Monday, December 12, 2011

Martians, Go Home (1955) by Frederic Brown

This has to be one of the most hilarious science fiction novels ever written. Frederic Brown (1906-72), who had spoofed space opera with What Mad Universe in 1949, returned a few years later to write the perfect alien invasion novel, Martians, Go Home. Brown was in rare form with this book. It was the triumph to his prolific writing streak in the 1950's.
Luke Deveraux is a failed writer specializing in science fiction who's decided to shack it up with a friend in the desert so he can work on another book. He's also failed in his marriage and is smarting from the divorce wounds. One morning, after suffering from the latest drunken binge, he awakes to find a little green man at the front door. Thinking this is the result of too much alcohol he makes his way to a nearby diner only to discover there are little green men everywhere. Earth has been invaded.
But this isn't the usual 'People Of Earth" invasion. The martians, and there are millions of them, have come to earth not to conquer, but to amuse themselves. They can teleport anywhere they want and see through objects. But anyone who tries to kick a martian finds their foot going through empty space. The martians have no material substance.
Mass chaos breaks out as humanity has to concern itself with little green men who appear everywhere, making fun of people. The entertainment industry goes into a slump since it's impossible to produce anything when the martians teleport in and start making comments. A psychologist trying to conduct a seminar dealing with the aliens finds himself reduced to a gibbering mass. When a martian appears in his office, it begins revealing secrets about his personal life.
Even primitive tribes suffer. They can't easily hunt wild game when little green men show-up and start scaring off the quarry. And everyone hears the martians make insults in their native tongue.
Sexual activity nearly draws to a standstill. No one wants to make love when a little green man is likely to appear in their bedroom and start laughing.
Although the over-riding issue of Martians Go Home seems to be about privacy and secrets, the novel also discusses solipsism towards the end of the book. Luke Deveraux suffers a shock and becomes one of the few people on the planet who can't see the martians. From here, he begins to wonder if the martians were created by his own imagination. It's an issue which the book never really resolves, down to the authors own postscript where he points out: "I invented Luke. So where does that leave him or the martians? Or any of the rest of you?"
I'd like to answer, but there's this little green man who keeps telling me to type faster.

1 comment:

  1. I've only read the short and nasty stories of Brown's, particularly Nightmares and Geezenstacks and Honeymoon in Hell. I'll review him myself, one of these days.