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More Than Human Paperback – December 29, 1998
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Winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and International Fantasy Awards
About the Author
Theodore Sturgeon was born in Staten Island, New York in 1918. He lived in New York City, upstate New York, and Los Angeles. In addition to More Than Human, winner of the International Fantasy Award, he is the author of Venus Plus X; To Marry Medusa; The Dreaming Jewels; and numerous other books and stories. He won the Hugo and Nebula Awards for his short story "Slow Sculpture" and the World Fantasy Life Achievement Award. He died in Eugene, Oregon in 1985.
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Perhaps when we think about science fiction, in general, we may still get lost. Even today, there are well-regarded writers in that genre, of great literary stature, who are due for a wider audience. In the case of Theodore Sturgeon, I am certain that, once a follower of his work, there is no turning back. What “More Than Human” achieves is nothing less than to inspire the reader. Its very purpose is to do just that.
The case is made, in a dazzling way, in favor of humanity. All of humanity, in one form or another, is brought up for your consideration. The very notion of humanity is stretched and pulled. We find characters who are clearly living subhuman lives. As in a fable, these characters, at first, seem less than real except, as the story builds, they compel you to turn the page.
What exactly is going on is something we won’t know for some time to come. All we know, at first, is that we have some characters in distress. They’re in a compound in a secluded forest and their very humanity is in danger. But light keeps breaking the dark. And a battle ensues between light and dark. Sturgeon makes us hope for the characters and then gives us reasons to hope for them and well beyond the characters themselves.
Further into the story, one locale will give way to another and one character’s journey will blend with another. Or, as is more to the point, we see key characters who not only blend with one another. They will “blesh” with one another. In fact, our key characters will blesh into something greater than the sum of their parts. And, thus, the title of the book.
Sturgeon provides a seemingly spare and direct style that percolates with fanciful word choice and description. It’s a sturdy narrative with consistently elegant turns. In that way, the pathos of a village idiot, or an insensitive man, or a vulnerable young woman, is best evoked.
“More Than Human” is about some most unlikely misfits who together form the next step in human evolution. Like anything worthy of being a classic, it is so much more than just that. It is more in the way the story unfolds and what it has to say about all of us. It’s more in its determination to express such goofy, yet essential, idealism. Published in 1953, it was ahead of its time in its inherently quirky approach. But, in the years to come, Sturgeon wasn’t exactly obscure to the general public. For instance, he wrote two of the most beloved episodes of the original Star Trek television series. "Amok Time" is the episode where Mr. Spock first displays the Vulcan hand salute and first says the Vulcan motto, "Live long and prosper." All thanks to Theodore Sturgeon.
When Kurt Vonnegut caught the limelight, he helped to add to the growing acknowledgement of Sturgeon. Those in the know, always held Sturgeon in the highest regard. Just give Vonnegut a careful read and you’ll see for yourself. There is a recurring character in the Vonnegut universe named after Sturgeon. His is name is Kilgore Trout.
The beginning is quite eerie, fantastic and suspenseful. Six extraordinary people with strange powers “blesh” (sort of a blending and meshing) their abilities together, and are able to act as one organism. Leading to a next step in human evolution.
I like it a lot now, rereading as an older adult. I like "More Than Human" enough to put it in my top three science fiction books "ever", along with "The Stars My Destination" and "Stranger in a Strange Land" (unabridged version).
The first section begins with a delightful BDSM alluded to play with words, reminiscent of a lurid pulp detective magazine cover, unfortunately not continued for the rest of the book. In the middle section we find a bit of '50s psychology that is not shown to be of high value in the current peer reviewed published literature. But you can get that from Googling. If you understand Peter Gabriel's "Digging in the Dirt" video you'll have no problem with it, a disturbing concept, I do however know people who report a lot of benefit from working with it. Then there's the Gestalt stuff, which I have an irrational belief in. These are the greatest caveats IMO.
*Spoiler Alert* Theodore Sturgeon drops the ball in the ending, apparently with no clear understanding of principled morality he falls back onto promulgating a fascist law and order rule based system. So a great idea is there, just not properly executed, shades of KT, alas, but reading between the lines still gives a satisfying ending *End Spoiler Alert*.
If you like your science fiction a bit dark but not overwhelmingly so, without fairies, cyberspace, or cutting edge physics, I highly recommend "More Than Human".