I found another two relatively new Oz books while searching for something on Google. I like it when that happens, although it does make me wonder if there’s anything I’m missing by not using the right search terms. These two are by Kass Stone, who also wrote the short story “Jenny Everywhere in Oz” that appears in the 2011 Oziana. Like that tale, these longer stories include a significant amount of jumping between fictional universes.
A Zen Master in Oz – The Zen master Il Hwa visits Oz in the company of the halfling ship captain Pug, his crew of talking rats, and a Sasquatch from Seattle named Hank. They arrive to find Ozma deeply depressed and confused over her identity due to her time as Tip, and Il snaps her out of it by teaching her the value of being over thinking. Meanwhile, Ozma’s absence has led to a Munchkin talk radio host promoting separatism. I believe that Qwik is actually the second Rush Limbaugh analog to appear in an Oz book, with another one showing up in Dave Hardenbrook’s Unknown Witches, but not playing as significant a part. There’s a bit of a religious component in the promotion of Zen Buddhism, which solves Ozma’s problems very quickly and easily, but I didn’t think the story was overly preachy. The Wogglebug, the Woozy, the Scarecrow, the Patchwork Girl, and Tik-Tok all have roles to play, and there are references to other fictional universes from Narnia to Star Wars and Masters of the Universe.
The Martian Invasion of Oz – The sequel brings back the lead characters from Zen Master, but here they aren’t the main focus. Instead, the plot involves the King of Mars trying to conquer Oz, and his daughter trying to stop him. It starts out rather episodically, with the Martians viewing various scenes in the fairyland via monitor before traveling there. The Wogglebug summons some Lovecraftian horrors to Oz, and one of Cthulhu’s minions who doesn’t care for destruction decides to remain there. (You may also remember another tie-in between Lovecraft and Oz with Phyllis Ann Karr’s “The Eldritch Horror of Oz.”) A mischievous goon fairy creates a tiger-eating baby to counter the Hungry Tiger. The educated insect accompanies the Scarecrow, the Wizard of Oz, the Sawhorse, and a man made of red brick to fight a zombie invasion in the Quadling Country, and Glinda manages to reform the brain-eating creatures. Each of these three bits works as an independent story, but they also all come into play in the main plot. Stone has fun developing Martian culture, history, and language in a way that’s silly yet also internally consistent, while also working in some references to other fiction set on the red planet. There are some more modern cultural references as well, like a vapidity powder from the world of Kardashia, and King Deter Progris Ayn of Pauland who imposes total self-interest in his country. His son, Prince Phil-Buster Ayn, is a member of the newly created Parliament of Oz, which was started in Zen Master. While most of the Parliament is on recess during the course of the story (they have two five-month holidays every year), the members who remain are Hank the Sasquatch, the Frogman, the Foolish Owl, the Wise Donkey, and a Fairy Beaver named Chipped. I did notice a few errors in the book, like the Glass Cat being called “Jumble” a few times (she’s correctly referred to as Bungle at others) and Cap’n Bill being identified as Trot’s uncle. I think these would be fairly easy to fix for a future edition, however. I don’t know if this is a problem with the book or with my Kindle, but the pages with illustrations wouldn’t display at all, although they would on the application for my phone.