Thursday, July 6, 2017

More Than Human

As I continue to explore those classic science fiction novels I've not read, I have to stop right here and say I think I've found a new favorite. Theodore Sturgeon was admired by Philip K. Dick and I can see why. More Than Human (written in the 1950s) is an incredible tale of a "next step" in human evolution. Sturgeon focuses on a half-dozen people with special abilities (telepathy, telekinesis and so on), almost all of whom are social rejects and misfits. An "idiot" named Lone is the default father-figure for this weird group, all of whom are children except him. In many ways Lone is the hero of the story, but there is not much actual heroism in this tale as we'd normally define it. What makes this such a great story is the way the characters realize and come to terms with the fact that they are different, and how they slowly realize they must work together. Each of them, in fact, is part of an overall being, a sort of hive-human that requires more than one body. This new step in evolution is called Homo Gestalt. Sturgeon tells this story with quiet wit, deep emotion, and gives it almost the feel of a modern fantasy or fairy tale. It's told in three novellas all smashed together - The Fabulous Idiot, Baby is Three, and Morality. The final book deals with the key question - what is "morality" for Homo Gestalt, as opposed to Homo Sapiens? What social structures and behaviors are rendered moot by possession of a collective intelligence, shared with other beings? It's not a question that can be answered simply, and Sturgeon doesn't try. Lest this all seem like so much philosophical nonsense, I should say the story reads easily and abounds with emotional impact. I don't think you can go wrong with this one. Even if you're not generally a science fiction person, this is one classic that definitely can be appreciated outside its own genre.

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