Wicked Novel

Wicked was my last fun read of the summer. I wanted something I would be able to sit down and enjoy without thinking too much before I went back to the halls of academia to read and think critically for the next 4 months. Sadly, I chose the wrong “for fun” book. I guess I should have caught on to the fact that Wicked was going to be a philosophical novel when the back of the book told me that it would challenge all my preconceived notions on the nature of Good and Evil. This is quite the tall order when it comes to me, my notions of Good and Evil are pretty deep seated, and the question of whether or not one is born wicked is one that I have spent a lot of time and lost a lot of sleep thinking about. Did Wicked challenge all my preconceived notions? Not quite, but it was a fun read.

For those of you who don’t know much about the worlds of fiction and broadway, Wicked is a novel turned musical about the Wicked Witch of the West before that pesky Dorothy showed up in Oz and melted her. The book is incredibly political and philosophical, and it changes quite a bit of the Oz mythology and canon. Most of the time this really bugs me, I hate it when people mess with established canon (see the new film version of G.I. Joe and most comic book movies) but the novel was so enjoyable that I didn’t mind it as much. I did have to keep telling myself, “This isn’t really Baum’s Oz, it’s another Oz, an alternate universe Oz.” And once I did that I fell in love with the book.

The main character is the Wicked Witch of the West, here called Elphaba. Elphaba is a very passionate young woman in college, a political activist after college, and a hermit “witch” in the later years of her life. Honestly, Elphaba has become one of my favorite characters in literature. She has more depth than a lot of characters I’ve met in books, and she’s more likeable than most “good guys” I’ve read about. Maybe she’s not so evil, right? Along with Elphaba is Galinda, “With a guh”, later turned Glinda the Good Witch of the North, and a host of other characters including a Winkie prince named Fiyero and a likeable college guy named Boq. There’s not really a character that I didn’t like, all of them were unique and likeable in their own ways.

The story was well written, and the plot was wonderful. The writing style wasn’t incredibly heady so most anyone can pick up the novel and enjoy it, but it also wasn’t overly simplistic and bad a la Dan Brown. Not everyone will read this and pick up on the philosophical musings like I did, there will definitely be some people who pick it up and just read it and enjoy it as nothing more than a fun story, Maguire is a skilled writer in that he can write to please both the philosophical and the leisurely readers.

I did have a few problems. One was the constantly nagging voice telling me this was an abomination to the pre-established Oz canon. Another was what Maguire did with the Wizard’s character. I have problems with Maguire feeling that he needed to “redeem the Wicked Witch for our times.” It’s like he’s uncomfortable with moral absolutes, he’s uncomfortable with the fact that evil really does exist. It seems as if he subscribes to the “Everyone is a good person deep down” philosophy. My convictions happen to lie elsewhere. We are, by nature, children of wrath who are full of sin and it’s only by Christ that we can be redeemed and made any semblence of “good.” But this isn’t the blog for theological and philosophical ranting so I’ll leave it at that.

I loved Wicked. I picked it up because I love the musical and I’m glad to say I also love the book. I recommend this to anyone who is looking for a fun read with plenty of philosophical undertones.

Overall rating: 8/10