Sturgeon, Theodore. More Than Human.

NY: Farrar, Straus, 1953.

Edward Waldo, whose name was changed to “Theodore Sturgeon” after his divorced mother remarried, began his writing career in the late 1930s; he was a close contemporary of the other greats of science fiction’s Golden Age, like Heinlein, Asimov, and Clark, though rather more highly regarded by literary critics than they were. He also had an enormous influence on the next couple of generations of SF writers.

Sturgeon turned out a huge number of short stories, almost all of them considerably better than the professional average in the genre — for a time in the 1950s, he was thought to be the most anthologized author alive, and the canonical “Complete Short Stories” runs to thirteen volumes — but he also did half a dozen novels, of which this is his most famous. I first read it in 8th or 9th Grade, not too many years after it was first published, and it has stayed with me ever since.

There are three sections to the book. The middle section appeared originally in Galaxy as “Baby Is Three” and is narrated in first person; the first and third sections, told in third person, explain “how it all came about” and “what happened as a result.”

And what is it about? First, there’s Lone, who is an idiot. But he’s also an empathic telepath; anything you know or feel, he can know or feel. He just doesn’t have sufficient intellect to do very much with it. Second is Janie, age six, who is telekinetic. She can move things from one place to another without touching them, without even having to see them. Third and fourth are the four-year-old twins, Bonnie and Beanie, who are teleports. They can move themselves from one place to another without crossing through the intervening space. Finally, there’s Baby, an infant with Down Syndrome (what used to be called “Mongoloid,” as it is here). Baby is an enormously powerful human computer. Any question you can think to ask, he has an answer for, though you may have to supply him the vocabulary to explain it to you. Of course, Baby can’t talk in the usual way, but Janie can understand his subtle semaphore system just fine. Gradually, each of the kids comes to live with Lone in his shelter in the forest. Gradually, they learn to “blesh,” to bond. Separately, as Lone describes them, they comprise “a part that fetches, a part that figures, a part that finds out, and a part that talks.” Together, they form a single, symbiotic being — a gestalt.

And then Lone is killed by a falling tree — but all is not lost, because a couple of years before that they also were joined by the last member of the group organism, Gerry, eight years old, a runaway orphan, and with no concept of morality, who turns out to possess the same control-talent Lone has — but in his case, it’s driven by an intellect at genius level. And the world had better watch out. Because, when asked “What are you going to do?” Gerry’s reply is “What can an electric motor do? Anything. It depends on where we apply ourselves.” But there’s one thing they/it can’t do, and that’s be anything other than alone.

A key point in the story, though Sturgeon never explicitly says as much, is that all the main characters, all the kids, have survived damage at the hands of adults. Even Miss Kew, though she’s an adult, was nearly destroyed by her maniacal father when she was just Alicia.

Finally comes the closing section of the story, in which Hip Barrows, with Janie’s help, tracks himself back into his own past and discovers how it was he went insane, and how it involved Homo gestalt, and what he can do about it. And why ethics is more important, and more useful, than morality. All I can say is, if you’ve never read this book, you owe it to yourself to do so. You won’t regret it.

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