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Bear in mind also that this novel was written years before the film. The author Walter Tevis was sorely disappointed with how Hollywood completely butchered his original story.
The film was really just a vehicle to showcase Tom Cruise with Paul Newman and nothing much else. The book on the other hand is a deeper exploration of "Fast" Eddie that includes his childhood, a reunion with Minnesota Fats (yes, Fats is back!), and a desparate plan to come out from under a mountain of bills and broken dreams. The "Tom Cruise" character is actually a cocaine-sniffing, hyper-manic badboy/nememis NOT PROTEGE to Fast Eddie. And the pool action is many times more riveting than anything in that very often boring movie. This is not about glitz and glamor Hollywood style, it's about a desparate, aging man trying to reclaim what was lost and what was denied in order to redeem himself.
I first read this book as a teenager and was enthralled. If you liked the original Hustler, you'll love this, and if you didn't care all that much for the movie then by all means check it out!!! I also recommend Tevis' The Queen's Gambit. After back to back reads of Tevis chess and Tevis pool, you're guaranteed to be left reeling, drained, jolted, and then clamoring for more. But then of course sadly, Walter Tevis is a writer deceased. If only Hollywood could've gotten it right!
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It is a remarkable book. I have never come across another book that so succinctly explains the learning to read process. And of course, I look forward to a day when "Thought Buses" are cruising the streets. The ending is fantastic, one of the best! I urge anyone with a yen for unusual literature to read it if they can find one of those rare copies out there.
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The original novel opened with the Section Icarus Descending 1972, the revised version opens with Icarus Descending 1985. The second section of book is Rumplestiltskin, 1975, in the revised version this is 1988. The final section of the book is Icarus Drowning, 1976, and 1990 in the revised edition novel. Now this might not seem a bother at all really but here's where my qualm lies... The section called Rumplestiltskin begins in autumn of 1988. And in that December (not to spoil the plot) late on Christmas night, Thomas Jerome Newton, the protagonist of the novel confesses to the Chemistry professor, Nathan Bryce that he is in fact an alien visitor from another world. The following morning, Thomas Jerome Newton is taken captive by the American government and held for two months. It should be about February of 1989, or there about. However, he is interrogated, at the end of those two months, and the interrogator is commented as saying "It just happens that this is 1988. And 1988 is an election year." - (Page 180 of the revised edition of The man who fell to Earth.) Allowing this little flaw to slide, we move on. And Thomas Jerome Newton is carelessly blinded by his captors and for two weeks he is kept in a government hospital where nothing can be done to help him. The next section of book starts, Icarus Drowning 1990. This gives you the impression that it's at least a year later. However, according to page 197, the very first page of Icarus Drowning, it is only seven months after the end of Rumplestiltskin, let's see... From the end of 1988- Seven months, plus two weeks, plus two months, equals nine and and half months. At most it should be October of 1989. What happened to 1989? Perhaps I have not lived on planet Earth long enough but I'm fairly certain that nine and a half months is not a full year. A second thing I dislike about the revised version of The man who fell to Earth, is something that is missing from the original text. In the original novel, published in 1963, there is an allusion towards the end when Thomas Jerome Newton, our protagonist is compared to Winston Smith, the hero of George Orwell's Nineteen eighty-four. I had liked that. And I don't like that it is missing from the version currently in print. The man who fell to Earth is a wonderfully surreal novel but I just wish that someone would drop the revised version and go back to Tevis' original text from the American 1963 version. I know that it had been Walter Tevis himself to write the revisions for the novel (1976 in the UK and 1981 in the USA) but the fact is Walter Tevis had been an alcoholic and that might have impaired his reasoning when revising his novel. If anything, I feel that people should have the choice to read the original, classic, unabridged text, or the cut, shoddy, inconsistent, and overly politically correct revised edition. This novel is supposedly a science fiction classic and yet the only way anyone can actually read the whole, original text would be by buying a first edition from a used book shoppe or from ebay.com. And I think that it's a real shame, that other then seeking collectable stores or antique book markets, there is no way that anyone can really read the original book, which by the way, had consistent dates. It feels, in reality, almost like the horrific tragedy of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, that society, so obsessed with political correctness, have grown so very careless with it's "Classic" fictions. And we, as a result, lose out in beautiful works on fiction that shall, as a result, fade off in to oblivion, it's original content forgotten or painted over and we are left with cut and "revised" reprints which for all their gloss remain flawed with inconsistencies, bits and pieces missing, and abridgments. And these either insult us intellectually or give us to know that over all, our attention spans have grown so short as to not notice or care.
Ignoring the flaws and inconsistencies with the datings of the revised version of The man who fell to Earth (The only version that had ever been in print in the UK and the only edition available currently in America, since 1981), it is actually a very good, and intriguing piece of speculative- science fiction. And I just think that it's a real pity, a sin really, that no one has even tried to reprint the original, unabridged or non "revised" text for over twenty-two years, even in the USA where it was first published.
PROS: Excellent story with fascinating characterizations...poignant and memorable.
CONS: A revised edition that is not labeled as such
BOTTOM LINE: Fantastic! This is a classic that's worth reading now and re-reading every so often.
This is one the best science fiction stories I've read in a long time. It hooks you early and holds you to the unexpected end. I read this in two sittings and loved every page.
The alien, Newton, is likable from the start. His outsider's view of humanity and his assimilation are fascinating in content and in the way they are described by Tevis. The author judiciously uses characterizations to advance plot and vice versa. All of this belnds together to tell a compelling story.
I read the revised 1999 edition but own an older, un-revised copy. I personally don't think that the inconsistencies listed by other reviewers are a big deal, nor do they detract from the story in my opinion. I will, however, read the original version when I re-read this in the future. And I will be rereading this again...it's that good!
now, that i have read the book, however, i see the movie in a different light. first of all, i now find the movie somewhat more dissapointing. it doesn't stay true to tevis's wonderful novel. hopefully, whoever wrote the screenplay has either improved his skills or has found another line of work.
now, to the book...if ever you have felt lonely or out of place in your surroundings, which everyone in the world has, then you must read this book. it is a story of thomas jerome newton, an alien from the planet anthea, and his mission to build a space ferry so that he can transport the few remaining 'people' of his race to earth, for their planet is suffering from something like post-apocalyptic decay. In addition, newton plans to implement his race's knowledge of government workings into the governments of earth in order to save earthlings and their wonderful, water-abundant planet from certain destruction.
however, the government (cia, fbi) interfere with newtons plans, for they suspect that he is not of this planet, and arrest him, poke and prod him, experiment on him, then finally set him free but with nothing to return to...he is trapped on planet earth alone, with no real companions.
if you've seen the movie already, you know that it is rather difficult to explain. it indeed has many holes in the script, but the book indeed fills in these gaps.
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Amazingly, this novel soon went out of print. And stayed out of print for two decades. Now, at last, it's available again.
What's the fuss about? An eight-year-old orphan named Beth Harmon. Who turns out to be the Mozart of chess. Which brings her joy (she wins! people notice her!) and misery (she's alone and unloved and incapable of asking for help). So she gets addicted to pills. She drinks. She loses. And then, as 17-year-old Beth starts pulling herself together, she must face the biggest challenge of all --- a match with the world champion, a Russian of scary brilliance.
You think: This is thrilling? You think: chess? You think: Must be an "arty" novel, full of interior scenes. Wrong. All wrong.
I tell you: THE QUEEN'S GAMBIT is "Rocky" for smart people.
I tell you: You will care about Beth Harmon more than any fictional character you've encountered in years and years.
I tell you: You will grasp the wrench of loneliness --- and the power of love --- as if this book were happening to you.
Do you need to know anything about chess? Nope. Nothing. Tevis was a storyteller whose genius was to tell great stories; there's nothing between you and the people.
My bet: If you read five pages, you won't put it down. You too will weep. And cheer. And at the end, raise your fist like a fool for a little girl who never existed and a game only wimps play.
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