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AuthorGene Brewer
CountryUnited States
GenreScience fiction
PublisherSt. Martin's Press
Publication date

K-PAX is an American science fiction novel by Gene Brewer, the first in the K-PAX series.[1]

The series deals with the experiences on Earth of a man named Prot (rhymes with "wrote").[1] It is written in the first person from the point of view of Prot's psychiatrist.

K-PAX was adapted into a theatrical film of the same name, released in 2001.


  • K-PAX (1995)
  • K-PAX II: On a Beam of Light (2001)
  • K-PAX III: Worlds of Prot (2002)
  • K-PAX IV: A New Visitor from the Constellation Lyra (2007)
  • K-PAX V: The Coming of the Bullocks (2014)


In 1990, a man is picked up by the New York Police after being found bending over the victim of a mugging at Grand Central Terminal in midtown Manhattan. After responding to the police questions with somewhat strange answers, he is transferred to Bellevue Hospital for evaluation. Although not physically ill, he is found to harbour the strange delusion that he is from a planet called K-PAX in the constellation of Lyra. The patient, who calls himself "prot" (intentionally lower-case to reflect the insignificance of an individual life form in the universe), is eventually transferred to the Manhattan Psychiatric Institute (MPI), where he becomes the patient of Dr. Gene Brewer.

Prot (capitalized here to begin a sentence) is extremely fond of fruit, including banana skins and apple cores, which he eats during each session. He tells Brewer that he is 337 Earth years old, that he has visited Earth often, and that on this visit he has traveled to most of the world's countries for the past four years and nine months. He exhibits a sense of humor: during their first session, he says to Brewer, "But don't worry - I'm not going to leap out of your chest,"[2] an allusion to the film Alien. Brewer discovers that prot is also a savant who possesses arcane information about astronomy that excites a group of astronomers who meet him. Prot states that he possesses at least rudimentary conversational knowledge of most human languages as well as the languages of animals, including whale song, and the apparent gibberish of some of the patients with schizophrenia.

Though prot's dialogue is usually satirical, he turns out to be highly suggestible, and easily hypnotized. Once Brewer learns this, he begins more serious therapy.

Brewer, with the help of a journalist named Giselle Griffin, discovers that prot may be Robert Porter, whose was traumatized by the murder of his wife and child, and his subsequent killing of the perpetrator, and that prot may be an alter ego resulting from Dissociative identity disorder. Brewer speculates that the name prot is derived from Porter's surname.[3]

When prot "returns" to his own planet, Robert Porter is left in a catatonic state. However, Bess, another patient prot had promised to take with him, disappears along with a box of souvenirs prot has been collecting.

Prot promises to return in "about five of your years."


K-PAXian is the term used in the books to refer to the inhabitants of the planet K-PAX. Their language is pax-o. In the book, all knowledge of K-PAX and its attendant species comes from the character prot.[4]

In the books, prot notes that Jane Goodall, John Lennon, Henry David Thoreau, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Albert Schweitzer are among the most K-PAXian (famous) humans on Earth.

K-PAXians' forefathers were something like worms and lived in the ground, whereas humans' forefathers were fish and other aquatic beings.


The conditions on the planet K-PAX are used in the books to explain a number of Prot's oddities.[citation needed]

K-PAX is seated far from the two stars it orbits: K-MON and K-RIL. Thus, K-PAXians experience an eternal dusk as K-PAX orbits in a helix around the two celestial bodies. Unlike the Sun, they are not main sequence stars. From the descriptions in the novel it is assumed that they are protostars nearing their inevitable collapse. The constant phase shift of light on K-PAX and the lack of light made it necessary to evolve the ability to detect shorter wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation, i.e., ultraviolet. This explains prot's need to wear his sunglasses in all but very dim conditions. In the book, when prot is questioned as to why a K-PAXian appears human on Earth, he responds, "Why is a soap bubble round?" He explains that K-PAXians appear human because the humanoid form is the most efficient shape to explore the planet. The method of reproduction of the dremers, the term used to refer to prot's species, unlike human sexual intercourse, is considered extremely unpleasant, due to the pain and offesnive smells it entails, among other unpleasant sensations. Prot is completely uninterested in flirtation. Prot can age to a thousand years, like his parents, who are in their late six-hundreds. Prot's age contributes to his knowledge base, and on Earth, prot is considered a savant, although it is never specified whether dremer intelligence is inherent or a result of K-PAXian society. Prot makes it clear that dremers make every attempt to improve and disseminate their understanding of truth. Prot ultimately communicates that sentient beings on K-PAX have such a universal awareness of life that it would seem a majority of human endeavor is benign, but he is excited for humanity because of its potentially positive future that would result if it disregarded its primitive misconceptions of its surroundings.


Among dremers, sex is considered unpleasant, speciesism has been eliminated, and eating meat is never considered, with veganism the preferred diet. Dremers do not domesticate other species, such as the ruli species, or amps, the worm beings. There are no formal governments or laws, and there is no crime. Despite this, dremers are non-destructive, non-violent, and live in peace. Dremer society lacks schools or religion, as the notion of "gods" is seen as illusive and religion a form of false conformity. Dremers reason with those beings who engage in destructive or immoral behavior, although such instances are extremely rare. All K-Paxian life, from worm-beings to dremers, are regarded as civilized parts of the planet's community. Jokes and games are seen as obsolete on K-PAX, as life on the planet is considered to be fun and interesting without them. By contrast, Prot opines that humans do not have a good sense of humor. K-PAXians enjoy time with meditative walks in the woods, community needs, the arts, scientific inquiry, conversation about ideas and information, and journeys to other planets.

K-PAXians are far more technologically advanced than humans. There are no major cities on K-PAX, though the planet is home to a number of large library-type structures for the dissemination of knowledge. K-PAXians have no fixed abode and instead live a nomadic life, traveling between settlements where necessities such as food, clothing are stored. Dremers do not work in fixed occupations, as day-to-day tasks such as cleaning, infrastructure maintenance, and harvesting food are handled by all dremers when they need to be done. Children may or may not know their parents, because they are raised in a communal fashion. Dremers view all beings with great compassion, though they do not develop strong interpersonal bonds.

Prot likens humanity to children, though he mentions that it has recently arrived at a minor stage of planetary evolution. The K-PAXians arrived at "K" on an alphabetic development-scale (A-K), meaning perfect stability and peace, whereas Earth is a class "B" planet. Class "A" planets used to be "B" planets but were destroyed by their own inhabitants.


Despite living a fairly agrarian lifestyle, K-PAXians are highly technologically advanced. They have the ability to travel faster than the speed of light both around and between planets. K-PAXians have developed computers with complete holography. These computers engage all senses and reproduce events of the history of K-PAX or other inhabited planets. K-PAXian villages contain laboratories in which the components of herbs and other plants are analyzed for medicine, resulting in cures of every existing ailment. K-PAXians do not need to synthesize these components into new products, as they have mastered chemistry to gain any needed substance directly from the plants. They do not have the need to create genetically new forms either. K-PAXians use two types of solar energy, having moved beyond their previous use of bacterial decay, gravitational energy and muscle force as energy. Prot describes Nuclear Fusion and Solar Energy as the only viable types of energy, as together they balance out each other's side effects. Prot warns Gene Brewer about the use of nuclear fission, informing him that it creates too much dangerous waste product.


The 2001 film K-PAX was directed by Iain Softley and is based on the first book in this series. Kevin Spacey portrays Prot, and Jeff Bridges plays the psychiatrist.[1]

K-PAX was made into a stage play, also written by Gene Brewer, and has been performed at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre,[5] directed by Victor Sobchak.[6] In 2010, the play made its North American debut at The Geneva Underground Playhouse in Geneva, Illinois directed by Eric Peter Schwartz.[citation needed]


Booklist called the novel "fascinating".[7] Psychiatrist Allan Beveridge wrote that the novel is a good example of "why psychiatrists should read fiction", saying that it shows "how to approach moral quandaries and decision-making".[8] Science fiction scholar David Ketterer compares it with the novel Star-Begotten by H. G. Wells.[9] Reviewer Michael Berry wrote, "There aren't many possible denouements for a book like this, and Brewer steers a middle course between the extremes of outright fantasy and predictable mundaneness. K-PAX displays the mildly off-putting attitude found in such movies as Rain Man and Forrest Gump, that we all can learn so much about ourselves from the simple-minded, but one can't deny that some of the story's episodes are genuinely funny and touching."[10] Reviewer Lisa Koosis wrote that Prot "is one of the more extraordinary characters found in current science fiction" and that the author, "without actually having the characters set foot on another planet, manages to bring an alien world to life".[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Scott, A. O. (October 26, 2001). "K Pax (2001) FILM REVIEW; Now Arriving on Track 10: The 3:15 From Outer Space". The New York Times.
  2. ^ Brewer, Gene (1995). K-PAX. New York: A Wyatt Book for St. Martin's Press. p. 7. ISBN 0-312-11840-6.
  3. ^ Brewer, K-PAX, p. 219.
  4. ^ Brewer, K-PAX, p. 6: "I discovered in due course that prot tended to capitalize the names of planets, stars, etc., but not those of persons, institutions, even countries. For the sake of consistency, and to better depict the character of my patient, I have adopted that convention throughout this report."
  5. ^ "Act Provocateur New Writings". Archived from the original on 2008-08-27. Retrieved 2008-07-07.
  6. ^ Waites, Aline. "Ham & High reviews". Hampstead and Highgate Express. Archived from the original on 2008-10-08. Retrieved 2008-07-07.
  7. ^ Beatty, William (March 1, 1995). "K-PAX". Booklist. 91 (13): 1177.
  8. ^ Beveridge, Allan (2003). "Should psychiatrists read fiction?". British Journal of Psychiatry. 182: 385–387. doi:10.1192/bjp.182.5.385.
  9. ^ Ketterer, David (July 2009). "The "Martianized" H.G. Wells?". Science Fiction Studies. 36, Part 2 (108).
  10. ^ Berry, Michael (March 12, 1995). "Thrillers, Killers and the Cosmos". San Francisco Chronicle.
  11. ^ Koosis, Lisa (July 6, 2006). "One Remarkable Journey: A Review of "K-PAX"". www.rusbiz.com.

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