Friday, March 25, 2011

To Be Or Not To Be

Stuck on Earthby David Klass, Farrar Straus Giroux, 2010, 240 pages, ISBN: 0374399511

"I have no plans to ingest you.  I also do no intend to try to impregnate you," says Ketchvar III to Tom Filber.  Tom's terrified response is "Take my sister."  And so begins Ketchvar's hilarious, exciting adventure on Earth.  From the peaceful planet Sandoval IV, Ketchvar is on a mission to determine whether humans should be allowed to continue existence or whether they should be wiped out by the Sandovians' Gagnerian Death Ray.

Ketchvar has chosen Tom's body to inhabit because he thinks Tom is an average 14-year-old human in good health with above average intelligence.  Instead, Ketchvar discovers that Tom is a geek, called "Alien" by his peers, who loathe and torment him.  Henry David Thoreau said that "most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them," and Ketchvar learns that this seems to be Tom's lot in life.  His family is dysfunctional, and his school's main purpose is to condition students "to accept mediocrity as their birthright and drudgery as their lot."  If that's not depressing enough, the school psychologist suggests that Ketchvar is not an alien, but rather a bullied boy playing out an empowerment fantasy.  So strongly has he begun to identify with his human host, Ketchvar is no longer sure what he is.  And the thought occurs to him:  "a human who has to pretend he's an alien is the lowest of the low."

Is Ketchvar really an alien or is he Tom acting out an alien fantasy?  Is the human race worthy of planet Earth?  Will Tom, like his father, lead a life of quiet desperation, or will he sing his song?  David Klass has written a highly entertaining story of aliens and misfit adolescents.  I am not usually a fan of stories about bullies, as they tend to be rather melodramatic and not so much fun, but then, inevitably, I read one that I enjoy immensely, i.e.  The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian or The Outsiders.  To that list I now add Stuck on Earth. 


  1. I just didn't care for this one - maybe because I'm not a fan of alien stories? Why do they all seem to want to come and destroy us? Aren't there any nice aliens out there? :) -T

  2. That's a good point. Probably not enough conflict with the nice ones. I think kids would like this one though. My question for you is: Is he or isn't he? Email me on that one, as I don't want to give too much away publicly.

  3. I don't have to wait for e-mail - I read this one so long ago, I can't even remember what I thought at the time. It could be one of the reasons I disliked the book though - I have never been a fan of the open ended story. The only one I've really loved is Life of Pi. Sorry. -T

  4. Life of Pi? I haven't read that one, so I'm adding it to my reading list.