Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Theodore Sturgeon's "More Than Human" (novel): "Homo Gestalt" is born to succeed "Homo Sapiens"!

This book has the curious tendency of turning up among top 5 of just too many "all time best sf" lists. And for a very good reason - it's a good book.

One way of looking at this novel is as a collection of 3 closely linked but otherwise independent novellas, titled

  1. "The Fabulous Idiot" (A)
  2. "Baby is Three" (A)
  3. "Morality" (B)
"Baby is Three" is the original story, initially published in October 1952 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction. Other two were slapped on a year later to turn it into a novel. Original story is narrated first person, other two by an all-knowing narrator. While I find the original story good, first one is much better, & third so-so.

I will be making separate posts for each of the 3 stories as I find time, & link from titles above. This post is to sum up the whole, & look at common issues.

Ostensible aim of the book is to look at one possible next step in the evolution of humans - a kind of hive entity of many independent humans connected telepathically, with one of them serving as sort of central control point. More importantly, it looks at humanity & its mental makeup - prejudices, idiosyncrasies, ... And makes a point that even the most undesired among us (socially, psychologically, physically) has something to contribute to make the whole richer.

In my reckoning, it's not quite a science fiction novel, even though it has telepathy, teleporting, antigravity, etc. They are side issues. This book should be looked at as general fiction - likely to appeal to audiences outside the sf fold too.

First part, "The Fabulous Idiot", is essentially a character portrait. Not of one individual, but of many. In fact, it introduces all characters that will appear in the novel - though the two subsequent sections will develop one character each in great detail. A lot of characters introduced here never make an appearance in subsequent parts. Very colorful & rich portrayal. Mostly negative characters, but the author manages to convey hope & possible deliverance, & sometimes makes you smile too.

"Baby is Three" is about a single super-successful psychotherapy session at a psychiatrist's office. In walks a 15 year old misfit who has just murdered a lady for being kind to him, & out walks a transformed evil telepath out to take his revenge on a world that has been unkind to him.

"Morality" examines, in detail, one of the victims of the evil man we met at the end of second part. But its end is very tame - villain repents his sins rather quickly after realizing the folly of his path.

Fact sheet.

"More Than Human", novel, review
First published: 1953. Original story, "Baby is Three" originally published in Galaxy Science Fiction, October 1952.
Rating: A
Related: All stories of Theodore Sturgeon.