The Man Who Fell to Earth
By Walter Tevis
Walter Tevis taught English at university for a while, so if you want to identify him to some degree with the Anthean visitor Thomas Jerome Newton, for example reading it as “a parable of the artist” and the “truest representation of alcoholism ever written” (James Sallis), then also include the fact that Newton is a highbrow bookworm, even serenely perusing The Collected Poetry of Wallace Stevens at one point. He’s a man of letters, in a world he only learned about by listening to radio and watching TV. Is that where he went wrong?
Of course he’s also a Christ figure, except he’s all sacrifice with no redemption. Ending one’s days as a bitter and besotted hipster in Greenwich Village is no way to go, and Newton knows it. All he really has left is the ability to write million-dollar cheques. He’s Jesus as ATM, providing the shortest route to heaven.
It’s often said that today’s SF, with its dystopias, pandemics, and climate emergencies, has lost the optimism of the golden age. I think in 1963, when this book came out, SF was plenty downbeat. That a superior being falls so far by “going native” (that is, becoming human) is a damning parable. As for Nathan Bryce, he can take all that money and go to Tahiti and get drunk. Easy come, easy go.