Sunday, October 24, 2010

Book Review: More Than Human

Title:  More Than Human
Author:  Theodore Sturgeon
Publishing date:  1953
Number of pages:  188
Recommended for:  Ages 12 and up

Gestalt:  A physical, biological, psychological, or symbolic configuration of elements so unified that its properties cannot be derived from a simple summation of its parts.

The style of Theodore Sturgeon, like the style of Ray Bradbury, is more poetic than prose.  Being the logophile that I am, it took an extraordinarily long amount of time to read this because I kept going back and rereading several paragraphs just for the pleasure of consuming them again.

More Than Human tells the story of a human gestalt, five beings with unique talents who, upon finding each other, become irreducible to their collective parts.  They become something more, something powerful. 

The Head:  Lone, a 25 year old innocent homeless man who "lived in a black and gray world, punctuated by the white lightning of hunger and the flicker of fear." Called The Idiot, Lone must pull the parts together to make the whole and muddle through his childlike thoughts to help it function.

The Brain:  Baby, an infant with Down Syndrome, rescued by Lone, who never grows, never speaks aloud, but functions as a human computer.

The Feet:  A set of twins who can teleport and reach things that the gestalt needs but cannot get to.  They also speak to Baby telepathically.

The Hands:  A young girl, kicked out of her home at the age of 8, gifted with telekinesis

More Than Human was originally a novella entitled Baby is Three.  Sturgeon added a beginning section and an ending section and published it as a novel, which was later made into a graphic novel illustrated by Alex Nino, called Heavy Metal Presents: More Than Human.

In the first section, The Fabulous Idiot, the reader is introduced the separate portions of the gestalt, how they lived, and how they met and became a whole.  The most poetic portion of the book, The Fabulous Idiot paints the picture of the tragic lives and events that shaped the outcasts. 

In the second segment, Baby is Three, the reader is introduced to another important character who will reshape the path of the gestalt.  Several years have passed since The Fabulous Idiot and the gestalt is changing.  The whole moves closer to a more evolved consciousness while trying to find a place for itself in the world.

In the final section, Morality, several more years have passed and the gestalt has become something altogether different from what The Idiot intended.  Slowly, in a reversed telling, the events of the past few years are revealed and what is lacking in the gestalt begins to come clear.

The book is a wondrous build-up of events that are never what the reader expects to see.  Characters grow and change and leave in times and ways that are wholly unpredictable.  However, the final segment is on the confusing side and, though the new character is endearing and beautiful, seems as though the author simply grasped at some way to add an ending.  It felt as though the story would have benefited in another segment between Baby  is Three and Morality, showing some of the events that are mostly hinted at in the final section.  I had to consider what the author was meaning and fill in some blanks myself in order to believe the ending.  Even so, the book was phenomal from the standpoint of the craft of writing and characterization. It was also a great one for National Down Syndrome Month (October)!

This was a book that was beloved my father and one he had wanted me to read for years.  I am glad that I took the time to read it. While flawed, especially with the forced ending, it was still very endearing.  Now I am off to track down that graphic novel!

Recommended for fans of Marvel comics, fantasy, and beautiful writing.  Appropriate for all ages, but probably most effective for ages 12 and up.

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