“The same thing we do every night, Private Files. Try to take over the world!”
Okay, Tik-Tok of Oz doesn’t actually start out like an episode of Pinky and the Brain, but I was reminded of the show when Queen Ann Soforth of Oogaboo decides to lead the eighteen men of her country out to conquer the world. Meanwhile a young girl named Betsy Bobbin and her mule Hank find themselves shipwrecked in a strange fairyland. They go on a quest to find a safe refuge, when they come upon a greenhouse, which is the home of the Rose Kingdom. While they’re there, the Shaggy Man from earlier Oz books literally drops through the roof. The flowers of the Rose Kingdom send Betsy, Hank and the Shaggy Man on their way along with their newly plucked queen who they’ve decided to reject, a cousin of Princess Ozma named Ozga. We soon learn the Shaggy Man is on a quest to find his brother. Princess Ozma discovered the Shaggy Man’s brother was a captive of recurring villain, the Nome King Ruggero.
On their way to the Nome Kingdom, our band meets Polychrome, the rainbow’s daughter who we last met in The Road to Oz. A little further along the road, they come upon a well and find the title character, Tik-Tok, the machine man of Oz. Tik-Tok has long been one of my favorite steampunk-like creations. For all intents and purposes, he’s a true clockwork robot. His thinking, speech, and movements all have to be wound up to work. It turns out that Princess Ozma teleported Tik-Tok to help the Shaggy Man in his quest. Unfortunately, Ruggero found him first and dumped him down the well.
By and by, our two bands encounter each other. Queen Ann’s army consists of sixteen officers and one soldier. The one soldier, Private Files, defects when he doesn’t want to harm the Rose Queen Ozga, Betsy Bobbin, or Polychrome. Queen Ann then recruits Tik-Tok to be her army. The mechanical man agrees under the condition that the first place they invade is the Nome Kingdom, which will, in turn, help the Shaggy Man in his quest.
Despite the title, the book is more about the Shaggy Man and the Nome King than Tik-Tok. Still, I enjoy seeing Tik-Tok in this book. There’s a nice moment near the end of the book where Ozma uses a two-way communication device to talk to the Shaggy Man while watching him through her magic picture. I couldn’t help but think that L. Frank Baum had anticipated video chat in his 1914 novel. Dorothy and her little dog Toto only appear briefly at the end, but we have a wonderful moment where we learn why Toto only barks and wags his tail when other animals who come to Oz, such as Billina the Yellow Hen, learn how to talk.
As with The Patchwork Girl of Oz, I was swept along by the quest story. This one felt different from earlier ones in the series, and I had the sense that Baum was growing more comfortable telling stories with his troupe of characters and bringing new characters into the mix to add spice. That noted, it didn’t seem that Baum paid as much attention to continuity in this volume as earlier books in the series. Polychrome didn’t seem to remember meeting the Shaggy Man back in The Road to Oz. Also, Tik-Tok felt as though he was played more for comedy here rather than being the stalwart defender of his friends. Still, after trying to eschew the series and move on, it feels like Baum is now having fun with these characters and I’m glad to keep reading and having fun as well.