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The Man Who Fell to Earth by Walter Tevis #BookReview

T. J. Newton is an extraterrestrial who goes to Earth on a desperate mission of mercy. But instead of aid, Newton discovers loneliness and despair that ultimately ends in tragedy.

The Man Who Fell to Earth by Walter Tevis book cover

Title: The Man Who Fell to Earth | Author: Walter Tevis | Publisher: Gollancz | Pub. Date: February 1963 | Pages: 192 | ISBN: 9781473213111 | Genre: Science Fiction | Language: English | Starred Review: Yes | Source: Purchased

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The Man Who Fell to Earth Review

Walter Tevis is an author you’ve probably never heard of, but at least some of whose book titles you almost certainly know. His first novel, back in 1959, was ‘The Hustler’, which was famously filmed with Paul Newman, as was the follow up ‘The Color of Money’, which added Tom Cruise to Newman. Tevis’s excellent ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ was recently adapted by Netflix and of course ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’ was made into a film by Nicolas Roeg in the 1970s, with David Bowie brilliantly cast as the alien protagonist. It looks like there is a new TV adaptation in the works as well, from ‘Star Trek’ producer Alex Kurtzman.

Like ‘The Queen’s Gambit’, which I had the pleasure of reading a few months ago, ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’ is a deceptively simple book. It’s linear, describing the experience of a humanoid extra-terrestrial from the planet Anthea who has landed on Earth and is impersonating a human. He uses his advanced scientific knowledge to introduce new technologies to the world and to amass a fortune for himself in the process. 

In some ways it’s a very traditional book, the kind of rags to riches tale that authors like Harold Robbins were churning out around the same time. In others its incredibly subversive. Tevis casts a critical eye over post-war American capitalism and government. He dissects the kind of abuses of civil liberties that were common in the 1950s and 60s, as well as the immorality of  big business.

‘I’m with Futures Unlimited. Chemical warfare mostly, although we do some work with plastics- containers and such’.

By the end I found myself completely invested in the story, the characters and the message. Despite its simple prose and straightforward storytelling it’s a book with a great depth and an emotional core that makes it deeply moving. Tevis uses a tried and tested sci fi plot to question what it means to be human. It’s a short book, but one that’s filled with insight and compassion. I can’t recommend it highly enough. 

You can purchase a copy of this book via your normal retailer, but please consider purchasing it from a local indie bookshop instead. It can be found here at Indiebound or at Bookshop. Please note the Bookshop link is an affiliate link and each purchase you make through it helps to support Sci-Fi & Scary and keep the site running.

Published inScience Fiction Book ReviewsStarred Reviews

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