Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Martians, Go Home

Fredric Brown Martians, Go Home (1955)
I'm not sure quite what I expected with this one based on the somewhat iconic Frank Kelly Freas cover and title, but whatever I expected, the novel has surpassed by a large margin. The Martians have landed, and it looks as though they're planning to stick around; but rather than the traditionally warlike, martial, inhuman, or otherwise hostile invaders from the red planet, this lot are best described as a massive pain in the arse. No wall, locked door or other barrier can keep out these literally little green men, and no-one knows quite why they're here, only that their snide observations and continuous mockery are most unwelcome; and they address everyone as either Mack or Toots depending on whether you're a guy or a broad.

Martians, Go Home is a weird novel but a very funny one, a satire - albeit a satire without any one specific target, excepting possibly the science-fiction novel itself. Thankfully it's entirely free of alien visitors as metaphor for Communist hordes, or any of the other stuff which preoccupied the less-imaginative writers of the fifties. These Martians with their toxic opinions so freely and widely shared might represent something like the self-doubt of the collective unconscious, and perhaps Brown was therefore taking a pot-shot at our propensity for believing any old shit; but I may be over-thinking this angle, and it could simply be Brown taking a pot-shot at the propensity of science-fiction authors to write any old shit - particularly given that the main character is himself an author of science-fiction.

There's probably no way of going into further detail without giving away the ending, although if I've hinted at a certain recursive quality wherein characters understand themselves as interred within novels - well, it's not quite like that, although you might be forgiven for thinking otherwise. Martians, Go Home isn't some lost post-modern classic, and may even be designed to leave you feeling slightly foolish for entertaining such a notion; but it's thought-provoking, very funny, and reads roughly like Kurt Vonnegut as played by a James Cagney wiseguy; which is good.

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