Book Review: “Down to Earth” by Andrew Crowther

You have to know something before we start this review: Andrew Crowther is probably the greatest living W.S. Gilbert scholar, and has written numerous biographical and literary analyses of the great Victorian dramatist.

I, having become a Gilbert fan at a young age, have been reading Crowther’s writings since I was about 14 years old. And since then, I’ve come to realize that besides being a great critic and Gilbert biographer, Crowther is also a fine writer in his own right. And Down to Earth is a good example of why.

This book is a satire, but not so much in the Gilbertian vein as it is in the tradition of another favorite author of Crowther’s (and mine): George Orwell. It takes an initially utopian science fiction concept, a lunar colony, and gradually uses it to examine concepts like governmental power, freedom of expression, and racial prejudice.

The book addresses these issues in a number of clever ways, especially through my favorite character, Mr. Thark, a bitter and often deliberately offensive literary critic who nonetheless has some essential core of kindness which he tries his best to conceal.

Actually, I could say a great deal about this book, and the way it handles thorny concepts. Like freedom of expression, for instance. Should people have it? They should, right? But what about for things that are really, really offensive? Specifically things that come under the now nearly-forgotten doctrine of “fighting words”? And this leads to another question, which is who gets to define what constitutes fighting words? It all puts me in mind of a certain Frank Herbert quote.

But I can’t go into too much detail about these things, for to do so would be to spoil the book. And it really is a good story, with a likable protagonist whose goodhearted naïveté makes your root for her from the beginning, and creates an interesting dynamic between her and Mr. Thark.

Needless to say, I highly recommend this book. It’s a thought-provoking Orwellian satire that explores many current issues. And, Crowther is a fantastic writer who deserves to be widely read.


  1. Another good review. This is a complex subject.

    A common perception of ‘Freedoms’
    ‘I’ have strong beliefs and have the right to voice them.
    ‘You’ are misguided and should listen.
    ‘They’ have dangerous views and should be supressed

  2. Good review as always. I clicked on the Herbert review and got hit a problem with a false claim that Microsoft was blocking it and wanting me to call a number. Been burned once before on this crap.

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