Hank Gordon, a disillusioned teacher, returns to his home town of West Madison, Ohio to get an angle on Charlie Ellis for a big city newspaper. Charlie, the old man, has been sitting out on his front lawn awaiting the Martians invasion. Because the sinful world isn't getting any better, Charlie has quit the world and looks to the Martians, as beings of superior intelligence, for salvation. This un- newsworthy item in itself, plus reports of flying saucers spotted around the country by far-seeing citizens, has attracted crowds of curious sightseers to West Madison just waiting for something to happen. To squelch the flying saucer idea, the Air Force has sent Lt. McHenry, an incompetent man, to the scene. Mayor Cramer refuses to remove Charlie; the crowd swells, turns into a mob, incited by pranks and McHenry's hysteria, and generates its own panic which creates, for Gordon, Meg Cramer, and her 18-year-old brother the medium for their own painful catharsis. All three, no less than Charlie Ellis, were running away from life and they are forced by events to find their places -- Gordon as the teacher he was meant to be, Meg as a journalist and her brother as a responsible adult. This first novel is a well written but inadequate polemic against too many ""problems"" -- progressive education, Juvenile delinquency, bureaucracy, mass communication, etc. etc.