Martians, Go Home by Brown, Frederic, 1955

Martians, Go Home by Brown, Frederic

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Frederic Brown is one of those mid-century pulp writers who I see reflected in a lot of Philip K. Dick's works, not only because both authors wrote very fast to keep ahead of the bills, and because they both managed to put out some quality works while doing so, but because they both use humor and sarcasm very well. Brown's works are full of good hearted sarcasm while I think that Dick's works tend to be comparatively darker, but both of them managed to make a pretty big mark on the genre during their careers, and both of them are again in critical and popular ascendancy. Martians, Go Home is a light satire of the SF genre, and a pretty good read to boot. Three out of five stars (though many include this work as an important landmark in the development of the genre - In France this book is supposedly bigger than Jerry Lewis).

Martians, Go Home tells the story of a down-on-his-luck SF writer named Luke Devereaux who has left Los Angeles and locked himself in a remote cabin in the California high desert in the hopes that he will get past a debilitating writer's block. While brainstorming his book, and drinking most of a bottle, a LGM (little green man) appears on his doorstep and knocks to come in. Devereaux soon learns that one billion of them have teleported to Earth from Mars to conduct sociological experiments on humans, all of which involve spying on people and being as aggressively annoying as possible. They have the ability to teleport (called Kwimming) and have perfect night vision and x-ray vision, they call everyone "Mack" and "Toots," and get a perverse pleasure out of watching our "disgusting mating habits," while cheering or booing. The tactics of the Martians are so aggressive that the economies of the world basically collapse. Nothing can get done because they keep Kwimming in and shrieking or standing on desks. Unfortunately, every effort to push them aside fails, and humans hands just pass through their bodies. The Martians also seem to enjoy confronting people, especially speakers at meetings, with the literal truth. Their teleportation and x-ray vision make virtually any document, anywhere in the world available for them to compare what is said by anyone they overhear. At one point Devereaux realizes that SF will never sell again, and decides to become a counselor to help other people deal with the invasion. At the first meeting with Dr. Forbes, the psychiatrist who will train him:

[Forbes] glanced down to look at his notes; the new Martian was sitting on them. He reached a hand though the Martian and slid them to one side; the Martian moved with them.

Forbes sighed and then looked up at the class. "Well, it looks as though I'll have to talk without notes. Their sense of humor is very childlike."

He leaned to one side to see better around the head of the Martian sitting in front of him. The Martian leaned that way too. Forbes straightened, and so did the Martian.

"Their sense of humor is very childlike," Forbes repeated. "Which reminds me to tell you that it was through the study of children and their reaction to Martians that I have formulated most of my theories. You have all no doubt observed that, after the first few hours, after the novelty wore off, children became used to the presence of Martians much more easily and readily than adults. Especially children under five. I have two children of my own and --"

"Three, Mack," said the Martian on the corner of the desk. "I saw the agreement you gave the dame in Gardenia two thousand bucks for, so she wouldn't file a paternity suit."

Forbes flushed. "I have two children at home," he said firmly, "and..."

"And an alcoholic wife," said the Martian. "Don't forget her.

Forbes waited a few moments with his eyes closed, as though silently counting.

The ending of the book is nothing like one would expect. Brown never tells the reader exactly what is going on, and in fact has three different parties who have undertaken plans to rid the world of the Martians, all of which conclude at the exact same moment so the reader never really can say for sure. But Brown points towards Devereaux's subconscious and implies that Devereaux dreamed them all up as part of the SF novel he was brainstorming, and some part of his will made them "real." But since the prolonged encounter with the Martians has actually driven just about everyone insane (including Devereaux who spends the last 1/3 of the novel in an asylum), it is virtually impossible to really tell what was real and what was imagined.

This novel was one of the SFWA choices as one of the best and most revolutionary works produced before that organization came into being in the late 1960's, and I think it was an OK choice. Brown's work here is a very interesting look at solipsism and the power of the mind, but as you can maybe tell, there is not too much to really say about it. In the end, it was enjoyable, but I will probably not read it again. In the end the work actually is a pretty funny criticism of the state of the genre too; at least in the mid 1950's when this was published. It also relies on a SF author as its protagonist, which is in my opinion a hallmark of Brown's better works. This thing is pretty much pure pulp enjoyment, but it is loads of fun and should appeal to just about anyone who likes SF genre work.

Copyright 2008, Gregory Tidwell

Reviewed by GTT · Rating Rating of 3 star(s)

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