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E Pluribus Unicorn [Hardcover]

Theodore Sturgeon


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting Mix May 31 2005
By Dave_42 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
"E Pluribus Unicorn" is a collection of 13 short fiction stories from one of speculative fiction's best known authors. There are no science fiction stories; instead there is a mix of horror and fantasy. The stories were written between 1947 and 1953 and with the exception of one story were all published before in a variety of the magazines from that era. In addition, there is an "Essay on Sturgeon" written as an introduction to the book, by Groff Conklin.

Most of the stories are very good, and two of them have been recognized recently by the SF community. "The World Well Lost" was awarded the Spectrum Hall Of Fame award in 2004 (In a tie with "Slow River" by Nicola Griffith, and "Swordspoint" by Ellen Kushner). "A Saucer of Loneliness" was nominated for the Retro Hugo for short stories (eligible in 1953) which were given out in 2004. The remainder of the stories are also worthwhile reading.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Horror is beautiful. Beauty is horrible. Oct. 28 2008
By E. A. Lovitt - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
These thirteen short stories (published between 1947 and 1953) by Theodore Sturgeon are stamped with his own unique blend of horror and beauty. At the height of his popularity in the 1950s he was the most anthologized author alive, although now he may best be known for his two `Star Trek' episodes, "Amok Time" and "Shore Leave." Among the SF/Fantasy authors who acknowledge Sturgeon's influence on their own writings are Ray Bradbury and Harlan Ellison. The author Sturgeon reminds me of is Jerzy Kosiñski, who is best known for his novel, "The Painted Bird"--not because they wrote about the same subjects, but because they both forced their readers to acknowledge that beauty can be horrible and horror can be beautiful.

Take your time with these stories. Sip their strange wine.

"The Silken-Swift"--A unicorn must choose between a beautiful virago who is technically a virgin, and a woman who was raped by one of the virago's frustrated suitors.

"The Professor's Teddy-Bear"--A monstrous teddy-bear feeds on a little boy's dreams of his own future.

"Bianca's Hands"--A man falls in love with a mentally handicapped woman's hands.

"A Saucer of Loneliness"--A flying saucer seeks out the lonliest people on Earth.

"The World Well Lost"--Two aliens who are deeply in love with each other must be returned as prisoners to the planet of their origin. What horrible crime have they committed?

"It Wasn't Syzygy"--Gloria meets the man of her dreams, then rejects him for a hunk who probably spits and scratches at his crotch in public. What happens to the dream guy?

"The Music"--A page-and-a-half story that might be the murderous dream of an inhabitant of an insane asylum.

"Scars"--A tale of sexual frustration as told by a cowboy riding fence with his partner.

"Fluffy"--A cat-hating bunco artist and a cat discuss their individual philosophies of life. Pity the woman who loves both of them.

"The Sex Opposite"--A newspaper reporter and a forensic pathologist attempt to solve the murders of two lovers in a park. Another tale of `syzygy.'

"Die, Maestro, Die!"--Very atmospheric tale of a road band and the man who hated its leader.

"Cellmate"--A con gets a new cellmate who speaks in two different voices.

"A Way of Thinking"--Kelly's kid brother is dying of multiple obnoxious diseases. What will Kelly do when he learns who is murdering the boy? Sturgeon used his own background as a sailor in the merchant marine to great effect in this story.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Perfect Specimen of Sturgeon June 29 2010
By cha cha - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The very first Sturgeon story I ever read was, oddly, 'The Silken-Swift' which is also the first story in this anthology. It was in a tattered copy of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction from 1953. I was drunk, and sitting in the Horseshoe Lounge in South Austin, Texas, sipping spiced rum and diet coke, not feeling like socializing, and so I read. Not knowing what to expect, but also knowing the side stories about Sturgeon-- the Star Trek, and him being the soul of Kilgore Trout --I began a story that was like nothing else I have ever read under the guise of Science Fiction.

Most people call Sturgeon "speculative fiction" or "fantasy" but what Sturgeon is, in reality, is "Literature." His manipulation of words is on par with Nabakov and his understanding of human nature and emotions is beyond the restraints of a genre label. That first story was a doozy. From what I've read later, it was considered the beginning of his "golden" period, where he found his stride and became more than just a pulp writer. However, later excursions into the Sturgeon library led me to what really should be just a basic alien-life-form-inhabits-killer-machinery story, the legendary 'Killdozer.' If you haven't read it, or have, but not recently, go back, the prose, the poetry of prose, so to speak, is present even in the lovingly detailed descriptions of operating heavy machinery, and the basest of plotlines.

But back to 'e pluribus unicorn.' In this volume, 'The Silken-Swift' is just the beginning, on a journey of utterly perfect Sturgeon stories, some short (2 pages) and some long, and all of them shine with one thing in common: They are all uncommon. Sheer beauty and sheer horror intertwined lyrically to the point where one cannot decide which is preferable. Wildly different from one another, they also show the true beauty of the genius of Sturgeon. He can write in any voice, in any style, befitting any situation, and still come across eloquent, even speaking in the muted language of an idiot, or the specialized vernacular of a big band musician. You are pulled in, toyed with, and the payoff is always worth it.

I give you no spoilers or plotlines. I give you nothing but perhaps, a passage from one of his own works in this collection:

" In your most secret dreams you cut a niche in yourself, and it is finished early, and then you wait for someone to come along to fill it-but to fill it exactly, every cut, curve, hollow and plane of it. And people do come along, and one covers up the niche, and another rattles around inside it, and another is so surrounded by fog that for the longest time you don't know if she fits or not; but each of them hits you with a tremendous impact. And then one comes along and slips in so quietly that you don't know when it happened, and fits so well you almost can't feel anything at all. And that is it. "

This is not science fiction. This is not fantasy. This is beauty.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This author reminds me of Jerzy Kosiñski Oct. 28 2008
By E. A. Lovitt - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
These thirteen short stories (published between 1947 and 1953) by Theodore Sturgeon are stamped with his own unique blend of horror and beauty. At the height of his popularity in the 1950s he was the most anthologized author alive, although now he may best be known for his two `Star Trek' episodes, "Amok Time" and "Shore Leave." Among the SF/Fantasy authors who acknowledge Sturgeon's influence on their own writings are Ray Bradbury and Harlan Ellison. The author Sturgeon reminds me of is Jerzy Kosiñski, who is best known for his novel, "The Painted Bird"--not because they wrote about the same subjects, but because they both forced their readers to acknowledge that beauty can be horrible and horror can be beautiful.

Take your time with these stories. Sip their strange wine.

"The Silken-Swift"--A unicorn must choose between a beautiful virago who is technically a virgin, and a woman who was raped by one of the virago's frustrated suitors.

"The Professor's Teddy-Bear"--A monstrous teddy-bear feeds on a little boy's dreams of his own future.

"Bianca's Hands"--A man falls in love with a mentally handicapped woman's hands.

"A Saucer of Loneliness"--A flying saucer seeks out the lonliest people on Earth.

"The World Well Lost"--Two aliens who are deeply in love with each other must be returned as prisoners to the planet of their origin. What horrible crime have they committed?

"It Wasn't Syzygy"--Gloria meets the man of her dreams, then rejects him for a hunk who probably spits and scratches at his crotch in public. What happens to the dream guy?

"The Music"--A page-and-a-half story that might be the murderous dream of an inhabitant of an insane asylum.

"Scars"--A tale of sexual frustration as told by a cowboy riding fence with his partner.

"Fluffy"--A cat-hating bunco artist and a cat discuss their individual philosophies of life. Pity the woman who loves both of them.

"The Sex Opposite"--A newspaper reporter and a forensic pathologist attempt to solve the murders of two lovers in a park. Another tale of `syzygy.'

"Die, Maestro, Die!"--Very atmospheric tale of a road band and the man who hated its leader.

"Cellmate"--A con gets a new cellmate who speaks in two different voices.

"A Way of Thinking"--Kelly's kid brother is dying of multiple obnoxious diseases. What will Kelly do when he learns who is murdering the boy? Sturgeon used his own background as a sailor in the merchant marine to great effect in this story.
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic collection of short speculative fiction. Jan. 5 2007
By frumiousb - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
E Pluribus Unicorn was one of the very first speculative fiction books that I had ever read. It became an immediate favorite of mine. I have lost count of how many times I have read it over the intervening years. Every time I read it, I find new favorites. I also always find something new to notice.

These are stories that have more in common with fantasy and/or horror than with traditional science fiction. I tend to look at Sturgeon as one of the ancestors of Slipstream, because despite the fantasy trend, he draws from nearly every subgenre in speculative fiction. "A Saucer of Loneliness" is a great example of his ability to powerfully mix his base ingredients.

I would recommend this to readers of any time and virtually any age. Although originally published in the 1940s and early 1950s, these stories have aged very well. The subject matter is complex, psychological, and often adult. This shouldn't hurt the experience of the younger reader, but they will take away different things than the adult Sturgeon fan.

Since Amazon doesn't list the stories in the volume, I'll do so here. An asterisk next to the list means that it is one of my particular favorites:

The Silken-Swift

The Professor's Teddy-Bear

Bianca's Hands

A Saucer of Loneliness (*)

The World Well Lost (*)

It Wasn't Syzygy (*)

The Music

Scars

Fluffy

The Sex Opposite

Die, Maestro, Die! (*)

Cellmate

A Way of Thinking

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