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09 December 2009 @ 03:13 am
Revision Fail  

Revisions are bad, m'kay...

I am not sure if this counts as a book fail or just a revision fail. I happen to like the novel The Man who fell to Earth (adapted into a very hard to follow film starring David Bowie and a pilot for a never-aired TV series). But the revised version of the novel (the only version currently in print) is lacking...

The plot is about a frail, introverted, space alien, Thomas Jerome Newton, whom comes to Earth on a mission to save his dying people. His plan is to establish himself as a famous inventor, and form a major corporation he calls World Enterprises. (Think of Bill Gates and Microsoft.)

Newton's plan is to earn the money to secretly build a return space craft to secretly ferry his people to Earth so that they can take positions of power and secretly manipulate our society as to keep Earth from certain self-destruction as to not end up like their own world.

Newton's plan fails miserably when he falls into alcoholism, loneliness, despair and he makes the mistake of trusting a chemistry professor who is obsessed with him. He ends up captured by the US government who study him but because of his fame as the brilliant inventor they're forced to release him under the claim that he was helping with something that was a matter of national security but not before they 'accidentally' blind him.

I have found myself to be something of a fan of speculative fictions. And The man who fell to Earth by Walter Tevis has been, for a long time now, a book that I have grown to appreciate in what it says and how it expresses it, about the human condition through an inhuman perspective. And I happen to own an edition that was published in 1963, so you can imagine my disappointment when I bought a new copy and found the revisions, which were nconsistent.

Now, I agree that some 'dated' books are in need of revisions, however when this book was revised, The man who fell to Earth, it was left lacking in it's original believability by leaving inconsistencies in the dates of the novel.

The original novel published in 1963 was revised in 1976. By the year 1979 they had stopped publishing versions with the original text all together. By the way, the black movie tie in book is the original text while the while cover bears the first revised edition. Walter Tevis intended to revise the novel every ten years or so, so that it would always be set in the future however he passed away in 1984 so the revisions done in 1976 where the last ones made.

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 late on Christmas night, 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.) Allowing this little flaw to slide, we move on. And Newton is carelessly blinded by his captors and for two weeks he is kept in a government hospital. 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? I'm fairly certain that nine and a half months is not a full year. This book takes up just about four or five (Depending on how it's cut) or so years and yet there's a year unaccounted for. 1985, 1988 + 9 months = 1990?!? (It should be 1989, I should think) And yet the original version was cut like this- 1972, 1975 + 9 months = 1976. See what happened?

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 Newton is compared to Winston Smith, the hero of George Orwell's 1984. 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 1963. If anything, I feel that people should have the choice to read the original, classic, unabridged text, or the shoddy 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. And I think that it's a real shame there is basically no way anyone can really read the original book, which had consistent dates.

It feels almost like the tragedy of Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, that society, so obsessed with political correctness, have grown so very careless with it's 'Classic' fictions. And we lose out in beautiful works of fiction that shall 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, 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, it is actually a very good, and intriguing piece of science fiction. I just think that it's a real pity that no one has even tried to reprint the original, unabridged or non 'revised' text for over thirty years.

If you're interested in reading The man who fell to Earth by Walter Tevis I recommend that you go to Alibris or ebay and seek a copy from 1963 or the black avon edition from 1976. After that the only version left with the original text is a collectible hard cover edition from the late seventies that is very hard to find now.

asylumvoidasylumvoid on December 9th, 2009 06:05 am (UTC)
Yay! I actually found a 1963 one on Ebay, I never win auctions but I actually really want/need to read this book now, hahaha! Easily influenced!
lone_she_wolflone_she_wolf on December 9th, 2009 06:12 am (UTC)
Awww, I hope you enjoy it. If the ebay auction doesn't work out try www.alibris.com.

An easy way to tell if you have the original text is the first chapter will be 'Icarus Descending 1972.' The revised version is 'Icarus Descending 1985.'