My latest read has been Polychrome by Ryk E. Spoor. This book is a combination of fantasy, fanfic, romance, and action. The author does several things well; like capturing the rhythm and syntax style of L. Frank Baum, the imagination and magic of Oz, and paying homage to the characters Ozites have come to adore. Spoor also references many other cult classics and will inspire many geek moments for his readers. His vocabulary is also delightfully versatile and refreshing. My chief complaints are more matters of opinion versus any grievous errors in plot, theme, or overall ability — with one exception: sexuality. The theme of redemption is very well done and definitely contributed to some of the best parts of the book.
Spoor is clearly a hardcore Ozite. He references details from most of Baum’s original Oz books. He maintains a true portrayal of the characters of Dorothy Gale, Ozma, Iris Mirabilis, the Pink Bear, Ugu, and several others. I would say his portrayal of the title character, Polychrome, is 90% true to her original characterization by Baum. The other 10% is a bit off to me because the progression of Polychrome from innocent to experienced adult is a bit…vague. Considering how much the book is supposed to be focused on Polychrome, I think a bit too much of it is from the perspective of the other main character, Erik Medon. You get glimpses of Polychrome’s emotions and experiences, but there is room for more depth to her character. Erik Medon might be a bit hard for some readers to relate to since he is a middle aged male geek living out a childhood fantasy.
This brings me to where I feel Spoor might have crossed a line — albeit a faint one. Having a 50 something male protagonist (more of a co-protagonist) automatically targets readers of a certain age. The adventures in Oz as written by Baum were originally written for children. Granted, the expectations of children’s literature from the early 20th century to present day have shifted a bit, I feel that Spoor missed the mark. Modern children’s books and films can have adult content — but it is usually of an ambiguous sort. Children reading the books/watching the films don’t usually pick up on the adult humor or sexual references. I feel Spoor walks a fine line with this topic. Erik Medon’s observations of the figures and physical attributes of female characters are a bit distasteful. I feel the book could still be a well done progression from the Oz books read as a child to one read as an adult by an adult for an adult without these references. I had a hard time continuing with the book after the scene where Erik had to show Polychrome something of such beauty as to make her dance. The build up felt like a Leeloo and Korben Dallas moment. Although the author took you down a different path, it felt like a bit of a “pink” herring.
Mr. Spoor does an excellent job of representing the themes of hope and redemption. By showing repentance in some of the major villains from some of Baum’s classic books, he does justice to the ideals that Baum instilled in his readers while still putting his own twists in there. The idea that hope is always there, no matter the odds, is one of the most powerful messages of the book.
Erik Medon is painted as your average adult male geek. Yet, there is supposed to be something so exceptional about him that he is selected for this adventure. While Spoor doesn’t do a poor job of characterizing Medon, there is room for a more solid case as to why he is the hero. I feel that a bit of a test that he passed when no other did — like in The Last Starfighter by Alan Dean Foster — could have set him apart from the average better than waiting until the last few chapters to reveal the couple of things that made him the One.
Was the book worth reading? Yes. Could there have been some more depth to it? Yes. Would Baum like it? Yes and no.