The Man Who Fell To Earth by Walter Tevis
Cover Concept by Lorenzo Princi, 24 December 2012

The Man Who Fell To Earth

Author: Walter Tevis

Reviewed by Lorenzo Princi

At a glance it appears that Walter Tevis' novel will mirror Heinleim's Stranger In a Strange Land, however, unlike the innocent, messiah figure of Valentine Michael Smith, Tevis' “stranger”, Thomas J. Newton is on Earth of his own accord, both sure of himself and his mission. Further juxtaposing Smith, a human raised by aliens, who returns to Earth to ultimately teach humanity. Newton is in fact alien, learning to adapt to human customs in order to keep his true (Anthean) identity secret.

Early on, everything goes to plan. Newton uses his advanced scientific knowledge to introduce new technologies on Earth, years ahead of its time. By patenting these concepts and technologies, he is able to become rich and influential. He soon becomes more akin to Orson Welles' Citizan Cane, isolated and recluse.

As Newton's final goal begins to take effect, bringing the best minds on Earth together for his special project, he soon comes under suspicion. As he lets humans in and becomes more accustomed to their ways and vices he finds that he is indeed changing. The proud alien, the best of his race, finds he is becoming more and more comfortable in his new found humanity, and dangerously enjoying its vices. The aptly named Newton does indeed "fall" to Earth.

Tevis does his best work toward the end of the book, just as things seem to be running down a simple check-list — all of a sudden — the pace quickens and Newton's real intentions are revealed. We are then forced to examine and decide; Is Newton good? Do we want him to complete his mission? Can we trust an Alien? The questions should be simple, an Alien's needs versus our own? But it is never quite black and white as we begin to sympathise and then pity Newton once the human characters begin asking questions of their own.

A thought provoking tale of alien humanity; The Man Who Fell To Earth is not a fantastical science fiction story. Even the marvels of technology introduced seem to impede the human race rather than progress it. They seem undeserved for we know an alien, from an advanced civilization has given the answers, like someone cheating in a maths test, the human characters are left unfulfilled. By the end, neither human nor alien achieve any greatness, for mistrust and fear cloud the unknown and we are left wondering what might have been or what could yet be?