The Man Who Fell to Earth by Walter Tevis Download (read online) free eBook (PDF ePub Kindle)

The Man Who Fell to Earth

Thomas Jerome Newton is an extraterrestrial from the planet Anthea, which has been devastated by a series of nuclear wars, and whose inhabitants are twice as intelligent as human beings. When he lands on Earth – in Kentucky, disguised as a human – it’s with the intention of saving his own people from extinction.


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    Apatt

    May 02, 2012

    rated it
    really liked it

     · 
    review of another edition

    Shelves:
    sci-fi,
    pre-80s-sf

    “The man was very odd. Tall, thin, with white hair and a fine, delicate bone structure. He had smooth skin and a boyish face – but the eyes were very strange, as though they were weak, over-sensitive, yet with a look that was old and wise and tired.”

    In short, he looks a lot like this:

    Ground control to Major Thomas?

    The eponymous Man Who Fell to Earth is one Thomas Jerome Newton, a rather commonplace name, not alienesque like Xarx or something along that line. Of course, his real name is very unli

    In short, he looks a lot like this:

    Ground control to Major Thomas?

    The eponymous Man Who Fell to Earth is one Thomas Jerome Newton, a rather commonplace name, not alienesque like Xarx or something along that line. Of course, his real name is very unlikely to be Thomas Jerome Newton; he is from a planet he calls “Anthea*”, but if he has an Anthean name it is never mentioned. He has come to Earth on a solo super-secret mission, so secret that he destroys the single seat spaceship he came in on. Using his knowledge of hyper-advanced science he soon builds a business empire selling amazing new products like – uh – a high-speed film that develops itself, a new kind of TV, stereo systems, and various gadgets. Things were going according to plan until the pesky, primitive humans become his friends. Thrilling adventure Disillusionment, loss of identity and heartbreak ensue.

    The Man Who Fell to Earth was first published in 1963, the story is set in 1985 and spans five years or so. This being the case some of the alien science is rather anachronistic in term of our real world science today; for example super high-quality films instead of digital photography. I suspect Arthur C. Clarke would have fared better with the imaginary gadgetry but this novel is clearly not about the science. The central theme seems to be loneliness and its impact on your goals. There are also observations about humanity’s lack of appreciation for the riches of our planet, the futility of war, and some satire of government bureaucratic incompetence.

    Due to Earth’s higher gravity, Newton is physically weak and frail, but he also seems unlikely to have the strength of character to set up a business empire. While on a business trip he meets a hard drinking hillbilly girl called Betty Jo helps him out when he has an accident. They do not become romantically involved but he hires her as his personally assistant, he picks up her taste for gin and they soon go on benders together. After a few years on Earth with no way to communicate with his home planet Newton begins to feel lonely and miserable, he also feels that he has gone native in that he now thinks more like a human than an Anthean. The interrelationship between Newton and several characters he comes to call friends is quite sweet and touching.

    There’s a starman…

    A feeling of melancholy pervades throughout the book. Newton is not a happy alien even when things are going well for him, and when they go south the man who fell to earth probably wishes he had fallen somewhere else. Newton is a nuanced, sympathetic character. However, if you take out the “sym” part of sympathetic he is also that. It is hard to believe the Antheans chose him for this mission for his stamina.

    The Man Who Fell to Earth is a very good read, I cannot find any serious flaw with it. However, I feel that the book ends too abruptly and somewhat inconclusively so I am holding back my often overly lenient five stars rating. I can recommend without hesitation if you like thoughtful, contemplative and somewhat philosophical sci-fi.

    Notes:
    * Anthea is implied to be Mars, but by 1963 scientists already suspect that there is no life on Mars, so Tevis avoids using the name.

    • Decades ago I saw the 1976 film adaptation , starring David Bowie, I thought it was weird and could not make heads or tails of it. The source material here is a breeze to read.

    • There is a scene where Newton is interrogated by government agents, this is a notable scene because it is extremely well written and vivid.

    • Don’t read the goddam intro by Ken MacLeod before reading the novel because it’s riddled with spoilers. Not cool Mr. MacLeod!

    • Walter Tevis’ Mockingbird is fabulous, don’t miss it.

    Quotes:
    “There are times when you seem, to us, like apes loose in a museum, carrying knives, slashing the canvases, breaking the statuary with hammers.”

    “How human he had become, to rationalize that way! He blamed her for his going native and becoming obsessed with vague guilts and vaguer doubts. She had taught him to drink gin; and she had shown him an aspect of strong and comfortable and hedonistic and unthinking humanity that his fifteen years of studying television had left him unaware of.”

    “He felt like a man who has been surrounded by reasonably amiable, silly, and fairly intelligent animals, and has gradually discovered that their concepts and relationships are more complex than his training could have led him to suspect. Such a man might discover that, in one or more of the many aspects of weighing and judging that are available to a high intelligence, the animals who surround him and who foul their own lairs and eat their own filth might be happier and wiser than he.”

    “It dismays us greatly to see what you are about to do with such a beautiful, fertile world. We destroyed ours a long time ago, but we had so much less to begin with than you have here.’ His voice now seemed agitated, his manner more intense. ‘Do you realize that you will not only wreck your civilization, such as it is, and kill most of your people; but that you will also poison the fish in your rivers, the squirrels in your trees, the flocks of birds, the soil, the water?”
    …more