To Marry Medusa – Theodore Sturgeon

To_Marry_Medusa_-_Theodore_Sturgeon_cover

A tiny seed of the global hive organism Medusa has waited patiently on Earth, until at length it meets homeless misfit Dan Gurlick and uses him as the instrument of its fusion with humanity. Except that humanity isn’t what Medusa expected.

I blame Kurt Vonnegut. By naming his character Kilgore Trout, he caused me to question the existence of (and therefore disregard) Theodore Sturgeon. This will be my third and final complaint about the issue, but I’m still astounded that it’s taken me so long to actually read Sturgeon’s work. Thankfully, I now have (but damn you, Mr. Vonnegut, for your thoughtful gesture of respect).

There’s nothing special about the plot of To Marry Medusa – alien hive mind meets humanity, the resolution – John Campbell all the way, or the mechanism – diverse threads pulled together. There’s not even that much to say about the style. The tone of the story is what pulls this all together – the feeling, the sympathy, and the careful balance of elements. Sturgeon has a wonderful sense of how much to mix in and when. When to add a dash of pathos, when to pull back. It’s a basic cake, but baked by a master pastry chef.

Sturgeon doesn’t fall into any of the classic traps of the genre. He respects his characters while still creating an entirely engaging and credible story. He has the subdued tone of Clifford Simak, with the human understanding of Clarke, and perhaps the other way around. In any case, he’s able to convey some pretty grandiose ideas in manageable, entertaining terms.

All in all, highly recommended. I may have come to Sturgeon very late, but I’m a wholehearted convert, and this book is the book that clinched the deal.

Much to my surprise, I can’t immediately pull up a link between To Marry Medusa and Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001. There’s a line in Medusa that seems a direct inspiration for Clarke, but if no one’s mentioned it by now, perhaps it’s coincidence.

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