I've just read THE MARTIAN CHILD, by David Gerrold, the basis of the movie I mentioned here a couple of weeks ago. I like the movie better, surprisingly. (I usually feel movies don't measure up to their book sources.) What I enjoyed more about the film were the quirky Martian-like behaviors Dennis performed. In the book, he's more of a mundane troubled little boy, aside from his claim to be a Martian. The concept of a "Martian wish," however, features in both the book and the movie, and in the book it plays a critical part in the very touching resolution at the end. The novella by the same title published in the 1990s in THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION allows a lingering ambiguity as to whether Dennis is really from another planet. Both the novel and the movie make it clear that his Martian identity is a delusion (or a conscious pretense?) and a metaphor. Still, I find it a compelling metaphor, and one factor unique to the book that appeals to me is the author's memory of his own sense of isolation in childhood—because of being "the smallest and smartest"—along with his dream that someday the aliens would come and take him to his true home and people. Many of us share that childhood fantasy, especially those who read speculative fiction. At least, I know I strongly identify with it!
Like the film, the novel comes to the conclusion that we all begin life as "Martians" who need to "learn to be human." It's a quick read and yet emotionally engaging. Although this book is marketed as fiction, apparently it stays very close to the author's actual experience in adopting his son. It doesn't give any information on how far the story departs from the actual events. As one of the online comments I read asks, why did Gerrold bother to fictionalize it at all? Why not straight autobiography? I haven't come across the answer to that question.