(ISBN 0-563-53856-2)






 The people of the

 Crooked World lead

 an idyllic existence.

 Take Streaky Bacon

 - This jovial farmer

 wants nothing more

 from life than a huge

 blunderbuss, with

 which he can blast

 away at his crop-

 stealing nemesis.


 then there's Angel, a

 racing driver with a

 string of victories to

 her name. Sure, her

 trusted guardian MAY

 occasionally put on a

 mask and menace her

 for her prize money,

 but that's just life,



 And for Jasper the

 cat, nothing could

 be more pleasant

 than a NICE nap in

 his kitchen - so long

 as that darn mouse

 doesn't jam his tail

 into the plug socket


 But someone is about

 to shatter all these



 Somebody is about to

 change everything -

 and it's possible that

 no-one on the Crooked

 World will ever be

 happy again.

 The Doctor's TARDIS is

 about to arrive. And

 when it does... That's

 all folks!


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The Crooked World

JUNE 2002







Steve Lyons is an author whose work invariably impresses me, and The Crooked World is amongst his finest offerings. Its controversial cartoon wraparound cover may have put off as many readers as it enticed, but for me it belied the depths that lied within, luring

me into a familiar, animated vista and then turning all the safeties off. The results were both terrifying and provocative.


Lyons premise is startlingly simple, but devastatingly effective. The TARDIS materialises

on world whose inhabitants were without form or sentience until a child’s telly-fuelled psyche gave them life. Ever since, they have lived the stupidly violent and irrational lives of cartoon characters, free from the consequences of their thoughtless actions thanks to the cartoon rules imbedded in that child’s mind. But when the Doctor, Fitz and Anji arrive on this world, bringing within them their logic, their consequences, and even their sex, those rules melt.

A “Plague of Questions” hits Zanytown as the people of the “Crooked World” discover that they can escape their stereotypes and enjoy free will.


The ensuing cartoon parable is viciously clever. Through the eyes of a number of instantly recognisable characters, Lyons explores what it means to have freedom. His views aren’t narrow or dogmatic though; The Crooked World embraces both sides, detailing the fear

and despair of the inhabitants with as much gusto as it does the merits of self-determination. For every wry Fitz / Penelope Pitstop misunderstanding – see the passage concerning the Stork if you’re looking for a hearty belly laugh – there is a cat persecuted for being true to

its nature and killing a mouse, or a pig shaking at the thought that his instinctive discharge

of a weapon might mean that someone has gone away forever. In fact, Porky Pig’s sudden comprehension of death might actually be the novel’s most chilling moment - even the words that he uses - “never come back” - stir the child within every reader, reminding us all of that moment when we first realised that death is absolute, and that there are no extra lives.



Lyons’ handling of the three

regular characters is every

bit as penetrating as those

that he’s half-inched from

Warner Bros. The Doctor,

naturally, delights in shep-

herding the process along,

doing his best to help the

people of the so-called

Crooked World embrace their newfound free will and forge a better society for themselves. Fitz, meanwhile, sullies the cartoon world’s chastity with increasingly-desperate attempts to bed Penelope Pitstop – a woman literally incapable of succumbing to his charms. And most impressively of all, we have Anji, who’s probably never watched a single cartoon in her life, but now finds herself having to learn their own peculiar set of laws, only to see them thrown straight out of the window.


It’s hard to pick any fault at all with this delight of a novel, though obviously it would have been preferable had Lyons been free to use the cartoon characters’ proper names, rather than the evocative, but nonetheless lawyer-resistant, imitations that instead litter the story. There was a reason that I always championed FIFA over Pro Evo, you know.


And so, contrary to the wacky first impression that it gives, The Crooked World is probably Steve Lyons’ most intelligent and inciting offering to date. Whilst it’s high concept – more so than even Conundrum – it’s instantly accessible; it’s sober themes couched in the colour of childhood. However, this only serves to make its moral even more bittersweet, because The Crooked World is a tale about what most of us call growing up.


Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2010


E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.

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