Review: Chemical Gardens

On a personal note, I go gay for the Wizard of Oz.  It’s true.  So a bizarro version of Oz written by Gina Ranalli was going to be up my alley anyway.  Chemical Gardens isn’t a remake of Oz like Gregory Maguire’s “Wicked” series.  It’s more of a bizarro translation.  It’s as if Ms. Ranalli filtered the Oz story through her own twisted imagination and this is what came out.

Filling in for Dorothy, Lion, Scarecrow, and Tin-Man is a punk band called Green Is the Enemy.  They’re sent to an Oz-like world (which is actually the Seattle Underground) and they’re desperate to get home to play the biggest gig of their lives.  Sound weird enough?  We see the Seattle Underground through their front woman, Ro, who is a punk-rocker through and through.  With the heavy punk influence and lots of surreal imagery, Gina Ranalli makes the Seattle Underground into a twisted landscape of the weird.  Strange sights and dangers lurk around every corner, and yet the plot itself sticks closely with the original Wizard of Oz framework.  You may be able to predict what comes next (flying monkeys, for example), but you’ll have no idea what sort of form it will take (flying… well, you should read it yourself to find out).

The result here is a colorful and tense bizarro fairy tale.  Gina Ranalli’s interpretation of the most well-known story in the Oz cycle is so completely weird that you won’t notice how familiar everything is.  There are twists and turns that will make you want to read this book all over again.


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