Paradox in Oz is a modern Oz novel written by Edward Einhorn and illustrated by Eric Shanower. It was first published by Hungry Tiger Press in 1999. It was one of several books timed to coincide with the centennial of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 2000. (David Hardenbrook's The Unknown Witches of Oz and Gina Wickwar's The Hidden Prince of Oz fall into the same category.)
In Paradox in Oz, the citizens of the Emerald City are shocked to notice that they are suddenly showing signs of aging. Princess Ozma and Glinda try to learn why the magic anti-aging spell, which has governed Oz since its enchantment into a fairyland, has stopped working. Cryptic entries in the Great Book of Records mention a "man who lives backwards." While trying to understand this, they suddenly confront a Parrot-Ox. This is a large magical beast, half ox and half parrot:
- "Its front half was covered with red, blue, and green plumage, and out from among its feathers proudly emerged a bright yellow beak. Two large, orange wings rested against its body, which was a speckled brown, and it had a long black tail with a feathered end. It stood upon four hooved feet, and its dark eyes darted nervously around the room, dismayed at being discovered."
Ozma and Glinda learn that these creatures are amazingly common, though normally invisible; they co-exist with us in our everyday lives. A Parrot-Ox is "capable of doing nothing at all, unless it is impossible."
This particular Parrot-Ox calls himself Tempus. To resolve the mystery of the aging of Oz, Ozma rides Tempus back in time, to meet her predecessor King Oz in the forest surrounding the Forbidden Fountain. Ozma accidentally changes the past, so that Oz becomes an evil place, ruled by a tyrannical Wizard from an Obsidian City. She confronts alternate versions of her familiar friends: the beautiful Glinda is old and worn, while the Tin Woodman is a human and very malevolent headsman, Nick Chopper.
In a desperate attempt to remedy matters, Ozma embarks on a dizzying repeat journey through the past of Oz, where she meets herself coming and going. She confronts Tip, her earlier male self, and takes a trip to Absurd City to find the Man Who Lives Backwards. She faces mind-boggling confusions and numerous Parrot-Oxes before she can restore the familiar world she knows and loves.
Einhorn's text features subtle Ozian allusions. At one point, for example, Tempus tells Ozma that he remembers things that "never happened," such as "when East used to be West and West used to be East...." (Chapter 6) This is a reference to the well-known contradiction in the Oz literature, in which the maps of Oz reversed East and West. (See: Maps of Oz.)
Eric Shanower's illustrations for the book are faithful to the high quality and style of his usual work. For pertinent incidents in Einhorn's text, Shanower expands his normal manner with elements of pop art and op art, and allusions to the work of M. C. Escher.