Geoff Ryman
Was Cover



In "Was" author Geoff Ryman weaves together four narratives tangentially connected by the Wizard of Oz. Dorothy is an orphan being raised by abusive relatives who finds refuge in imaginative stories crafted by her teacher. Judy Garland is an actress with a troubled past. Jonathan, who is dying of AIDS, is researching Garland's life, and Jonathan's therapist has a connection to Dorothy.

Thematically, "Was" is intriguing and poignant. Should imagination be used as a refuge from life's difficulties? Does retreating into the fantastical help or hinder one's emotional development? Are we driven mad by escapism or tortured into insanity by the harsh realities of existence? What is home - a place, a feeling, or some combination of the two? Unfortunately, though there are hints that the author was seeking to resolve these questions, it never really comes to fruition.

There are numerous other problems with the novel, also. The writing quality is poor - grammatical errors, choppy sentences, repetitive words. The transitions between the character's stories are awkward and the narratives read more like short stories than a cohesive whole. I disliked all the characters, more so for the way they were written than for who they actually were. I found the whole thing unpleasant and irritating and should have tossed the book onto the Did Not Finish pile.

Overall rating: 2 Stars. (3 Stars for concept. 1 Star for execution.)