So! I finished reading Pattern Recognition, and I loved it even if the ending was a little less than what I'd hoped for. I think maybe it was limited by the very thing I loved about it, which was that it was this cyberpunk adventure story set in a very realistic 2002. That meant the ending couldn't be too explosive, which is fine, but it was a little too real, and dragged a bit. Still, it was by far one of the most entertaining books I've read, ever, and I really, really loved the protagonist, despite her being a woman!
After I finished that, I wanted to read more Gibson, so I read Idoru, which was good and fun to read but not as good as Pattern Recognition, or Neuromancer, which I said before I didn't actually love that much. But that is in the context of my high expectations. It was well-written and provided everything I was looking for, and so Gibson has now cemented his place as my new Favorite Writer. But that isn't what I wanted to write about! What I wanted to write about is what I read after Idoru.
Last night I put down the book and thought, "what now?" So I went to Barnes & Noble to find a new book to read. I was looking for something with the same cyberpunk aesthetic, but I also didn't want to read too much Gibson all at once and start to get annoyed with him, which is what usually happens when I get into a new writer. So I was wandering through the sci-fi section and looking at some Neal Stephenson books that looked decent but not thrilling, and I noticed this book that had been put back propped against the other books, so that the cover was facing out. The cover caught my eye because I liked the colors. The book was:
More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon. I read the back and wasn't sure if it sounded good or not, but I saw that it won the Hugo and Nebula awards, and it did sound kind of intriguing, so I brought it over to the cafe with me along with the Stephenson books. I read the first thirty pages in the cafe, and then bought it and brought it home and spent the next four hours reading the rest of it. I have never in my life read a book cover-to-cover like that.
Apparently this book is kind of a big deal. I had never heard of it, although I did feel like the author's name rang a bell. It was written in 1953, and was one of the first science fiction books to be recognized and acclaimed as having actual literary merit. It is difficult to give a concise summary of what this book is about. Wikipedia says: "The novel concerns the coming together of six extraordinary people with strange powers who are able to "blesh" their abilities together. In this way, they are able to act as one organism. They progress toward a mature gestalt consciousness, called the homo gestalt, the next step in the human evolution." Okay, Wikipedia, that works. Basically there are several characters with unique abilities-- mind control, teleportation, telekinesis, hyper-intelligence-- who find each other and begin to function together as a single organism. The crisis of the story is really the moral crisis of how this unified being should operate within the world of humans. Which is all very interesting, but could make a really, really, bad story in the wrong hands.
What made it so satisfying was the way the story is constructed. There are three parts; each is essentially its own novella that builds off of the previous one(s). The focus, tone, point of view, and narrative voice change in each section. So, ultimately, the structure of the novel mirrors the plot, because each of these strands is unique and fascinating on its own but functions more powerfully as a part of the whole. The other thing about the story and the writing is that it manages to be actually legitimately surprising. There are some plot twists as well as some traditional moves, but because they are occuring alongside each other, you don't know which to expect, and they end up both being exciting to read because of it.
I definitely do not think this book would be for everyone, but it does seem to have gotten pretty stellar reviews across the board, and I am surprised it does not show up more often on lists of "important" science fiction. Still, I would recommend it solely on the basis that it is just so different from anything else I have read, and because I'd like to know if others respond to it the same way I did.