The first review for SomeWhen Over the Rain Clouds, published
originally in the
2013/2014 edition of Coreopsis :
Journal of Myth and Theater.
Reproduced here, with written permission, on February 12, 2014
Somewhen Over the Rain Clouds
We’re not in Seattle (1984) anymore: An Adult Fantasy Adventure Through an alternative Universe By Lisa M. Peppan
Review by Jerry Jaffe, Ph.D.
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (2013)
To Purchase: Amazon.com
Author’s Webpage: http://www.fortlangley.ca/SWOTRC/author.html
In this postmodern era, one question that permeates pulp fiction of all genres is whether or not the characters in any given story are themselves knowledgeable of the genre they seem to be in. In a zombie movie, do the characters know the films of George Romero? In Lisa M. Peppan’s Somewhen over the Rain Clouds, the answer is a resounding YES. The title itself is a clear signal to the reader alluding to the universe of The Wizard of Oz as it does. And in this story of Lee Taska, a Seattle-based cabbie who experiences a bad storm that results in a car accident, from which she awakens in what is effectively a parallel universe. Lee’s story clearly and intentionally follows a path similar to Dorothy.
Upon arriving in the land of Geaeh, confused and uncertain of where she is or what has happened to her, Lee crosses paths with both evil witches and then a good witch called Laetha (witches in Geaeh also referred to as Wiqqs). Laetha unfortunately is dying and survives only long enough to set Lee on her path to meet a mysterious figure called Merroe in a far-off city called Lynn’a’lyrr (this novel’s Wizard and Emerald City). Of course, between Lee and this far-off sanctuary where supposedly all other questions will be answered is a perilous journey where she must confront weird magic, witch hunters, monsters, guards, and evil Yellow Wiqqs.
To aid Lee, Laetha grants her use of her Van, a magical wagon that has interior dimensions large enough to contain a 2-story house full of food, furniture and other amenities. The Van is pulled by magical beasts that resemble horses, but whose colorful nubs between their eyes bring to mind unicorns. Later, these beasts of burden are revealed to be much more than they seem. On the road to Lynn’a’lyrr, Lee also comes across three traveling companions, her own Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion. Apparently, the storm that enabled her to come through also captured her two best friends, Jerry Young and Ian Weitz. Also both cabbies, they each have their own adventures until the three are reunited. (The novel’s self described genre is Adult Alternative Universe Fantasy, and at least some of the “Adult” comes about due to Ian’s Tom-Jones-like humorous digression in which he is for a time a sex slave for the eccentric Lady Sumpter!)
Lee’s third helper turns out to be her deceased fiancé Peter “Eagle” Raymond, who himself had passed away in a motorcycle accident several years earlier and for whom Lee has never stopped grieving. At the time of his apparent death, he actually came through to this universe and has been surviving as a magical bard. His skill with music has translated into magical capabilities. People from time to time slip between these parallel worlds, and called Come Throughs. Further, it is explained that most Come Throughs have some magical gifts. Thus, Lee is learning to use Laetha’s powers, while Ian also seems capable of some gifts. Whether or not Jerry has magical gifts is itself a developing plot point of the novel, so I will leave it for now.
Nonetheless, for the reader one of the most fun aspects of the novel is that the characters are aware that they seem to have fallen into an Oz-like magic realm. During his sexual servitude, Ian sneaks into a barn and clicks his shoes together, just in case it might work to send him home. Another servant—also a Come Through—finds him doing it and the two laugh at the effort. Besides The Wizard of Oz, there are many other delightful pop culture references, including Monty Python and Douglas Adams. While trying to explain how his music functions as magic, Eagle summarizes it as being “like a D&D bard. I can cast spells with music and song.” The D&D reference is apt, since readers who have played the game may at times feel the novel resembles the record of a private Dungeons and Dragons quest. However, the lively pace of the writing, and the over-all likeableness of our four heroes, keep the reader involved in what is an enjoyable story. Also, like the Lord of the Rings novels, Peppan has a nice eye for pastoral details, bringing to life the fauna and the environment where these four Come Throughs find themselves.
The violent death of Laetha, and the general persecution of the Wiqq, certainly resonates with readers interested in both religious tolerance in general and the historic treatment of witches in medieval Europe and colonial America. The West’s legacy of violent mistreatment haunt many of the more violent or disturbing moments of the novel, beginning with Laetha’s brutal death at the hands of thuggish witch hunters. Again, this parallel is not lost on the characters themselves. At one point while Eagle explains the various factions and who might wish to harm the Wiqq, Jerry asks Eagle “Anything like witches during the Dark Ages?” And indeed, there is a faction derived from some previous Come Throughs from the Crusades, who utilize a re-written Bible transcribed from memory. Now they “take up a Divine Mission to exterminate any who make magic…”
This historic context of witchery has another element important to the novel. Lee herself is part Native American, and she often thinks of the lessons her great-grandmother taught her as a child. This predisposition to the supernatural not only offers a non-western contrast to the historic oppression of witches, but is also an important element in the plot as Lee’s development as a character and as a Wiqq dovetails with what she learned from her great-grandmother.
Waking up in a strange environment, Lee says to herself, “Its more important to figure out where I am anyway.” As a cabbie in her former life, she spent her days taking others from place to place while feeling uprooted without a sense of place for herself. Readers joins Lee as this journey of discovery of location becomes a journey of discovery of self. We finds ourselves interested in the life and fate of these Come Throughs, and in joining them on the adventure of discovering the new world of Geaeh. The ironic awareness the characters of their participating in a fantasy universe combined with the contextualization of Wicca and also Native American spiritual traditions give the novel added depth and richness to Lee’s finding out where, and who, she is.
Jerry is an Associate Professor at Lake Erie College. He coordinates the theater program and oversees all theater productions within the program. As a teacher, Jerry’s interests include all aspects of the theatre, including actor training, and theater history and philosophy.
As a director, Jerry has worked in New Zealand, Japan, and also numerous venues around the United States (in particular around Ohio). While teaching at Tsukuba University in Japan, he ran a local community theater group called Bingo Parallax, for which he directed 8 productions, including David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow and Glengarry Glen Ross, Woody Allen’s God, and an original devised piece Words by Shakespeare, as well as acting on tour with Japan’s largest professional children’s theatre group kaze no ko (in their production of Oretachya benriya).
While in New Zealand he taught at the University of Otago and directed numerous college and professional productions. His 2006 production of Neil LaBute’s The Shape of Things was selected by the NZ Listener magazine as one of the best productions in the country that year. His 2007 production of Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel was included in the 2007 New Zealand International comedy festival.
He has further interests in various aspects of performance studies, including popular entertainment, museum studies, and environmental entertainments. He is currently working on a study of religious satire, having made several conference presentations on the subject, as well as recently published ““I needed to go to this tabernacle of ignorance”: Marc Maron’s critique of the Creation Museum.” Bulletin for the Study of Religion, Vol 42, No 3 (2013).
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Added 12 Feb 2014