Walter Tevis, writer known for “The hustler” or “The color of money“, wrote also a couple of science fiction novels.
The three novels, two science fiction ones, I comment below were written during the writer’s alcoholic period or in the following detoxification one: they consequently reflect the emotive status of the writer, some of his thoughts are transposed in the novels main characters (in particular concerning the former and latter novel).
In order of publication time:
– The man who fell to Earth
– The queen’s gambit
For the science fiction non lovers there is the third, beautiful, novel.
The man who fell to Earth
A person similar to human beings but different from them, this is Thomas J. Newton, billionaire genius inventor of innumerable patents.
His body may be different, but his emotions are similar to the human ones: being so far from home and surrounded by people unable to comprehend him cause melancholy and sadness.
Tevis is able, by means of the science fiction alien theme, both to express the ’60 fears, the auto desctruction terror and to talk about diversity, a characteristic shared by the main characters (and by other characters from Tevis novels).
Newton is like a man but he’s different, so he is unable to integrate between humans; to endure his fails he will start drinking (another trait that can be found in other works by this author), this behaviour is carried on also by the characters that are most fond of Newton, so the ones that are less integrated in the society.
Overall a beautiful novel using science fiction as a way to speak about men.
Only the mockingbird sings at the edge of the woods
In the future, men, relying on robots, are bonded to a total respect of privacy and in need of searching their inner beings, they are alone; the outcomes of this situation are, as extreme gesture, people fire making themselves.
The novel follows the stories of three very different characters: Bentley who, having learned to read, became conscious of the history of men, Mary Lou who, not taking downers, is aware of the desolation around her and Spofforth, the last series 9 robot, built upon human memories and who will not ever die.
The meeting of these three and their experiences allows the comprehension of the destiny awaiting humans and maybe to find a feasible solution.
The novel is well-built also because, unlike other science fiction novels, the characters are well described and the psychological and emotional components are important in the course of narration.
The queen’s gambit
The title, The Queen’s Gambit, is taken from a chess opening and it’s important because it introduces both the main character, Beth, both one of the opening that will mark her career.
The novel is about Beth, an orphan, who learns the game of chess at 8 years old thanks to the keeper of the orphanage where she lives.
Beth is a chess prodigy, but she has an extremely fragile personality, due to the lack of love in her childhood and to her insecurities; since her childhood she is addicted to downers (provided by the orphanage to sedate children) and then she will gain the drinking habit.
Tevis does not tell about an easy life: the games are hard, in particular when Beth faces the Great Master and the psychological tension sometimes hinders the protagonist. The novel teaches that in chess, as well as for other activities, the talent is not enough: dedication, commitment and lot of work are needed to success.
The novel is beautiful, thanks also to the ability in describing Beth’s character; Tevis must have love the game of chess (there are some chess books also in Mockingbird), because he is able to make the reader love them exalting the strategies, the surprises and the violence.
* The man who fell to Earth by Walter Tevis ★★★★☆½
* Mockingbird by Walter Tevis ★★★★☆
* The queen’s gambit by Walter Tevis ★★★★★
*I read this book in Italian