Forever, like some of Melody's other books, has the sorceror Zim Greenleaf righting another perceived wrong from the original Oz series. In this case, the story deals with the lingering effects of Nick Chopper's  change from a man of flesh to one of tin, as well as with Chopfyt , the man whom the tinsmith Ku-Klip makes from the cast-off parts of Nick and Captain Fyter. I had heard the basic plot description for the book before, and I didn't think I'd care for it. Of particular concern to me was that Nick apparently ended up getting his original flesh-and-blood body back, although still being able to change back to tin when he chose to. I was pleasantly surprised, though. The book was quite well-written, and gave good reasons as to why Nick would make such a decision. Chopfyt is destroyed in order to restore Nick and the Captain's old bodies, which seems somewhat cruel, but then, L. Frank Baum had presented Chopfyt as someone who was awkwardly constructed and never really happy. As the story opens, Chopfyt despises his daughter Forever because she isn't really his biological child, but Nick's. This rings a little false to me, but then I've always been slightly puzzled as to why so many people are intent on having children with their own genes. But since this IS such a common thought, I suppose I can't really object to Chopfyt's having it as well.
Raggedys is a crossover between the Oz books and Johnny Gruelle's stories of Raggedy Ann and Andy. Such crossovers make my occasionally considered idea for a crossover between Oz and Super Mario Bros. seem less ridiculous by comparison. Anyway, I haven't read any of Gruelle's books, so I'm sure I missed quite a few of the references. As an Oz story, though, I'd say it's rather average. It's the typical series of events where new characters team up with familiar ones, travel through a lot of weird countries that want to keep all strangers as slaves or prisoners, and end up fighting a villain intent on conquering Oz. The writing is decent, but not particularly great, and there are some aspects that seem rushed or don't make much sense. The Woozy shows up near the beginning, and then promptly disappears. The Black Magician enchants all of Oz except for the pixies, but there's no reason given why he would hold off on enchanting them. Mr. Flint makes an eventually successful effort to remember the Magician's true name, but Ruggedo already knows it, and, towards the end, they're both on the same general side. There are some very interesting traits to the Black Magician, but he doesn't have that much in the way of personality. I did like the re-introduction of Ak and the other Masters from The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus.
This was actually the edited edition of Raggedys, which changes the ending, and the fates of Ruggedo and Percy, to better fit with later Oz books. This ties into something else I had been wanting to discuss, which is consistency between apocryphal Oz books.
I know I'm not alone in wanting unofficial Oz-related stories to be as consistent with each other as possible. There are the Royal Timeline of Oz and the Historically Accurate Chronological Chain, both of which are attempts to list all of the Oz fiction that's at least mostly consistent with (what's usually considered to be) the official series. Striving for consistency is a noble goal, but a lot of these books are very rare, so it might confuse people if a new author were to incorporate ideas from them, especially if they mean significant changes to established characters. ("Wait, when did the Shaggy Man get a sex change and prosthetic wings, and marry the Soldier with Green Whiskers?" "What, haven't you read The Grand Grape-Eating Green Monkey of Oz? The author made a whole twenty photocopies of it!") Some people's answer to this is to propose that new Oz books (at least those by people who want to be Historically Accurate) shouldn't make any major changes at all to the main Oz characters. This would presumably make Forever Historically Inaccurate, since it includes a significant change to the Tin Woodman. Even if Oz fans LIKE the change, if they haven't read Forever, they might be confused by other books referencing it. And there's also the matter of a lot of the newer books still being under copyright, and the authors being difficult to contact. I get the impression that such consistency isn't really a consideration to writers of fan-fiction set in other universes. I guess part of why it's so important to me is that I like seeing Oz as a place with a consistent history.
In other Oz-related news, my first thought on the Wicked soundtrack is that it sounds pretty...Disney-esque. Not what I would have expected based on reading the book, but I'd heard that it was much lighter fare than the written version, so I'm not too surprised. I'd sort of like to see the show sometime, but I'm not really much for live theater. I have heard that they're thinking of making it into a movie, though. There's nothing we need more in this world than a movie based on a play based on a book based on a movie based on a book, is there? :P
On Wednesday night, bethje and I watched American History X, which was a well-made and disturbing film. At the risk of overgeneralizing, I think it's safe to say that racists are all really stupid, and generally quite scary. There's actually a very tenuous Oz connection here, because Fairuza Balk, who had played Dorothy in Return to Oz, was a white supremacist in this film. Those are probably two of the most different roles possible. I don't think Judy Garland ever played a neo-Nazi, did she?
 The Tin Woodman is unnamed in the first Oz book, but he's called "Niccolo Chopper" in the original musical play. In The Marvelous Land of Oz and later books, the character is simply called "Nick Chopper." In her books, Melody gives his full first name as Nicholas, rather than Niccolo.
 Spelled "Chopfyte" in Forever, which actually makes more sense than Baum's original spelling, since he's a combination of Nick CHOPPER and Captain FYTER. I've stuck with the original spelling in my review, though.