires) and it falls upon the Lion to help the few survivors.

The book is well written, well illustrated (both jacket and interiors are by Glenn Chadbourne), and will certainly placate those that like to see slaughter and terror, but the ending is too abrupt. The Lion is fighting the biggest and baddest, a convict is going to help, a woman and girl are trying to get away from the fight, and the book ends. Now, I don’t need a happy ending, I would have been satisfied to see the survivors turned into monkey snacks, but the story just stops. Couldn’t there have been at least one more page to wrap the plot up, just a little?

If you like lots of violence and gore, and you’re a fan of The Wizard of Oz, then you’ll like this book. The evil manifestations of Baum’s characters are one of the highlights of the book. If you like a book with an ending, prepare yourself to write your own, as the authors apparently intended.

[Gary Turner]