Friday, 19 October 2012

Sonic: The Story

Sonic: The Story

"An account of the superhero's rise from his humble beginnings as an ordinary hedgehog to his status of saviour of the planet Mobius. This book gives the lowdown on the hedgehog with attitude and introduces the evil genius Dr Robotnik and his plans to trap and enslave Sonic's friends."
Sonic: the Story was originally published in 1994 to promote the Sonic the hedgehog ahead of the release of Sonic 3. It aims to tell the origin story of Sonic and it told from the perspective of Sonic’s best friend Tails.

Well, that’s what it’s meant to do, however, in the early 90’s it was pretty common practise for Japanese games to be reconceptualised when released  in America and Europe, this would occasionally mean characters names would change (Like Sonic’s nemisis Dr. Robotnik, who had his name changed from Dr. Eggman) and sometimes games whole stories. Game art would also sometimes be swapped and censored.

In the case of Sonic the hedgehog this resulted in three separate versions of the Sonic character and story, the original Japanese, the American (which featured characters like sally acorn and the cast of the satAM cartoon series) and the European/U.K. version. So, when it says this book is telling the origin story of Sonic, it’s actually telling the U.K. version and not the true origin story…..confused yet?

What’s it matter? Well the U.K. story is completely different from both other versions. In this version, Sonic is originally Brown and is only turned blue when he first breaks the sound barrier while running. It also introduces the character of Dr. Ovi Kintobor (a character unseen in the original story) a kindly scientist who, after an explosion, isturned into the evil Dr. Ivo Robotnik (see what they did there?).

Ok so now that’s sorted, onto the book itself, the story’s not great but it’s obviously written for little kids, it tries very hard to show how cool sonic is, an annoying trait of any Sonic merch at the time. The highlight of the book for me was the art, each page has lovely full colour illustrations, sadly the artist is left uncredited, as is the writer of the story. Not an uncommon practise for this type of book but it’s a shame that there aren’t even any credits in small print tucked on the inside cover.

It’s not a terrible book, like I’ve said, it’s for kids and kids would probably enjoy it. It tells a story that the sonic games from 1999 onward have abandoned so it feel quite quaint and out of date.
If you’re a Sonic fan or collector though, you could do worse than add this to your collection. 

Thursday, 11 October 2012

The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman

The peculiar memories of Thomas Penman
Bruce Robinson

"Thomas Penman is the acclaimed autobiographical debut novel by Oscar-winning screenwriter Bruce Robinson, the author of "Withnail and I". This is the story of a dysfunctional family. It is about a boy and his grandpa, life and death, sex and hate, dog's meat and cancer. It is also about pornography, enemas, Morse codes, puberty, secrets, God and loathing. It is also about love."

Bruce Robinson is the filmmaker responsible for two of my favourite films Withnail & I and How to get ahead in advertising, you would think therefore that his novel would mean instantaneous glee for me. However, upon purchasing The peculiar memories of Thomas Penman I placed it at the bottom of my “to read” pile, where it lay forgotten for four years. I have now read the book and regret terribly my actions because it is a fantastic read.

The story centres around Thomas Penman, a boy obsessed with finding the key to a locked filing cabinet containing his dying Grandfather’s pornography collection.
The characters are imaginative and the situations Thomas finds himself in are unique and brilliantly portrayed. What other book contains a scene where the main character finds photographs of his grandfather posing nude with a woman who has a live duck shoved up her arse?

The style is what you would expect of Bruce Robinson from his film work. Witty and well written with comic characters showing more than a hint of darkness about them. I was reminded at times of The Wasp Factory, and though the book never matches it in terms of darkness it always seems like it’s not far from doing so.
In essence it is a simply coming of age tale and certain plot points could read as clichéd, Robinson is able however to avoid cliché by warping these tropes almost beyond recognition. It is only when looked at in hindsight that you can see these scenes shine through.
I must also mention the ending. I won’t spoil it but I must say that it possibly the most heartbreaking ending to a story I have ever read and is the closest I have ever  come to crying at a book.

I simply couldn’t recommend this enough, it is a great book, one I can see becoming an instant favourite of many who will pick it up, a novel few are likely to forget.

I have avoided mentioning anything about book design in these reviews for the simple fact that, were you to pick any of these books up, chances are they will have a different cover that the one I have read. I must say however the cover photograph for this book, taken by Matt Harris is one of the most arresting book jackets I have ever seen. It is a beautiful photograph and as I lay the book around my house, I was always surprised to find Thomas’ eyes staring back at me. The fact that there is no text on the cover emphasises this, it is just the boy, staring. I love it.