Theodore Sturgeon's More Than Human is, quite simply, one of the best and most original science fiction novels of all time; it is also one of the more neglected classics in the field. This magnificent example of literary science fiction belongs on the same shelf as Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land and Alfred Bester's first two novels. I was already a Sturgeon fan before reading More Than Human, but even I almost scoffed at comparisons of this novel with the work of William Faulkner (my literary hero). Much to my surprise, though, there is indeed a Faulknerian aspect to this novel. The narrative radiates traces of stream of consciousness and moves quietly back and forth in time from place to place as it approaches the essence of a philosophical revelation from multiple levels. For this reason, you will most likely either love or hate the book, for its greatest strength is very likely, to some readers, its greatest weakness.
More Than Human is such a unique novel that some individuals may not consider it science fiction at all; the science wrapped into these pages is of the most abstract and philosophical sort, centering on the question of the future evolution of the human race. The novel is broken up into three very distinct sections, each division marked by a shift in both emphasis and viewpoint. Initially, it can be a little difficult to get your bearings after one of these jumps, but all of the pieces of this giant puzzle come together in the end; I would qualify this by saying that the ultimate resolution happens in the reader's mind and is not necessarily spelled out by the author on the final page. The novel features some rather surprising plot twists along the way, and sometimes the reader may think Sturgeon has wandered far off the beaten track. In a sense he has because More Than Human marks the birth of a new kind of science fiction; rest assured that Sturgeon knows exactly where he is going from page one.
The novel opens with a self-described and self-acknowledged idiot living the only life he has ever known, one of utter loneliness and nothingness. His one gift is an ability to make people do things for him by looking at them in a certain way. His encounter with a unique, incredibly over sheltered little girl in the woods leads to an early scene of great tragedy and a turning point in the young man's life. Lone, as he manages to name himself, is taken in by a farming couple and introduced to the life he had never known. Elsewhere, a young girl named Janie lives a life of unhappiness under the roof of her unfit mother. She has her own special gift, the ability to move things with her mind, and one day she comes to know a pair of black children who can disappear and reappear at will. All of these characters somehow find each other and begin to see themselves as something more than human after a mongoloid baby is added to the strange little family. Taken together, they are one person: Lone is the head, Janie and the twins are the legs and arms, and Baby is the brilliant thinker that only Janie can communicate with telepathically. What forms out of these interconnected lives is a new type of human being: Human Gestalt. Individual weakness is subsumed by group superhuman strength, but this new type of human is lonely and prone to make mistakes as it struggles to understand itself.
The three sections are all remarkably different, yet they work together in much the same fashion as the children to become something incredibly powerful. In broad terms, the first section describes the birth of Human Gestalt, the second section describes its search for a purpose in life and a reason for being, and the third and most important section addresses the ethical and moral ramifications of such a new type of superhuman. The novel is told with such subtle power and mind-numbing beauty that any description I attempt to make will not do it justice. This is thought-provoking science fiction at its best.