Emma Bull – War For The Oaks

By nm boliek
Dec 17th, 2009

oak3After delving into Life On The Border and immersing myself in such  a wonderful story I began to ponder the Urban Fantasy genre a bit more seriously, after all it has been years since  this fantasy niche showed up and now its burning up the readers charts.

So I went looking to see what else might tumble from the historical annals of this  genre and got lucky - I found a copy of Emma Bull’s  The War For The Oaks.

Over the years I have seen this book held aloft by all types of fantasy readers and it didn’t seem to matter if they preferred wizards to elves or unicorns to dragons – once the conversation turned to this unassuming story even the sallow wallflowers would start talking -and now I totally get it.  It has Rock n Roll, a great city setting and enough “Edge of Seventeen” characters to make daydreaming of summer nights in the middle of winter an enjoyable feeling. 

Interestingly enough War for the Oaks also defined this genre in a way I had yet to be able to clearly grasp . From a literary standpoint, Urban Fantasy at it birth had one clearly defined idea -  for the city to become a character or a major element in the story. This to me is what makes Urban Fantasy appealing, take a place we all have some idea about and infuse it with some sort of magic or paranormal activity and include references that are universals. It’s this sort of writing that gets under our skin…..if you doubt this think of Stephen King or Stephanie Meyer – both use universals and predominately present day settings that are totally relatable. Urban Fantasy just stretches that weave very taunt and War for the Oaks solidifies the idea. A city can define and determine characterization without overpowering the story.

And this is a seamless story that moves from the real world to the imaginary with no bumps or glitches, it just flows. Sometimes in the fantasy genre  I will be reading along and suddenly  go “what?” and then need to read the passage again. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing I’m just saying it can be a jarring experience that removes you from  time and place. There is none of that with War for the Oaks, once you enter the story you stay firmly planted.

I highly recommend this book to anyone that is dipping their toes in current Urban Fantasy and liking it. At times its a bit cheesy and yes, it does feel like a lost summer afternoon  complete with MTV blaring from the speakers and a pile of Thrasher magazines strewn across the floor. But, its a good feeling, an anythings possible feeling with a touch of city gritty.

After reading War for the Oaks I went  on to  do a bit of research. I’m a Book Geek and I like to delve into all the surrounding bits and pieces of a story – its a bad time sucking habit but it does have its uses. I found tons of reviews for this story – if you don’t want it spoiled steer clear of them – I’ve never understood WHY a reviewer  would want to ruin it for the reader?? with regards to those reviewers  I will say  they all had very strong opinions about this story. I also stumbled across a Hollywood Comics adaptation  and a film trailer  – if you go and dig up the trailer be prepared for Cheesy Overload….it was baaaaad.  I have yet to discover if this ever actually became a film ….if anyone out there knows drop me a line – I’m always up for  some cringing VHS.

The funny thing is, as I was reading  I kept thinking, this book is prime story material right now. There’s a whole group of people out there dying to spend money on this genre and though I see this book got a re-release in 2001 I’m thinking it should get another one. Cheesy or not the bones of the story are relevant material right now. It just needs a good makeover and sharp eyed film director. Then we could all wave a permanent and much needed goodbye to Twilght. What a WONDERFUL  day that would be.

Here’s the Essentials:

Originally published in  by Ace 1987

 Orb Books; later printing edition (July 6, 2001)

Both editions are available from most online book dealers.

http://io9.com/5345806/is-this-the-year-urban-fantasy-conquers-science-fiction -This website provided a good look at whats going on with Urban fantasy right now and where its poised in the market. Not surprising, but very eye opening.

http://search.barnesandnoble.com/War-for-the-Oaks/Emma-Bull/e/9781932983081_ – this is a link to the adaption….looks interesting but sightly weird.

http://greenmanreview.com/mp3/oaks.mov - trailer link – not to be  missed.

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