The Martian Child


David Gerrold, a science fiction writer whose reknown stems prinicpally from various Star Trek episodes, most especially "The Trouble with Tribbles," has written an interesting and occasionally moving novel concerning his real-life experience adopting a child.

Dennis, the child, is labeled by the child-care workers as "unadoptable." He has ADHD, he's been in and out of foster homes since he was taken from his abusvie mother at the age of three. In one case, at the age of four, he had to testify against the person who abused him.

Glancing through a book full of potential adoptees at a "fair" for adoption, David happens upon Dennis's picture and realizes that this is the child for him. He starts proceedings. At the initial interview, all goes well enough until near the end at which time one of the social workers says, "Dennis thinks he's a martian." Gerrold comes up with a response to this that is at once sympathetic and delusional. And so the book proceeds.

We hear mostly about the good times. The bad times are mostly relagated to little intervals between the triumphs. Frankly, this is all to the good. I'd rather hear about the breakthroughs than about how very difficult it can be. And there are a great many breakthroughs.

The story proceeds along a trajectory that injects some vaguely science-fictiony elements into the mix. We meet (in retrospect) Ted Sturgeon (one of the great writers and theorists of the Science Fiction world), Steve Barnes, and other science fiction writers of note.

The novel is about the power of love, and it is perhaps made more powerful by the fact that the events really occurred, that Mr. Gerrold's life is laid out for us, and that things have gone far better than one could possibly expect. The story is about the power of one attentive and dedicated adult to turn around the life of one very disturbed, very hurt, profoundly needy child. From this bundle of need emerges a person who is capable of love and attachment, a person who was always there but hidden by circumstance.

One caution for the scrupulous--Mr. Gerrold is a self styled "gay" or "bisexual" man. It plays remarkably little part in the story. but some may have objections. It did much to make me rethink any I might have been harboring.


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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on July 19, 2004 7:09 AM.

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