Thursday 12 December 2013

The Iron Man

The Iron Man by Ted Hughes, illustrated by Laura Carlin (Walker Books)
PB RRP $19.95
ISBN 9781406329575
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

The first publication of this book was in 1968. Since then it has been reissued several times with a different illustrator each time. This edition won the V and A Best Illustrated Book of the Year. With Laura Carlin’s insightful and edgy interpretation, at times, stark and dark approach, it is easy to see why this prize was given.

It tells the story of a giant Iron Man who appears out of nowhere, falls off a cliff and breaks apart, then reassembles himself. He goes about eating everybody’s farm equipment and anything made of metal that he can find. The villagers try to trap him but he breaks free from the hole he’s fallen into. He is befriended by Hogarth, a young boy who later enlists the help of the Iron Man to defeat the space-bat-angel-dragon that descends from the void of space and threatens all humanity. But there is much more to this story than this simply explained plot.

Many have classed this extraordinary book as science fiction, others as a fable. No matter how you look at it, it is a great imaginative piece of work that can be translated in many ways. I see it as a question of, how much does the planet have to suffer before mankind decides to live in harmony and peace?

To read any of Ted Hughes’ work is to experience a great mind. He was British Poet Laureate from 1984 till his death in 1998. His work is immortal and re-reading any of it is like experiencing his work for the first time.

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