Walter Tevis – Author of The Queen’s Gambit

Apologies for the lack of posts, life got the better of me for a while there, but I’m feeling inspired today to attempt a short one.

What happened to inspire me was: I got one of those moments that make you shiver with delight and anticipation. You know, the moment when you hear that your favourite book has been put on screen. That was when I heard Netflix had created a series based on The Queen’s Gambit.

Except I’ve never actually read the book. But I still got the shiver – knowing that they were screening something I’d been meaning to read, from one of my very favourite authors, Walter Tevis.

In fact I’ve only read two books by Mr Tevis, but sometimes that’s enough, you know? Because I’ve never read before, or since, two such achingly beautiful, heart-rending books of literary sci fi. That is: “The Man Who Fell to Earth”, 1963, and “Mockingbird”, 1980.

It’s hard to describe these books, or to explain why they mean so much to me. On the face of it they have a simple science fiction premise: one is about an alien trying to integrate into earth society to achieve a secret goal; the other presents a gentle dystopian future in which human society is collapsing into drugged listlessness, matched by the hopelessness of an intelligent robot who cannot die.

What makes these books stand out are that despite the “otherness” of the characters (the alien, the robot) they have a completely relatable level of underlying existential angst. You can sense that they are deeply driven in their actions by the big questions all of us ask ourselves sometimes. What is the purpose of life? How do we decide what is the right or the wrong path? Should we strive for pleasure or achievement? How far do we go and how much are we willing to sacrifice to achieve our aims?

So I’m now watching The Queen’s Gambit and enjoying it immensely. Not only pleased to see it touching on the very same themes, but greatly enjoying finding them displayed in a relatable human, female character.

Plus the sixties decor, the drugs, the music, and especially the clothes! Great stuff.

Will they ever make a film of Mockingbird, I wonder?

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