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on 27 May 2009
A humanoid alien from a dried-up radioactive world comes to Earth in a spaceship and, weight he help of a brilliant patent lawyer, patents numerous technologically advanced solutions in order to amass the huge capital necessary to build a spaceship to ferry his people to Earth. As time goes on, Newton questions the reality of the plan only to have the choice made for him when he is captured and discovered by government agents.

On one level this is a sci-fi story of a visitor coming to this planet to save his people and also our own. On another level it's a book about capitalist and materialistic values. Newton's aim is to get as much money as quickly as he can. He does have other 'worthy' motives for amassing this capital of course, but then so does anybody who wants money. And in the end, having the money doesn't satisfy him, and he ends up drowning in depression and alcohol. Lastly, it's an analogy to the Christ story. Newton is continuously compared to Christ throughout the novel, and - very Eric Von Daniken - it is briefly hinted at that what humans think of as God is the Anthean race, who visited Earth long ago. Like Jesus, Newton comes to Earth to save us and wash away our sins. In return for his troubles he is betrayed, arrested and blinded. Jesus ends up dead on a cross - Newton ends up a blind, directionless, disillusioned alcoholic, all his high plans abandoned. The book, to it's huge credit, makes you re-examine the Christ story and look at it in a different light.

Reading one of the other reviews, I now realise that the version of the book I read was revised after the release of the 1976 film. Whilst reading, it did strike me that there may be some inconsistencies with the chronology, but I didn't think too much about it. Tevis didn't die until well into the 1980s, so I assume the revisions were approved by him, but I think this does smear, slightly, a sci-fi classic.

To talk briefly about Roeg's excellent film, I found the narrative style to be disorientating, and was expecting the book to be in a similar vein, but Tevis's narrative is clear and simple. The film excels for its cinematography, its atmosphere (which really conjures up that of the book) and in its choice of David Bowie for TJ Newton: a perfect choice.
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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.
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on 4 April 2008
This book affected me like no other. I don't think i have read as powerful or as moving a story since i read this 20 years ago. The author Walter Tevis was a visionary whose ideas and writing style will leave a lasting impression. I have not been able to relate to any character as strongly as i related to the main character in this novel. Thomas Jerome Newton represents the loneliness we all feel and the struggle to achieve and gain respect and understanding. The original novel describes how an alien tries to obtain water for his dying planet by visiting earth. He amasses a vast fortune through the aid of revolutionary patents. He becomes distracted and his plans falter. I cannot recommend this novel strongly enough.
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VINE VOICEon 14 December 2009
I've come to realise that much science fiction is very similar to mainstream fiction. It can be summed up nicely with the saying "All fiction is autobiography and all autobiography is fiction". Walter Tevis said in an interview that "The Man Who Fell to Earth" is a deeply disguised autobiography. He felt alienated after he moved from San Francisco to Kentucky as a young lad. The books also deals with loneliness and alcohol problems.

While I enjoy novels that get an emotional response I also enjoy novels where the author comes up with grand ideas that I have never thought of. "The Man Who Fell to Earth" is a decent novel but I am sure there must be better novels about loneliness and alcoholism and there is nothing original about the science fiction.

If you haven't read "Mockingbird" I would recommend that first. While similar in style seems to be a more complete novel and impressed me much more.
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VINE VOICEon 1 August 2010
This book was read on a whim and it does not feel as if it were written many years ago, the pacing and the prose are readily accesible today.

The tale which is on the outside an original think on the life that an alien would have should they come to earth is, to me, a more realistic view of the life that would be experienced than the more confrontational approaches taken in other books.

For me this book is also an exploration of the darkness in human nature and here I can understand comparisions drawn to biblical stories. If you like your science fiction that is as thought provoking as it is entertaining then you will truly enjoy this book.
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on 14 September 2014
An amazing book with stunning prose, interesting plot and compelling questions about human nature. It is a rare novel that leaves you filled with a sense of humanities failures and yet still makes you proud to be human, especially a sci-fi novel.

This may not be a book for people who love spaceships and battles, but its certainly a book for those who love introspective novels full of big ideas.

One of my favourite books of all time.
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on 7 September 2013
Tevis is a hugely under-rated writer - concise and powerful, with extremely strong insight into damaged people and the sometimes complicated relationship between victory and defeat - but this is his least successful book.

Go instead to The Hustler, The Colour of Money (both far more layered and interesting than the films) or the hugely compelling The Queen's Gambit for his real successes.
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on 7 March 2010
Love David Bowie, love the film and the book is a simple, beautiful, relevant classic. Other reviewers have written eloquently and I can only add that I continue to return to this novel at least twice a year. I always find something new and relevant. It is a book that I sometimes give to others in the hope that they will get it too.
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VINE VOICEon 26 September 2009
In the character of Thomas J. Newton Walter Tevis has managed to create an alien who is completely 'other' and completely believable. What happens to him when he comes to Earth to save both his people and our world is a gripping and heart-breaking story. It indeed deserves to be a Penguin Modern Classic - but there is no introduction by Lionel Shriver as advertised , which is a disappointment, because the novel is crying out for one. It contains traces of autobiography, inspired a great film and has clearly been revised at least once since original publication in 1963 - some background on all that would have interesting and useful.
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on 14 January 2016
A book that deals more with alienation than aliens. War of the Worlds it aint, but it was never meant to be. It’s a book about loneliness. . I felt Newton’s pain, and sympathised with his plight. It’s a well-written easy read. Can see myself reading this again in spite of the bleakness.
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