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.