Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Martian Child by David Gerrold

The Martian Child
by David Gerrold

“The Martian Child” is based on the true story of Gerrold’s adoption of his son. Every adoptive parent can relate to the fear that the adoption agency will find the adoptive applicant lacking in some way, and he does a good job of running the reader through all the paperwork, the outside reading he did, and the overwhelming bureaucracy potential parents deal with. But in Gerrold’s case he was also dealing with being an openly gay man trying to adopt a foster child who had a large agency file outlining the boy’s many emotional and behavioral issues. His family, friends, and even the agency try to talk him out of this particular boy, but Gerrold is convinced this is the child for him. Afterall, the boy thinks he’s from Mars, and Gerrold is a science fiction writer – peas in a pod.

Told with humor and poignancy, we follow Gerrold through all his paperwork, and the home visits with the child, and after several weeks the boy is allowed to move from the foster home to Gerrold’s home on a trial basis. Eventually the honeymoon phase of their relationship passes and Gerrold has his hands full with a fearful boy with low self-esteem who has been dumped by his mother when a toddler, and abused at every foster home. Dennis is now acting out constantly by stealing and lying, and deliberately breaking things at every opportunity.

Gerrold is at his wit’s end but is determined to stick with his promise to this boy to never fail him. It is very moving to watch Gerrold work through these issues as he realizes his motivation for this adoption is to build a family, and family sticks. This revelation suddenly makes everything fall into place.
Most amazingly, a large number of children available for adoption announce that they are from Mars. They relate the exact same story of how they have arrived at earth, what their mission is, and that they will be returning to Mars. As he methodically presents his facts about this phenomenon the hair on the back of your neck will rise. SPOILER ALERT. If I didn’t know that this story would have a Happy Ending, knowing Gerrold writes sci fi and having grown up on Twilight Zone, I would fully expect this tale to end with Gerrold ineffectively chasing a Martian ship that has reclaimed his son.

Gerrold’s off-beat sense of humor and his slightly skewed views on everything he observes makes this book very enjoyable. It’s a quick read at 190 pages, and has a sweet epilogue.
David Gerrold won a Hugo in 1995 for Best Novellette, “The Martian Child,” which appeared in “Fantasy & Science Fiction” magazine in September, 1994. He expanded the story into this novel which was published in 2002. A movie based on the novel, “The Martian Child,” was released in 2007 starring John Cusak, but be aware the movie changes the father’s orientation to that of a straight widower.

[ official David Gerrold web site ]

Recommended by Charlotte K.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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