Thomas Jerome Newton (played in the 1976 film by David Bowie, whom I picture while reading) is an alien visitor to Earth, sent by his people as a last resort to save his race. Their planet, Anathea, has been devastated by nuclear war and has a severely limited supply of water. Upon landing in Kentucky, Newton disguises himself as a human, and with his superior intelligence and advanced technology from home, he patents several inventions, slowly amassing great wealth as the head of World Enterprises Corporation.
Written from the alien perspective (which I imagine was new and unique for the 1960s), Tevis emphasizes Newton’s loneliness and constant physical suffering on our bright and heavy world. He eventually meets a lower class alcoholic, Betty Jo, whom he hires on as a maid, and Nathan Bryce, a current employee, to whom Newton becomes close. But its his off/on relationship with alcohol that is the heart of Newton’s story.
The novel captures a quiet sadness, the slow tragedy of a man’s life and his failures. Newton’s story is of an alien who succumbs to a very human tragedy. One of the great feats of scifi is the creation of empathy for someone so different, and The Man Who Fell to Earth executes that concept beautifully with its honest portrayal of government bureaucracy, and alcoholism.
An often overlooked classic. Recommended for scifi fans who feel the pang of existential loneliness.
“As for the plan itself, he did not know what to think, and as a consequence he hardly thought about it at all.”