A Review of The Day the Martians Came

The Day the Martians CameThe Day the Martians Came by Frederik Pohl

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I like Frederik Pohl, on average, but this book is below average. It’s not even much of an attempt at sci fi — just loosely related to it. It starts out rather promisingly, with some crashed astronauts finding an underground Martian “Macy’s” and ultimately some real Martians. These Martians end up being a little disappointing though, as they’re merely seals with legs. At this point, the novel loses any credibility it had to begin with. Although we’re never told how this transpires, the next thing we know is that the astronauts have somehow communicated with the Martians and have convinced them to get on their spaceship so they can return to Earth together. Um, how did this happen Mr. Pohl? Seems to me this would be pretty major to the plot, but again, it’s never described. What then happens in this novel is a series of virtual stand alone short stories are related about people who are anticipating the arrival of the Martians several months from now, all in their own ways. Very loosely tied together. I guess some of the stories are moderately interesting, but aside from the rare mention of Martians, none are actually sci fi — just generalized stories about humanity in its different forms. You have a Russian tour guide who wants to get to America, a brainwashed cult member trying to get handouts for his cult, a Hollywood screenwriter, etc. The only other time the Martians are really brought into the book is at the end of the “novel” upon their impending landing on Earth, when all of a sudden, we’re given the Martians’ point of view — they refer to us as “humans.” How would they know to do this? They don’t speak; they touch each other for communal language. How did they ever learn to call us humans? I have no idea. With the whole planet watching, they land, then everyone leaves to go back to their lives and Pohl tries to bring the characters from the shorts into play here to tie everything together, but it seems like a really weak effort and thus the book fails. It’s really not very good, and as far as sci fi goes, it seems a failure to me. I love Pohl’s short stories and some of his novels, but I can’t recommend this one.

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