The Man Who Fell to Earth (novel)
The Man Who Fell to Earth is a 1963 science fiction novel by American author Walter Tevis, about an extraterrestrial who lands on Earth seeking a way to ferry his people to Earth from his home planet, which is suffering from a severe drought. The novel served as the basis for the 1976 cult film by Nicolas Roeg as well as a 1987 television adaptation.
Thomas Jerome Newton is a humanoid alien who comes to Earth seeking to construct a spaceship to ferry others from his home planet, Anthea, to Earth. Anthea is experiencing a terrible drought after many nuclear wars, and the population has dwindled to less than 300. They have hundreds of superior starships, but for not being used for over 500 years, they are unusable because of little to no fuel. They have no water, loads of food that is slowly dwindling, and feeble solar power. Like all Antheans, he is super-intelligent, but he has been selected to complete this mission for his strength, due to the harsh climate and gravity of Earth compared to the cold, small Anthea.
Getting to Earth via a lifeboat, Newton first lands in the state of Kentucky but quickly becomes familiarized with the environment and aspires to become an entrepreneur. Newton uses advanced technology from his home planet to patent many inventions on Earth, and rises as the head of a technology-based conglomerate to incredible wealth. This wealth is needed to construct his own space vehicle program in order to ferry the rest of the Anthean population.
Along the way he meets Betty Jo, a simple Kentucky woman. She falls in love with him. He does not share these feelings, but takes her, and his curious fuel-technician Nathan Bryce, as his few friends while he runs his company in the shadows. Betty Jo introduces Newton to many customs of Earth culture, amongst them church-going, fashion, and alcohol. However, his appetite for alcohol soon invokes much emotional instability, as he is forced to deal with intense human emotions with which Antheans are unfamiliar.
His secret identity as an alien is discovered by Nathan Bryce, but Newton, aware that he has been discovered, is relieved to reveal his identity to someone for the first time. The Antheans he will ferry to Earth will flourish and hopefully make use of their superintelligence to influence Earth to peace, prosperity, and safety from the apocalypse.
However, the CIA arrests Newton, having followed him since his appearance on Earth and having recorded this private conversation with Bryce. They submit him to rigorous tests and analysis, but ultimately find that, despite much conclusive evidence of his alien identity, it would be pointless to release the results because the public would not believe the truth. Such claims would also reflect poorly on the Democratic Party, responsible for the capture. The CIA releases Newton, but no sooner than he tries to exit his building, the FBI, uninformed by the CIA that Newton is exempt from further tests, commences their own brief examinations. Their final examination is ultimately an X-ray of Newton's skull, through his eyes. Newton, whose eyes are sensitive to X-rays, tries to stop them to no avail and is blinded.
The story of Newton's blinding reaches the press in a frenzy and then is used by the Republican Party to depict the Democrats as being corrupt, and leads to their seizure of power, which is to inevitably lead to apocalypse.
Newton, in a final confrontation with Bryce, is bitterly unable to continue his spaceship project due to planetary alignments having changed during captivity and the troubles of his blindness. He creates a recording of alien messages which he hopes to be broadcast via radio to his home planet.
James Sallis declared that The Man Who Fell to Earth was "among the finest science fiction novels," saying "Just beneath the surface it might be read as a parable of the Fifties and of the Cold War. Beneath that as an evocation of existential loneliness, a Christian fable, a parable of the artist. Above all, perhaps, as the wisest, truest representation of alcoholism ever written."
- Tevis, Walter (1963). The Man Who Fell to Earth (2005 ed. ed.). New York: Del Rey Books.