Eva Nine is a lone human girl being raised in an underground pod by her caretaker, MUTHR, or the Multi-Utility Task Help Robot. By the age of 12, Eva longs to know what is above the surface, and while she loves Muthr very much, she is curious to discover if there are any other humans on the planet. The story is somewhat inspired by, but is not a literal re-interpretation of Frank L. Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The rich, detailed graphic novel style art, in black and green tones is deeply reminiscent of W.W. Denslow's original illustrations for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
My first piece of advice to readers is to drop any preconceived notions about Oz. I drove myself crazy for the first few chapters, thinking, things like, "Okay, if Eva is Dorothy, does that make Muthr the Tin Man? Or is Muthr more like Auntie Em?" When she meets up with alien traveler Rovender Kitt, I wondered if he is supposed to be a counterpart of the Scarecrow. And is Otto, the tardigrade bear that Eva is able to telepathically communicate with, more like the Cowardly Lion? Or more like Toto? Put those thoughts aside, and just enjoy the story for what it is, a highly imaginative and gorgeously illustrated tale about coming of age and finding your place in the world.
I loved Eva Nine's loosely braided hair and futuristic clothes. The technology is well-thought out and truly lends another layer of depth to the story. Walking plants, menacing alien hunters and a varied and harsh landscape create a strange and eerie world. I was glad to see the language barrier between alien species meaningfully addressed, and even more pleased that it was quickly circumvented in such a clever and workable way. Eva relies on her Omnipod, a silver device shaped somewhat like a hand mirror to diagnose and cure illnesses, function as a flashlight, and to store and record information, the same way modern readers might be inseparable from their iphones. Her flying car, a classic, "this must the future" item is widely regarded as an antique.
Much has been said about the augmented reality maps embedded in the book. I'm sure that the technical requirements (a computer with webcam, the ability to download a player) will foil many readers, and while the interactive 3-D maps are really, really cool, with a lot of "gee whiz" factor, you don't need to sign in to the website to enjoy the book on it's own.
The secrets revealed at the end of the book were stunning and something that I was not expecting (despite, in hindsight, the very obvious clues.) The Search for WondLA feels like an instant classic and is sure to be enjoyed for generations to come. I hear a rumor that this is the first book of a planned trilogy. I know I'm eager to return to the magnificent world that DiTerlizzi has created.