I went to visit my local library, which recently expanded it’s fantasy/science fiction section, and I wound up going home with this strange little 80’s artifact.
It’s hard to explain the whole “E.T.” phenomenon to kids of today (by contrast, tell them how much you loved “Star Wars” and they are with you immediately). I wonder sometimes if “E.T.” was ever even meant to be a children’s’ film. Looking back, my sister and I weren’t really that into E.T. – but our Mom was and it’s still one of her favorite movies. In any case, had the film been released today a sequel would be inevitable.
In 1983, “E.T.” never got a film sequel (though I could make a decent argument that “A.I.” is a spiritual sequel; it’s been a while since I watched either movie though). Instead, some years after the fact and with all the hype of a film sequel, we got this weird book. Indeed, it was hyped as an event; took up an entire issue of The Electric Company Magazine even. And yet, nobody seems to remember it. Having sat down and read it, I think I know why.
By the way, Kotzwinkle?
Wait… Oh my God…
The Best Parts:
Page 1 – And we’re off! Really, this picks up right before the film’s end-credits.
Page 6 – E.T. is from another Universe?
Page 11 – Oh, that sucks.
Page 14 – What do you mean plants aren’t awesome?
Page 16 – Oh man, E.T.’s planet is full of New Age hippies.
Page 20 – Perhaps they are that way because the supporting cast of this novel includes jumping trees.
Page 26 – Er… Wait… E.T.’s species is biologically asexual?
Page 27 – And they live inside giant gourds that are illuminated by big grubs who eat plant pests and give off light as a waste product. Yeah…
Page 28 – So E.T.’s great crime, the thing he did that everyone on the Green Planet is giving him crap for, the thing that got him demoted from his ship’s crew, was looking for help from the natives of Earth. Help to get home. As far as I can tell, because nobody ever sits down and explains anything in this book.
Anyway, you wanna blend one of those stress-relieving herbal sachets for me, E.T.?
Page 30 – Enter the Flopglopple. It is a vaguely ferret-like creature so named because he resembles “a pile of gray floppy socks” with six-hundred vertebrae and three legs like a tripod. And he is very fast and agile.
I am having the damndest time visualizing this.
Page 32 – And this is where, and I am not even kidding, E.T. starts stalking Elliott telepathically. Elliott, meanwhile, has started to get interested in girls. Each of E.T.’s attempts at contact gets interrupted when Elliott encounters this one girl, Julie, on whom he has a crush. And since E.T. keeps misunderstanding things and getting confused by this, eventually he starts to give off the impression not only of a creepy stalker but of a really jealous ex! Way to ruin our childhood memories, Kotzwinkle.
Page 40 – I get the sense Kotzwinkle bookmarked the glossary of his high school science textbook and threw random words in whenever he needed something technical-sounding. Never mind what they meant.
Page 43 – I disagree. The volcano tree was totally badass.
Page 53 – Next time I chew bubble gum, I’ll have to look for this Wizard.
Page 63 – Hey, Botanicus, this wasn’t some kind of awkward Dumbledore/Grindlewald thing was it?
Page 70 – Man, a whole planet of horticulturalists and E.T. has to import the idea of beer from Earth.
Page 75 – Yay modems!
Page 83 – Is it me or is Flopglopple not a name that suggests extreme speed?
Page 88 – Speaking of names, here are two names you can trust!
Page 92 – Based off E.T.’s behavior and his intense obsession with getting back in contact with Elliott, I’m starting to wonder exactly what E.T. and Elliott were doing in all the scenes we didn’t see.
Page 111 – “Let’s meet the… soup?”
Page 116 – Is this really Mary’s story after all? (Mary being Elliott’s mom.)
Page 124 – When did these guys ever say they were pirates?
Page 125 – I can’t help but feel that Earth will be tremendously disappointing for these three. (See “Classic Quotes”.)
Page 129 – So this is the Green Planet version of Emo.
Page 142 – Granny Aching’s sheep liniment?
Page 154 – So now the Flopglopple can climb up his own tentacle-like arms. On his three feet. I need a Wayne D. Barlowe drawing of this thing stat.
But since he’s not available (Nessie whips out her Sketchbook…):
Yeah, this still does not say “extreme speed” to me.
Page 159 – 42. There, I saved you 600 years.
Page 161 – I’m hoping the answer that the ancient plant Antum Tadana provides for E.T. is, simply, “Smoke me.”
Page 165 – This subplot is starting to drip with HoYay.
Page 168 – And Gertie’s Chrysanthemum became a vicious invasive species that overtook the entire planet!
Page 172 – Good God, Mary. How lonely are you?
Page 194 – Dragon Salad?
Page 197 – At this point, I’m surprised they aren’t riding the hopping tree up the mountain.
Page 202 – “Eenie Oonie Wanah!!! Eenie Oonie Wanah!!!”
Page 221 – Snork Johnson.
And that character’s a human!
Page 228 – Aww.
Page 231 – Ladies and gentlemen, the Flying Turnip.
Page 243 – Hey, I was wondering what happened to those guys.
Page 245 – Awww… Wait, what? That’s it?!
OK, I can’t help but think that the sequel to this story would be a hell of a lot more interesting (highlight for spoilers): E.T. arrives on Earth with his home-grown flying turnip and bizarre compatriots — and finds Elliott with a girlfriend…
Classic Quotes and Excerpts:
“He stared dully out of the porthole for a long time, his mind automatically arranging and filing all that he knew of Earth, principally its language, which he’d nearly mastered thanks to Elliott. He had chug-a-lugged the words, and could tee off any number of them, like a real shot-hot.” – Page 2 (Unfortunately this sets the tone for the whole darn novel.)
Computer: “Did you meet the ruler of Earth?”
Computer: “Elliott is the ruler? How old is he? Has he ten-thousand years?”
E.T.: “He’s ten.”
Computer: “Ten? And he rules?”
E.T.: “With his brother Michael, who is also called Penis Breath.” – Page 18
“There are some Green Planet scientists who say that Flopglopples are… very wise. However, this has never been proven, as Flopglopples enjoy giving silly answers on intelligence tests.” – Page 31
“She (Mary) couldn’t let them fall back into fantasies about E.T. Their life was on Earth, not out in space.” – Page 118
“Sinistro cast a sharp glance at his companion but said nothing. However, thought Sinistro, when the time comes, we shall see who rules the Boardvark, from a pogo stick. Wearing the helmet of Foot, and decorated in bicycles.” – Page 125
Things I Learned from this Book:
* – You can be an ordinary person who has had an extraordinary encounter with a higher intelligence from another planet as a child. And you can grow up, after that encounter, to be completely unchanged by the experience and really, really boring.
* – Geraniums like having their leaves stroked. (Well, they are fuzzy leaves, but wasn’t Gertie’s flower a Chrysanthemum?)
* – Perfectly blended Ambrosia is no match for candy and beer.
* – Plants can survive in a star.
* – You water plants through their knotholes.
* – Ethereal beings of pure energy, who do not even have a physical form unless they need one, still need to eat.
* – Lizards like to bask in thought.
* – Plants in a very hot, volcanic environment will probably evolve into what amounts to an organic jetpack. Because why the hell not?
* – There are conventions for everything.
Things That Can Save Any Book:
Cool Creatures? An insane variety of what amount to Plant-Animals ex Machina.
Creative Ideas? I can’t say I’ve ever seen a flying turnip before.
Memorable Character? All of the new characters are actually pretty annoying.
Memorable Setting? The Green Planet is very trippy.
Nifty Illustrations? No illustrations, but I seem to recall another copy of the novel that did have illustrations.
Drinking Game Potential? Drink when you run into a new character with an irritatingly cutesy name (seriously, Snork Johnson?)
Jordan visiting another planet in a flying turnip propelled by organic jetpacks.
E.T. The Book of the Green Planet, written by William Kotzwinkle, based upon characters created by Steven Spielberg. Copyright 1985 to MCA Publishing Rights. Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, NY.
ISBN #: 0-399-13063-2
Topless Robot – A list of “The 10 Most Baffling and Horrible Pieces of E.T. Merchandise (Other than the Atari Game)”, which reminded me that this book exists.
January Magazine Review – Written after the film’s re-release.
Wikipedia entry – For “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial”, which gives quite a bit of information about the film’s spin-offs.
“E.T. 2: Nocturnal Fears” – I’ll warn you, this is a PDF file. But I wouldn’t make you load a PDF file if it wasn’t totally worth it. This is allegedly a nine-page treatment for an “E.T.” film sequel that was seriously considered for… maybe a month. You’ll see why when you read it; I honestly don’t think it’s real. It reads too much like a parody of the “Darker and Edgier” trend. If it IS real, good God! (Note that it has nothing to do with this. [Nightmare Fuel warning].)
Teacher’s Guide – Yes, it’s another PDF file but, again., it’s totally worth loading. If only to prove to you one sad, sad little thing I learned when I was student teaching: There is a Teacher’s Guide for it. No exceptions. (This isn’t as bad as the “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers” teachers’ guide I found, but…)