December 4, 2006

Heinlein, Sturgeon Disappoint

The semester is almost at an end, and I've only had time to finish two books outside of required class material (riveters like "Reporting Technical Information"): by More Than HumanTheodore Sturgeon and Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein.

I could have chosen better. Both books turned out to be sappy, unrealistic, self-consciously preachy and contrived.

More Than Human follows a rotating cast of idiot savants - twins that can teleport, but cannot speak, a "fool" who can read minds, an omniscient baby that never grows up, another telepath that lacks empathy - who cannot be successful in the world as a single entity without the help of his/her incomplete friends. They have adventures of abuse and ridicule and psychosis and come together in the end to form a new species of human, Homo gestalt.

It sounds like a neat story in summary, but there was very little science in any of it. Sturgeon was better off writing short stories. There was a definite vibe of self loathing/freaks unite going on in More Than Human, exactly the reason why I can't stand Neil Gaiman's "science" fiction (Gaiman named the main character in American Gods "Shadow"; I almost put down the book right then).

Stranger in a Stranger Land was just plain ridiculous. Heinlein gets so much praise from science fiction buffs, and I have yet to figure out why.

A human being named Mike Smith was raised with Martians his entire life (who are kinda like Buddhist Ents) and brings his crazy ideas to Earth, learning to become a human, eventually starting his own hedonistic church and trying to save mankind with unrestrained love. Bleh.

Heinlein doesn't know the meaning of the word "subtlety." He basically places himself into the body of an old crotchety lawyer/know-it-all who grumbles and philosophizes and is always right about each situation in the story. It's profoundly irritating when an author does that. Every character should be a little piece of you, not the whole.

Women get a pat on the bottom on every page, homosexuals are "a wrongness" and the male driven dialogue is filled with little zingers (oh, snap!). The entire book is completely unbelievable; every character is psychologically impervious to catastrophy and therefore worthless to the reader. I actually wanted Mike to die a terrible death after the halfway mark.

And he does. Just like a true savior. *sniffle*

MTH was written in 1953, and was probably the first of its kind in the science fiction genre; for that fact, it gets my respect. SiaSL came out in the tulmultuous 1960's and was trying to preach unity, I suppose, through sex and freedom, before they figured out that sex and responsibility are perhaps more closely tied.

I'll stick with Asimov, Vance and Bester for now.

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