Book Review of More Than Human

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Book Information

Title: More Than Human
Author: Theodore Sturgeon
Copyright Date: 1953
Rating (out of 4 stars): **
Reviewed on: Dec. 9, 2005

Synopsis (Review Afterward)

This book is broken up into three parts, which are essentially novellas. In fact, the copyright page of the book says that the third part did appear separately in the science fiction magazine Galaxy in 1952.

The first part is called "The Fabulous Idiot." We are introduced to two very different types of people. First is the "idiot" himself, who lives more or less like an animal in the woods. He cannot speak or interact with other people beyond acquiring food from them via some strange ability he has when he stares into their eyes.

The other person we meet is Evelyn, who has been raised by her father to be a total innocent. This includes being innocent of her own body, even though she is now in her teens. Her father has raised her and her sister, Alicia, to believe women are evil and men wish to take advantage of them. The family is completely isolated.

Somehow the idiot is drawn to the grounds of the family by a "calling" from Evelyn. As they begin their lovemaking, the father discovers them and proceeds to savagely beat them both. The idiot uses his strange ability to cause the father to kill himself; the idiot then escapes. Evelyn has been injured severely and dies after admonishing her sister to enjoy life.

The idiot wanders to a farm where he is taken in by the childless couple. After some years there, he eventually learns some simple language. He takes the name "Lone" because he couldn't pronounce "Alone" correctly. Eventually, the couple asks him to leave because the wife is finally pregnant and they need the room. Lone returns to the woods and builds a shelter in a cave.

Meanwhile, in short vignettes, we are introduced to children with strange abilities.

Janie has a father who is never home and is detested by her mother, who is constantly bringing home men who are near strangers. Janie has the ability of telekinesis. She meets two young black twins, Bonnie and Beanie, who have the ability to teleport. The twins' father is indifferent to them. Eventually Janie and the twins run away from their homes. After some wandering, they meet up with Lone in his cave in the woods.

Lone visits his farmer friends to borrow tools and discover that the wife has borne their child. However, the child is Mongoloid. The wife has apparently died, whether from childbirth or disappointment, and the husband is delusional, believing that his wife has gone on a trip. Lone takes the baby, and the husband forgets it exists and leaves to find his wife.

Now all the pieces are in place. Janie can telepathically communicate with the baby, who is an extraordinary genius and can figure out anything, despite being months old. The children and Lone become what they will later call "Homo gestalt", with Lone being the "head" of the body, Baby the "brain", and Janie and the twins the tools. This composite "person" invents some amazing things, such as an antigravity generator, which is ironically left to rust, unknown, for years.

The second part of the book, "Baby Is Three", takes place entirely in the office of Dr. Stern, a psychiatrist. Gerry Thompson, who is in his early teens, is consulting Dr. Stern on some mental difficulties he is having - he can't remember certain events. After much discussion and many flashbacks, we are able to piece together what has happened.

We had been introduced to Gerry Thompson very briefly in the first part of the book; he ran away from an orphanage and was abused on the streets. In part two, we discover that he eventually met up with Lone and the other children. Lone was killed in the woods, and Gerry was able to take his place as the "head" of the person.

The children had difficulty surviving on their own, so they followed Lone's previously-issued orders and went to live with Alicia (Evelyn's sister). The children thrived in this environment, being well-fed and well-schooled. Eventually, however, Gerry realized that by normalizing themselves, they were gradually losing their composite being nature. In the end, Gerry killed Alicia, which was the event he had been repressing that had caused him to seek psychiatric help.

Once this tragedy is revealed, we learn that Gerry has Lone's ability, and he causes Dr. Stern to forget that the visit had ever taken place.

The third part of the book is titled "Morality" and happens some eight years after part two. It focuses on the mental recovery of Lt. Hip Barrows (Air Force). In part one, we had briefly met Hip, and learned that his doctor father never thought that Hip was good enough, which drove Hip into the military and gave him a strong desire to conform and be liked.

In part three, Hip has suffered a traumatic event, which he does not remember. He is nursed back to health by Janie and eventually recalls the events of the past seven years. Through his Air Force work, he had discovered some odd effects which led him to discover the antigravity generator that had previously been abandoned. Gerry realized Hip was about to announce this discovery and used his strange abilities to disprove Hip's claim and cause Hip to have a mental breakdown.

Once Janie helps Hip recover, she reveals that Gerry, the "head" of their "person" has become power-hungry and uses his abilities (and those of the others in the composite) to abuse people at whim. Janie has had enough of it, and is hoping that once Hip recovers he can shock Gerry into gaining some sense of morality.

Hip does confront Gerry and tricks Gerry into using his ability to "remove" from Hip's mind a code of ethics. Gerry is now "cured" of his evil nature and Hip joins the composite being as the "conscience".

At the very end, Gerry, as the head of the newly-moral composite being, becomes aware of other composite beings that welcome him telepathically into a new community.


I have mixed feelings about this book. The idea of a composite human, where the "parts" communicate telepathically is intriguing. However, in the book, we see very little about what this "human" does, or how it works. The first part of the book essentially assembles the composite, the second part focuses completely on one part of the composite, and the third part focuses on a person that isn't part of the composite until the very end.

It is somewhat odd that each of the people that had special abilities came from a lonely or abused background. Is the author trying to imply that everyone has the abilities, but they are generally repressed or undeveloped unless a person is in such a circumstance? In addition, the abilities all manifest themselves in children, except for Lone, who one could say is mentally child-like. No reason is given for this, or even speculated upon. In fact, none of the parts of the composite seems to wonder why they have their abilities and why no one else does. While I do like a bit of mystery, the lack of any speculation on the part of the characters strikes me as odd.

Another negative aspect of the book is that it is extremely expository. Both parts two and three are nearly narrations by one character talking to another, explaining events that occurred. This is much more unsatisfying than seeing at least some of the events unfold. Part two, in particular, is troublesome. Gerry has killed Alicia and repressed it, then recovers the memory while telling the psychiatrist the story of it. All of the consequences of this are neatly erased at the end of part two when Gerry reveals that he doesn't care if he killed someone (despite repressing the memory) and removes the visit from the doctor's mind. Why then, should we care about any of these events? The point appears to be to set up for part three, when the composite gains morality by adding Hip.

Some shorter comments:

Overall, More Than Human has some interesting ideas, but suffers from being too short and leaving too much unexplained to be satisfying.

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