Philip Jose Farmer was famous for writing unofficial sequels to famous works that no one wanted and would have paid money to pretend never existed.
A Barnstormer in Oz is probably the worst unofficial Oz sequel and considering some of the terrible ones that have been written, that’s saying a lot. But A Barnstormer in Oz might also be the worst sequel to have been written to anything.
How bad is it?
Around page 11 there’s a description of Glinda’s nipples. Glinda the Good. But for equal time, Farmer also offers horrified readers a description of the Tin Woodman’s nipples. And his cock.
But that’s not even what makes A Barnstormer in Oz so horrifyingly bad. Philip Jose Farmer was a writer who flew by the seat of his pants and he might have made a book in which Hank, the pilot son of Dorothy, visits Oz and lusts after Glinda while fighting off the armies of President Harding and made it work.
But no. It’s the Tin Woodman’s cock that’s the problem. Philip Jose Farmer decided that the best approach to take with a modern fairy tale about a fantasy world with talking animals was hard science.
Yes, hard science.
A Barnstormer in Oz sets out to explain every detail of the imaginary world based on some kind of science. The munchkins are humans who moved through an inter-dimensional doorway to Oz and then intermarried with neanderthals. The Tin Woodman, Glinda transferred his consciousness into a tin robot. With nipples.
People reach Oz because the air force is conducting experiments in inter-dimensional travel. In 1923.
Since there are talking animals, the hard science approach doesn’t get very far. But it does fill up huge chunks of the book. Instead of an adventure, A Barnstormer in Oz really follows Hank around as he tries to explain an imaginary world based on even more imaginary science with concepts that no one had heard of in 1923.
None of this is exciting. It is very boring.
Most of the Oz characters are not recognizable. Glinda dominates the book and the main character as a ‘good witch’ who rules as an immortal dictator who kills munchkins who don’t follow her One Child Policy and sends hawks after her enemies. What makes her different than a bad witch? Hank wants to sleep with her.
That’s basically it.
I gave up on A Barnstormer in Oz around the time that Hank writes a 5 page letter to President Harding renouncing his American citizenship. It was either that or renounce my sanity.
In a Barnstormer in Oz, Philip Jose Farmer manages to take a pilot from 1923 reaching Oz and fighting flying monkeys and makes it as boring as dry paint. And that’s not even mentioning the racism and sexism. The creepy sex. And the Tin Woodman’s anatomically correct buttocks on the cover.