THE TAKERS: Book One of the Oz Chronicles by R.W. Ridley
ISBN: 1419609580, $14.99, 226 pp, 2005
I would classify this story as "low fantasy" as it is set in the world as we know it but a nonrational event has occurred which is not explainable, rationally or irrationally, by natural law. And with regard to themes and types within fantasy, the sword-and-sorcery would be the closest. This is the world of adventure in which heroes (Oz) and heroines (Lou) wage epic combat with evil forces. Oz did indeed have a sword, J.J., which had belonged to James J. Petty, a Union Officer in the Civil War.
Our young hero, 13-year-old Osmond "Oz" Giffith, wakes from an illness to discover he is alone except for his dog, Kimball. In his search for others he soon finds himself responsible for a baby, Nate–a Storyteller, and meets up with Wes, an old mechanic, and Lou, a young girl. Next he befriends Ajax, an American-Sign-Language-talking gorilla and Wes finds two horses, Phil and Ryder. He knows that there are monsters of some kind–the Takers (sometimes called Greasywhoppers because you cannot say the name), and he feels that this nightmare has something to do with stories written by Stevie Dayton, a Down Syndrome boy whom he and friends had teased and who had taken his own life. Oz seems to know that the answers are in Stevie’s last comic book.
If you like monsters, you won’t be disappointed because there certainly are more than one, and I quote from page 175 to give you some idea of the writer’s style:
"The man we thought was Shaw was pinned beneath Ajax’s massive 400-pound frame, and began to morph before our eyes. His round shape shifted into a long slender build. Thin, hairy tentacles sprouted from his face and head. His eyes bulged and turned milky white. He opened his mouth and two vertical pinchers shot out and snapped at Ajax. The military uniform was replaced by a black tattered uniform that left some of the creature’s purple skin exposed. It began to squawk like a bird. The sound suddenly started to come at us from all sides. Looking around the arena, we saw half of Pepper’s men undergo the same change as Shaw. They pounced on their former comrades. The thrashing tentacles held tight to the victims’ faces while the pinchers cut through to their brains."
R. W. Ridley is a gifted storyteller with a rich imagination who has created a complex quest on multi levels which keeps the pages turning. He has that Stephen King quality of being able to write from an adolescent’s perspective and reality. Teens are not always kind and Oz was no exception.
Besides appealing to adolescents, The Takers will appeal to anyone of any age who enjoys a good fantasy, and remember, within fantasy sometimes a difficult truth can be told. I’ll be looking forward to Book Two.
R. W. Ridley tells us that he lives in Charleston, South Carolina, with his beautiful wife, a hyperactive dog, three arrogant cats, and one ugly mortgage.
Reviewed by Kaye Trout - June 18, 2006 - Copyright