BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A single science fiction writer adopts an eight year old boy who thinks he’s a Martian.
PROS: Touching premise; fun writing style; it’s short so you can read it in one sitting.
CONS: Dragged slightly in the middle when the focus shifted from the adoption to wondering if Dennis really was a Martian.
BOTTOM LINE: A very good read. Recommended.
In the semi-autobiographical story, based on Hugo and nebula award winning 1994 novelette, David Gerrold tells the touching story of a science fiction writer that adopts an eight year old boy who was the victim of child abuse. The boy, Dennis, insists he is a Martian. The story describes the first two years of the adoption.
This story emotionally grabs you quickly and won’t let go. You can tell that Gerrold is drawing on his real-life experiences by the detail and realism he gives to the adoption process; the doubts, the fears, the joy and the pain. It’s a powerful and touching story that will tug at the heart strings of most people and definitely any parent. The story swerves a bit off target in the middle when the father starts believing that the boy might really be a Martian instead of just reacting to the unfortunate circumstances of his childhood. But, it is supposed to be a science fiction story after all.
There are numerous references to Gerrold’s real life in this story. The first picture of “Dennis” described in the book just has to be the one posted at Gerrold’s website. And several references are made to Gerrold’s other books, the Chtorr series, the Star Wolf books, The HARLIE stories, etc. The mentions of The Man Who Folded Himself even poke fun at the retro-fashionable picture of the author. There is even a footnote about Theodore Sturgeon (both Gerrold and Sturgeon wrote for the television show Land of the Lost) and some advice he gave Gerrold on writing. And since it was brought to my attention, I realize the things I like most about Gerrold’s writing are the same things I like about Sturgeon’s writings. It’s the way he phrases things, the images he conjures, the clear, crisp descriptions. He even describes (and mimics) his writing process for when the HARLIE stories included the dialogs with the AI; my favorite parts. This insight makes it clear to me why those parts succeeded for me – it’s because Gerrold was essentially using his keyboard to have a thought-provoking, introspective dialog with himself.
I might also say that this story reminded me in some ways of Gene Brewer’s K-Pax. Both stories are about someone claiming to be what they may or may not be. Both authors draw on their own lives to flesh out a main character. Both are light on the science fiction and draw emotional tales. And both are excellent.
The Martian Child is an enjoyable book that I whole-heartedly recommend.