More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon

More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon (Italian edition)
More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon (Italian edition)

The novel “More Than Human” by Theodore Sturgeon was published for the first time in 1953. It’s the result of the union of a novella previously written with two other parts written specifically to obtain the novel. It won the International Fantasy Award.

The idiot’s life has always been lonely, but when by chance he meets Evelyn Kew a mental contact between the two of them creates a human contact as neither of them had ever experienced. Unfortunately, the girl’s insane father attacks the idiot seriously injuring him and, when Evelyn tries to stop him, he mortally wounds her. The idiot gets rescued by the Prodds, a farming couple who takes care of him and somehow adopts him.

After some years, Mrs. Prodd gets pregnant and the idiot leaves the couple to return to live on his own. The meeting with Janie, a telekinetic child, and with the twins Bonnie and Beanie, capable of teleporting, starts a sort of symbiosis. The idiot returns to the Prodds and discovers that the son they had suffers from Down syndrome, yet he has superhuman mental abilities that make him become the mind of a gestalt.

Theodore Sturgeon first published the central story, “Baby is Three”, in 1952 and later expanded it and wrote what became the other two parts, “The Fabulous Idiot” and “Morality”, to form the novel.

Often Theodore Sturgeon used in his stories characters that are marginalized and in “More Than Human” the protagonists are somehow outcasts. The world described by the author is at best indifferent, devoid of empathy, but is often cruel. The novel begins with a young man who doesn’t even have a name and initially is identified simply as the idiot, yet has a mental power. The first part of the novel tells of the meeting between people who are misfits or even outcasts, but at the same time have special abilities. That meeting represents the beginning of the formation of a gestalt, a symbiosis in which the various individuals become parts of a superior entity.

“More Than Human” is a story made mainly of reflections and introspection because the creation of a gestalt marks the emergence of a new species, called Homo gestalt, and that leads to the comparison with humanity and many questions about what it means to be human. The emotional side of the story is often central because the formation of gestalt isn’t an event but a process that goes on for years. What constitute a kind of gestalt growing pains particularly afflict Gerry Thompson because the changes are not simple and there’s not always a balance between the individual and the gestalt.

The novel itself is a kind of gestalt, in the sense that three parts in some ways heterogeneous are put together to form a novel greater than the sum of the parts. There are various stylistic differences between the three parts as the original story is the only one narrated in the first person by Gerry. The three parts are set years apart, but they end up fitting together into a bigger story.

By its very nature, “More Than Human” is by no means an action novel. It’s humanistic science fiction at extreme levels, based almost only on its characters. Precisely for this reason, it’s considered one of Theodore Sturgeon’s masterpieces, a novel that had a significant influence on this genre and for this a must-read.

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