October Sky

November 3, 2008
By Alex Greer, Blountville, TN

October Sky is a very remarkable story. It takes place in Coalwood, West Virginia in the nineteen fifties and sixties. Coalwood's economy is based on mining coal. Sonny is a boy who lives in Coalwood and doesn't want to work in the mine and wants to build rockets and go to space. Sonny attends Big Creek High School where he is encouraged to build rockets by his chemistry teacher, Ms. Riley. His dad, Homer Hickman, his principal, Mr. Turner, and the football at Big Creek put him down for trying to achieve his dreams. There is a movie that is that is directed by Joe Johnston and a book that Sonny wrote himself that tells the story him and his friends. The movie and the book are very different. In the movie Sonny quits school and goes to the mine to work, characters such as Sherman, Jake Mosby, and Geneva Eggers are cut, and the boys go to jail.

In Johnston's movie, when Homer gets hurt, Sonny quits school and goes to the mine to work. This doesn't happen in the book. When a bump explodes in the mine, Homer goes down into it to save lives. When this happens Sonny is at a dance and is with Valentine, Valentine is a student at Big Creek who adores Sonny. When Sonny gets home, he finds his mother painting. She says, “You are not to go to the mine. No matter what else you do you mustn't do that.” However he goes to the mine the mine to find that Mr. Bykovsi is died, the boy's rocket builder and that his father might lose his right eye. Sonny is very depressed and stops building rockets but he still attends Big Creek and doesn't work in the mine.
Also in Johnston's movie some of the characters are deleted such as Sherman, Jake Mosby, and Geneva Eggers. Sherman was one of the Rocket Boys. When the boys were very young, they invented an Indian Tribe, the Coalhicans, who pretended to be Indians. Sherman had polio and was very sick. He helped Sonny, O'Dell, Roy Lee, and Quentin launch rockets. He later had a heart-attack and died at the age of thirty-four. Jake Mosby was a junior engineer in Coalwood. He fought in the Korean War and had flashbacks when the boys would launch rockets. He was very good with women and had a drinking problem. He also has a crush on Mrs. Riley throughout the story. Geneva Eggers is a lady who lives on a mountain outside of Coalwood. Homer managed to save Geneva's life when she was just a baby and her house caught on fire. Sonny has an encounter with her when he is coming back from Dorothy's house after a day of sledding. They snow was falling from the sky and Sonny was very cold. He finds her at her door and Geneva invites and gets him in dry close and tells Sonny to tell his dad that he had seen her and then sends him home. What Sonny didn't know is Geneva was a prostitute.
In Johnston's movie, when a fire blazed Davy Mountain, Sonny and his friends go to jail. This doesn't happen in the book. When a couple of state troopers find what seemed to be a rocket, the boys are sent to Mr. Turner's office. When the state troopers show the boys the device they are amazed and ask if they can have it. The State Trooper tells them no and that it's evidence that one of their rockets started a fire upon Davy Mountain. The troopers put the boys in handcuffs but the don't go to jail. Ms. Riley enters and takes up for the boys. They finally determine it part of an airplane that had come off.

If you read October Sky and then watch Johnston's movie you will find they very different. The book is a lot more interesting because the move doesn't provide enough information. The movie also mixes things up to make the story more interesting so it will sell more in the box office. Sonny never did get to go up into space. Only his medal he earned in the science fair and a cone went into space. He did get a job at NASA and helped train astronauts. Homer Hickman Sr. died of lung cancer in nineteen-eighty-nine. He was cremated and his were thrown into the Atlantic Ocean. The movie is very different from the adding of scenes, the deletion of characters, and the changing of events.

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This article has 1 comment.

friscokid said...
on Mar. 13 2011 at 1:39 am

Great Review

It's very analytical and as a writer of 25 years I found it helpful after seeing the author in person recently.

Sadly the movie forgets that depth of character and not action is what the main point of the story is about.


thanks for sharing your review with us.

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