November Reads: More Than Human & Sharp Objects
Thoughts | Josiah Friesen & Sophia Sharp
Why More Than Human is More Than Just Another Sci-fi Story
by Josiah Friesen
More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon is a gripping story of introspection, supernaturally powerful societal rejects, and morality. The novel, a harbinger of the new age of science fiction when it was first published in 1953, tells the story of the next step in human evolution. The main body of the tale is centered around six individuals with psychic and telekinetic abilities, and the interactions between themselves and society.
The story finds its niche not in spaceships amongst stars unknown, nor in fantastical, other dimensional worlds, but instead, in the backyard of everyday civilization. Sturgeon places the context of the novel directly in front of the reader, but drapes a silk curtain of strangeness over it to prevent the reader from directly orienting themselves within it. One gets accustomed to feeling disoriented while experiencing this novel. The events are disconnected from our reality enough that one can become engrossed in the joyful “what-ifs”, reminiscent of childhood imaginings, frantically turning pages to satisfy the deeply curious desire within each of us.
The novel follows the six individuals as they connect with one another, their exploits as a team, and the aftermath of an anti-gravity machine and an over-ambitious army lieutenant. Sturgeon’s structure is as interesting as his content is. The reader can dimly perceive an overlying plot channel, but the divergences from the main plot are frequent and all-consuming. The result is a constantly swerving, intricately layered machine of storytelling. Consequently, near the end of the novel, the reader has been handed many different chunks of information, with no clear way to link them all together. Each piece is intriguing and demands the reader’s full attention, which cannot be given, because it is held solely by Sturgeon’s delightfully perplexing web as a whole. In the final pages of the book, the pieces come together to reveal a satisfying conclusion, wherein everything fits together nicely with a practically audible click.
Having mentioned the intriguingly executed pacing and organizational style, I must also draw attention to the flipside of that technique. At times, the novel can leave the reader feeling lost. The reader is dropped suddenly and constantly into different storylines, with little to no warning. These disorienting transitions can cause the story to lose momentum. Granted, the momentum is quickly rebuilt, but this does not negate the fact that the reader’s rhythm has been broken. Each disorientation eventually amounts to an essential plot convergence at a later point, which is more or less pleasing enough to allow the reader to gloss over their earlier confusion. The novel could incorporate a marginally more continuous plot structure while still maintaining its intricate system of offshoots and the satisfaction of conjoining story lines, allowing for a more streamlined reading experience.
Amidst the escapades and labyrinthian plot-lines, Sturgeon exposes delicate components of human nature for the reader’s contemplation and perusal. There are powerful references to themes of the limitlessness of love, the power of community and acceptance, and the human desire for enlightenment. Sturgeon sets all of these components orbiting around more-than-human characters, which composes a powerful suggestion. Sturgeon urges the reader to realize that human nature is so deeply ingrained in our existence and so common and unifying across all manner of people, that no amount of mutation or super-powered superiority can strip it away. He forces the reader to recognize their own internal human mechanics in a strikingly human place one wouldn’t expect to find them.
More Than Human is more than just another sci-fi story because it gives the reader something they didn't know they could find in a novel like this one: an opportunity for the acceptance of human nature. Sturgeon’s uniquely structured and paced adventure through and beyond the realm of possibility is a page-turning classic, sure to satisfy consumers of any branch of fictional literature. It's a refreshing splash of originality, despite the fact that it is decades old, and it reminds the reader of the different artistic styles that can be accomplished in literature. Upon completing the novel, the reader is left with a sense of acceptance of the world, and peace regarding human existence.
Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects
by Sophia Sharp
Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects is an unsettling story from beginning to end, and you will not be 100% sane after reading it. It gets increasingly disturbing with every chapter as Camille Preaker, a struggling reporter, is assigned to dig through her hometown’s baggage— while dealing with some (or a lot) of her own. She is originally sent home to report on the case of two young girls who were murdered, but winds up more involved than she intended. She gets caught up in more than just the cases – things about her family, childhood, and everything she thought she knew turns upside down as she falls deeper into the psychologically unsettling trap that is Wind Gap. She is soon made aware that she can’t trust anyone – not her mother, step-sister or old friends. Gillian Flynn, as she always does, keeps you in a constant state of uncertainty and paranoia while you read, and with the mix of familiar family issues and extremely unpredictable events, the line between what is real and imagined becomes worryingly thin.