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It's wonderful but there are flaws in the revisions
on 25 July 2001
I have found myself to be something of a fan of speculative fictions. And The man who fell to Earth by Walter Tevis has been, for a long time now, a book that I have grown to appreciate in what it says and how it expresses it, about the human condition through an inhuman perspective. And I happen to own an edition that was published in 1963, so you can imagine my disappointment when I bought a new copy and found the revisions, which were nconsistent.
Now, I agree that some 'dated' books are in need of revisions, however when this book was revised, The man who fell to Earth, it was left lacking in it's original believability by leaving inconsistencies in the dates of the novel.
The original novel opened with the Section Icarus Descending 1972, the revised version opens with Icarus Descending 1985. The second section of book is Rumplestiltskin, 1975, in the revised version this is 1988. The final section of the book is Icarus Drowning, 1976, and 1990 in the revised edition novel. Now this might not seem a bother at all really but here's where my qualm lies...
The section called Rumplestiltskin begins in autumn of 1988. And in that December late on Christmas night, Newton, the protagonist of the novel, confesses to the Chemistry professor, Nathan Bryce that he is in fact an alien visitor from another world. The following morning, Thomas Jerome Newton is taken captive by the American government, and held for two months. It should be about February of 1989, or there about. However, he is interrogated, at the end of those two months, and the interrogator is commented as saying 'It just happens that this is 1988. And 1988 is an election year.' - (Page 180.) Allowing this little flaw to slide, we move on. And Newton is carelessly blinded by his captors and for two weeks he is kept in a government hospital. The next section of book starts, Icarus Drowning 1990. This gives you the impression that it's at least a year later. However, according to page 197, the very first page of Icarus Drowning, it is only seven months after the end of Rumplestiltskin, let's see... From the end of 1988- Seven months, plus two weeks, plus two months, equals nine and and half months. At most it should be October of 1989. What happened to 1989? I'm fairly certain that nine and a half months is not a full year. This book takes up just about four or five (Depending on how it's cut) or so years and yet there's a year unaccounted for. 1985, 1988 + 9 months = 1990?!? (It should be 1989, I should think) And yet the original version was cut like this- 1972, 1975 + 9 months = 1976. See what happened?
A second thing I dislike about the revised version of The man who fell to Earth, is something that is missing from the original text. In the original novel, published in 1963, there is an allusion towards the end when Newton is compared to Winston Smith, the hero of George Orwell's 1984. I had liked that. And I don't like that it is missing from the version currently in print. The man who fell to Earth is a wonderfully surreal novel but I just wish that someone would drop the revised version and go back to Tevis' original text from 1963. If anything, I feel that people should have the choice to read the original, classic, unabridged text, or the shoddy revised edition. This novel is supposedly a science fiction classic and yet the only way anyone can actually read the whole, original text would be by buying a first edition from a used book shoppe. And I think that it's a real shame there is basically no way anyone can really read the original book, which had consistent dates. It feels almost like the tragedy of Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, that society, so obsessed with political correctness, have grown so very careless with it's 'Classic' fictions. And we lose out in beautiful works of fiction that shall fade off in to oblivion, it's original content forgotten or painted over and we are left with cut and 'revised' reprints which for all their gloss remain flawed with inconsistencies, pieces missing, and abridgments. And these either insult us intellectually or give us to know that over all, our attention spans have grown so short as to not notice or care. Ignoring the flaws and inconsistencies with the datings of the revised version of The man who fell to earth, it is actually a very good, and intriguing piece of science fiction. I just think that it's a real pity that no one has even tried to reprint the original, unabridged or non 'revised' text for over twenty-two years.