Having finished the story several chapters earlier, Mr. Baum piles anticlimax on anticlimax by cutting away from the adventurers in the Nome Kingdom to the magical fairyland of Oz, where Ozma has been watching the whole thing on her Magic Picture.
I have to say Ozma is a little uncomfortably voyeuristic here. It's one thing for her to check in on Dorothy at a pre-arranged time every day — that's by Dorothy's own request and the little Kansas girl does have a habit of wandering into hair-raising adventures even when her friend the Lovely Girl Ruler isn't jerking her around by sorcery. But we have no hint that the Shaggy Man has any such arrangement in place.
Who else does Ozma watch on her Magic Picture? Perhaps a better question would be who doesn't Ozma watch? She could be watching you, right now.
I guess being an immortal and nearly-omnipotent Girl Ruler must get a little dull from time to time, so Ozma has to seek vicarious excitement through the Magic Picture. Since she will never grow old, and apparently will never have a family of her own, Ozma's life is kind of static and frozen. Only the Magic Picture can let her experience true joy and sorrow.
Anyway. Ozma has the Wizard (who has learned real magic and is no longer a humbug) magic the Oogaboolings back to Oogaboo. Then Ozma calls the Shaggy Man by means of a magic wireless telephone invented by the Wizard. That's right: they have cell service in Oz! This is a fantastically useful idea which I believe L. Frank Baum forgot about completely and never used in any of his Oz books again.
Shaggy refuses to come back to Oz because he has promised to stay with Betsy and Hank. Ozma dithers a bit but eventually decides to add Betsy to her collection of captive humans young friends in the palace. Seriously, Ozma is giving me the creeps in this book.
We wind up with an entirely unnecessary scene of the various talking animals bragging about how awesome their respective human pals are — Hank can talk now, and we even learn that Toto has been able to talk ever since his first visit to Oz but prefers not to.
And there Tik-Tok of Oz ends, and I for one am glad to be done with it. Overall, I have to say this is probably the weakest of Baum's Oz books. It's certainly the weakest one I've looked at in this series of blog posts. It has a lot of recycled material, rushes in spots where some exposition would be nice, is stuffed with padding in other spots, has a weird and unsatisfying structure, and — worst of all — the title character barely appears in it at all!
Only some of those flaws can be attributed to Mr. Baum's monomania about stage adaptations. That may account for some of the paucity of descriptions and the lack of any "big budget" magical wonders. But there's no excuse for throwing in a literal deus ex machina ending two-thirds of the way through the book, and then running out the clock, so to speak, with a lot of padding and fanservice.
There are some nice bits: Queen Ann's small-time kingdom and grandiose plan of world domination are a hoot, and it's a shame such a fun character gets tossed into a pit and ignored for most of the book. The mysterious land at the other end of the Hollow Tube (if Oz is in the Pacific between California and Australia — not far from Ponape — then the Grand Jinjin Tititi-Hoochoo's realm lies somewhere in the Sahara, which is certainly a good place to hide a magical fairyland) has some nice touches. I liked the Swiftian notion of a kingdom ruled by its only private citizen, although working that same joke just a few chapters after introducing the officer-heavy Army of Oogaboo does undercut the satire quite a bit.
Frankly (heh), I think Mr. Baum was just writing this one to meet a deadline. It feels tired. Other than the Roses at the beginning, there are no randomly hostile freaks or wacky wayside tribes. The only clever bits of fairy magic are recycled from other books. I hope the next book has more of the old magic. This one gets a gentleman's C.
For a pair of stories deserving a much higher grade, buy my new ebook!