3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of SF's most challenging, thought-provoking novels
Theodore Sturgeon's More Than Human is, quite simply, one of the best and most original science fiction novels of all time; it is also one of the more neglected classics in the field. This magnificent example of literary science fiction belongs on the same shelf as Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land and Alfred Bester's first two novels. I was already a Sturgeon fan...
Published on Aug 23 2003 by Daniel Jolley
3.0 out of 5 stars Not what I had hoped
I was so excited about this book. A unanimous five star rating! This is unlike most science fiction books in that it is not set in the future, thus there is no futuristic technology (except for one item), and the science fiction deals purely with the evolution of the mind. That's interesting enough and the story is a good one. It is the manner in which the story is...
Published on Mar 1 2000
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of SF's most challenging, thought-provoking novels,
This review is from: More Than Human (Paperback)Theodore Sturgeon's More Than Human is, quite simply, one of the best and most original science fiction novels of all time; it is also one of the more neglected classics in the field. This magnificent example of literary science fiction belongs on the same shelf as Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land and Alfred Bester's first two novels. I was already a Sturgeon fan before reading More Than Human, but even I almost scoffed at comparisons of this novel with the work of William Faulkner (my literary hero). Much to my surprise, though, there is indeed a Faulknerian aspect to this novel. The narrative radiates traces of stream of consciousness and moves quietly back and forth in time from place to place as it approaches the essence of a philosophical revelation from multiple levels. For this reason, you will most likely either love or hate the book, for its greatest strength is very likely, to some readers, its greatest weakness.
More Than Human is such a unique novel that some individuals may not consider it science fiction at all; the science wrapped into these pages is of the most abstract and philosophical sort, centering on the question of the future evolution of the human race. The novel is broken up into three very distinct sections, each division marked by a shift in both emphasis and viewpoint. Initially, it can be a little difficult to get your bearings after one of these jumps, but all of the pieces of this giant puzzle come together in the end; I would qualify this by saying that the ultimate resolution happens in the reader's mind and is not necessarily spelled out by the author on the final page. The novel features some rather surprising plot twists along the way, and sometimes the reader may think Sturgeon has wandered far off the beaten track. In a sense he has because More Than Human marks the birth of a new kind of science fiction; rest assured that Sturgeon knows exactly where he is going from page one.
The novel opens with a self-described and self-acknowledged idiot living the only life he has ever known, one of utter loneliness and nothingness. His one gift is an ability to make people do things for him by looking at them in a certain way. His encounter with a unique, incredibly over sheltered little girl in the woods leads to an early scene of great tragedy and a turning point in the young man's life. Lone, as he manages to name himself, is taken in by a farming couple and introduced to the life he had never known. Elsewhere, a young girl named Janie lives a life of unhappiness under the roof of her unfit mother. She has her own special gift, the ability to move things with her mind, and one day she comes to know a pair of black children who can disappear and reappear at will. All of these characters somehow find each other and begin to see themselves as something more than human after a mongoloid baby is added to the strange little family. Taken together, they are one person: Lone is the head, Janie and the twins are the legs and arms, and Baby is the brilliant thinker that only Janie can communicate with telepathically. What forms out of these interconnected lives is a new type of human being: Human Gestalt. Individual weakness is subsumed by group superhuman strength, but this new type of human is lonely and prone to make mistakes as it struggles to understand itself.
The three sections are all remarkably different, yet they work together in much the same fashion as the children to become something incredibly powerful. In broad terms, the first section describes the birth of Human Gestalt, the second section describes its search for a purpose in life and a reason for being, and the third and most important section addresses the ethical and moral ramifications of such a new type of superhuman. The novel is told with such subtle power and mind-numbing beauty that any description I attempt to make will not do it justice. This is thought-provoking science fiction at its best.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still Astounding 50 Years Later,
This review is from: More Than Human (Paperback)Okay, how many science fiction novels from the 50's have REALLY stood the test of time? 'More Than Human' is devoid of slimy aliens, ray-guns, faster than light travel, time machines, robots, or any of the other "stereotypes" non-sf people associate with 50's science fiction. Well, what DOES it have going for it? How about:
If you've only read a few sf writers from the 50's (such as Asimov, Clarke, Bradbury, Bester, Simak, etc.), expand your horizons with Sturgeon. You won't be sorry.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unbelieveable,
This review is from: More Than Human (Paperback)I am a teenage writer and I just got finished reading this book. the whole time I was like, "This is SF?!" Astoundingly beautiful, compellling, awesome. Rivals the best fantasy ever written. This is the level of greatness that takes years upon years of hard work to reach, and still most never get this good. Heck, I'm just going to say it.
This is the best science fiction novel ever written. If you are a writer of fiction--whether it be fantasy, sci-fi, or general--you must read this.
4.0 out of 5 stars Part 1 is set up for the more interesting parts 2 and 3,
This review is from: More Than Human (Paperback)Pros: parts 2 & 3 are brilliantly written with an interesting message, very diverse cast of characters
Cons: part 1 has several purposely obscure but important pieces of information, 1950s racial situations/terminology
This is the kind of book that makes me question my 'if I'm not enjoying it, stop reading it' policy. The book is split into 3 parts, and I actively disliked part 1 while finding parts 2 and 3 brilliant. Had this not been a review book, I would have stopped reading in part 1, which would have been a shame. Part 1 introduces the decently large cast of very diverse characters including a mentally handicapped man, a baby that won't grow, two black girls, etc. It does this by jumping from person to person, often giving descriptions via characters who see the world... differently. Lone, for example, is mentally challenged and only towards the end of the section does he develop speech and anything close to a 'normal' understanding of events. But his scenes are still written in an understandable way.
The author, however, purposefully obscured certain events in this part of the book making the reader guess what's going on. By the time you understand the situation, you have to go back and reevaluate what's happened. For example, there's a father who has secluded himself and his two daughters on a piece of land. It's easy to assume from things in the text that he's sexually abusing his oldest daughter. Or maybe he's just beating her to drive out her sexual awakening. Or maybe nothing abusive is happening at all besides the girls being locked up. Even after finishing the book I'm not sure which it was, though later events make me assume it's the second scenario.
The first section is set-up for the rest of the book, and the characters the author spends so much time introducing aren't as active in the other two parts (they're mentioned and shown in flashbacks in part 2 and only one of them shows up for any length of time in part 3, with the others having bit parts).
Modern readers will find a few scenes uncomfortable as 1950s racial prejudice is portrayed, including period terminology.
Parts 2 and 3 have a lot more suspense and drive behind them. While I felt like putting part 1 down and not picking it back up, parts 2 and 3 had me on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen next. The writing was clear, linear and the author tantilized you with bits of the answer at a time.
The ending was great and worth pushing through the first section to get to.
5.0 out of 5 stars Like X-Men from Faulkner,
This review is from: More Than Human (Paperback)Havine read the much-anthologized "Baby Is Three" multiple times, I've just read this entire "novel." Coming right on the heels of a very impressive revisit with Bradbury's _Martian Chronicles_, this book's dark and violent tone is very striking and well-crafted. Within the first 40 pages or so, there's incest and child abuse, S&M, suicide, telepathic idiots, child geniuses, and a young telekinetic girl. Set in what I take to be the 1950s, the book strikes me as what the X-Men would have been like if created by William Faulkner .... perhaps channeled many years later by David Lynch. This isn't typical science fiction of ANY era, much less the 1950s, when the genre was struggling against its pulp-action tendencies. Rather, this excellent book should appeal to readers of horror, gothic, and quality literature of the Burroughs and Bowles sort.
5.0 out of 5 stars The best and only book of it's kind.,
By A Customer
This review is from: More Than Human (Paperback)Damon Knight in his review at the time of the original publication said "It's a single story that goes from here to there like a catenary arc, hits one note like The Last Trump when it gets there, and ends. Ther's nothing more to be said other than it's the best and only book of it's kind. I'm damned if I'll explain it. Just read it."
The best writing science fiction has to offer. Theodore Sturgeon understood the human heart more than any science fiction author before or since.
I'm damned if I'll explain it. Just read it.
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing��.,
This review is from: More Than Human (Paperback)What a wonderful concept for this book, written by one of the "old masters" of SF, and a beginning that sucks you in and compels you forward....then drops you flat on your face where you pick yourself up and ask "Why did this book interest me again?" Starting off with well rounded characterizations, and prose that takes us rapidly into some very bizarre lives; it ends with flat, paper thin characters, dialogue that is stilted and surrealistic when it shouldn't be, and the knowledge that what should have been accomplished was not. The multiple characters had a compulsion to meld in the beginning, and in the end it is not even the characters we expected and they do not meld at all in my opinion, only mish-mash into a single character with a weak explanation of "themselves" as humanity. Pah! A mere 188 pages, this none the less took me three days to slog through. Save yourself the trouble and pass on this one.
5.0 out of 5 stars As good as William Faulkner,
This review is from: More Than Human (Paperback)I once had my English Professor at University , in the 1960's,
read this novel. And he said, "This is as good as anything Faulkner wrote."
5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly the best SF book ever...,
By A Customer
This review is from: More Than Human (Paperback)The title of this review says it all. If you haven't read this book, your life is incomplete.
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvelous speculative fiction,
This review is from: More Than Human (Paperback)Theodore Sturgeon was a great writer and this is one of his best books. Expanded from the novella "Baby Is Three," which makes up the second of the novel's three parts, it tells the story of the evolution of _homo gestalt_ -- thereby introducing a "group mind" theme that is also taken up in the work of one of Sturgeon's biggest fans, Spider Robinson.
It is not, by the way, an accident that Spider is both a Sturgeon fan _and_ a more or less unreconstructed hippie. Some readers of this book may not know how profound an effect SF had on the ideals of the 1960s -- and may, for example, be surprised to learn that the introduction to _Baby Is Three_ (Volume 6 of Sturgeon's collected works) was written by none other than David Crosby. (Another volume -- the fifth, I think -- is introduced by Kurt Vonnegut, who based Kilgore Trout loosely on Sturgeon.)
But in fact this is one of two SF books you _must_ read if you want to understand what motivated (and still motivates) those ideals. The other is Robert Heinlein's _Stranger In A Strange Land_. It wouldn't be too much to describe the entire '60s "counterculture" phenomenon as an attempt to do some grokking and bleshing on an unprecedented scale.
For "grokking," see the Heinlein book. "Bleshing" -- blending and meshing -- is what individual humans do when they make up a single "gestalt" being. They don't lose individuality; they just combine to make a whole greater than the separate sum of the parts. You know, like a '60s rock band . . . (My own favorite example is David Crosby's own _If I Could Only Remember My Name_, but his recent work with CPR bleshes pretty darn fine too.)
Anyway, for my money, this volume is one of Sturgeon's finest works (not that any of it was _bad_). If you like it, check out Crosby's aforementioned introduction to Volume 6, and you might also like Spider Robinson's _Time Pressure_ (now available only in the combo volume _Deathkiller_, which also includes _Mindkiller_, the book to which _Time Pressure_ was the first sequel).
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More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon (Paperback - Dec 29 1998)
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