Martians, Go Home
by Fredric Brown
Originally published E. P. Dutton (1955)
Republished by Gateway (2011)
Luke Devereaux is a struggling science fiction writer reeling from a recent divorce. Unable to come up with an idea for his next novel, he borrowed a shack in the middle of nowhere from his friend and stayed there to concentrate on his work. All of a sudden, a Martian — a little green man, opaque yet unable to be handled physically in any way — appears in his shed and drives him absolutely crazy. When the Martian leaves and he tells other people what he saw, he learns that a billion Martians had come to Earth and were annoying the hell out of everyone.
This is Martians, Go Home, an alien invasion story unlike any other.
Martians, Go Home features Martians coming over to Earth and…annoying as many people as possible. No flying saucers. No burning cities. No glorious human resistance against the extraterrestrial foe — just a bunch of Martians driving everyone to madness. While people could move through them with no ill effect (they can’t manipulate things physically except through speech), they also could not be harmed by any weapon or device, and they teleported wherever they pleased, popping up at the most inappropriate moments. Through this alone, they had entirely reshaped human society, eliminating war (no more military secrets), crime (Martians love to snitch), and even live entertainment (lots of people meant lots of Martians.)
Thus, this story, despite the economic depression caused by a total collapse of an entertainment industry harried by Martian interference, approaches its subject with great humor and joy; you always wonder what the Martians would try next. There is no angst about how the Earth is doomed or how humanity is on its last legs (because it isn’t); everything remains lighthearted as Luke and other people try to figure out how to live with the little green men. Even the parts dealing with the mental patients come off as cheery; it was as if the author meant for this to be the opposite of stories like The War of the Worlds or The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Indeed, the theme of “humanity helpless against a superior alien race” — a core feature of the above-mentioned stories — was handled in a way that wasn’t overly serious or mean-spirited. True, humanity couldn’t harm them, but they couldn’t harm humanity, either. Failed diplomacy resulted in practical jokes and rude comments, not orbital bombardment. The inability to keep secrets led to the end of war, not the beginning of one. You come away from the book feeling happy, not depressed.
For its humor, its short length, and its lighthearted approach to its subject — especially in light of modern stories that trade on darkness and bleakness — I strongly recommend this book.