E.T. and The Book of the Green Planet: A Review

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I can say with absolutely zero irony that no other book has ever made me feel the feelings that this book has brought unto me in these past five days.

Let’s start with a question: What Exactly is E.T. and the Book of The Green Planet?

From what I can tell, it is basically E.T. fanfiction, and that isn’t meant to be taken as shady, but is factual. This book was not written by anyone creatively involved in E.T.: The Extraterrestrial the motion picture, but rather a man by the name of William Kotzwinkle, the same great mind that also brought us such literary classics as: Doctor Rat, Trouble in Bugland, and Walter the Farting Dog. 

What I understood upon ordering this book was that it was technically the only sequel to the aforementioned motion picture and that Spielberg gave it the green light to be published in mass. The plot, therefore, is meant to be taken as canon in the E.T. universe (or multiverse, but we’ll get to all that).

I had assumed that because E.T.: The Extraterrestrial is a kids’ movie, E.T. and the Book of the Green Planet would be a kids’ book.

I had assumed wrong.

This was hard to read. The language was dense, and oftentimes I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on. While I did manage to get it read in five days, I had to buckle down. It wasn’t something I was able to just speed through passively like I had thought. Maybe children are just smarter than I give them credit for.

In reading this book you can tell that Kotzwinkle is very unconcerned with actually furthering the plot of the story in E.T.: The Extraterrestrial. While the characters Elliott, Michael, Gertie, and Mary all have their own subplots, the plots are empty and flat. Elliott is primarily concerned with impressing a girl named Julie, Michael wants to make the football team, Mary wants a husband, and Gertie is only concerned with being a little girl, I guess. In this entire 245 page book, these characters probably get around twenty combined pages total and the rest of this book is completely dedicated to dishing out some really complicated lore about E.T.’s home planet, which is referred to only as “the Green Planet” (thus the title).

The plot of the story picks up exactly where the movie leaves off with E.T. traveling home on the spaceship with his fellow botanists. The reader quickly learns that E.T. has become disgraced due to his misadventures on Earth, which leads to him being demoted from Doctor of Botany: First Class to lowly farm worker. The reader also learns E.T. comes from a planet where all the best plants in the universe grow and most of them are sentient. 

The reader also finds out that E.T. actually comes from an entirely different universe than our own and in order to travel between planets, his people have to travel between what is referred to as “The Great Gateway,” which causes a warp in time. So, while no time passes for E.T., four years have passed on Earth, making Elliott roughly fourteen.

Throughout the course of the book, E.T. (who is referred to as “E.T”. throughout the entirety of the novel, even though it can be assumed that “E.T.” is not actually his given name) harbors a rather unhealthy obsession with Elliott, whom he believes is the ruler of Earth. Multiple times throughout the story, E.T. sends little tiny telepathic clones of himself back to Earth in order to try to get Elliott’s attention, but every time, E.T. either messes up the trajectory of the clone, or Elliott is too busy trying to impress a girl, Julie, to notice the tiny little alien men trying to get his attention. By the end of the story, it starts to feel like E.T.’s worship of Elliott is like a theist worshiping their god, and it’s unsettling to say the least.

Aside from that, Kotzwinkle attempts to cram so much lore about E.T.’s home planet into such a relatively short novel that it becomes just plain confusing. Among this lore, some notable E.T. facts are as follows:

  • There are three stages to the E.T. growth cycle: Little with no neck, little with a neck, and tall.
  • E.T.’s home planet is ruled by E.T.’s race, which is never named, but sometimes the tall ones are referred to as “Mind Havers,” though before this race came to power, the planet was ruled by a group called “The Dark Lords,” or sometimes “The Princes of the Underworld,” who are rock/garlic/mushroom people who have been forced to live in caves.
  • The fingers of E.T.’s people only glow after they have accomplished a great deed.
  • E.T. doesn’t actually know how to fly, it was just a coincidence that he was able to do that on Earth, probably because in this book, flying would help him get out of a lot of trouble.

Do I think this book should have been longer to accommodate the endless amount of E.T. mythology? No, because I probably wouldn’t have finished reading it.

Do I think that maybe this would have made a better book? Maybe, but what I really think would have saved this book was to just write a book about a different alien on a different planet.

Aside from the lore and the mythology, this book is also chock full of half-hearted references to the movie, just to remind the reader that this is, in fact, a sequel. Like the one scene in which E.T. brews beer in order to get a different alien drunk in order to convince him to assist in the theft of a space ship, or E.T.’s constant use of “Earth lingo,” with such flavorful phrases repeated as “buzz off,” “all zonked,” “wasted,” and “beat it.”

Anyway, in trying to analyze this story academically, I was trying to understand what the bigger underlying message of the novel was, and not to reveal too much, but I think this might be just another bible allegory where E.T. is Jesus and Elliot might be God…

Would I recommend this book to a friend? I don’t know.

The prose wasn’t awful, the words flowed together in a way that could almost be considered literature, but it’s also E.T. fanfiction. So, if you hate yourself and you find some sort of sick masochistic enjoyment from ingesting not great media as I do, then yes, I would recommend this book. But if you want meaningful text that makes you feel like a better person for reading. No. Don’t read this book. 

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Lia is a senior here at New England College and hails from Denver, Colorado. She is studying Creative Writing and Philosophy.
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Patrick Johanneson

“This book was not written by anyone creatively involved in E.T.: The Extraterrestrial the motion picture, but rather a man by the name of William Kotzwinkle…”

Note, though, that William Kotzwinkle wrote the novelization of E. T., so he was at least a little bit involved. Both novels are similar in tone.

George Lindsey

This was my favorite movie as a kid!!! I love this article! Made my night!!