Sunday, June 19, 2011

Book Review: 'Starshine' by Theodore Sturgeon

1 / 5 Stars

‘Starshine’ was published by Pyramid Books in December 1966; the cover artist is Jack Gaughan.

The book (and the many other paperback iterations in which it has seen print by other publishers) carefully avoids disclosing the original appearance information for the assembled stories, hiding the fact that they span the interval 1940 – 1961.

Needless to say these stories are not going to be very interesting to modern SF readers. They all suffer from excessive wordiness, clumsy sentence structure, and inane dialogue. Of course, most of the SF that also saw print in this era suffered from the same defects. But it was Sturgeon who said: "90 percent of SF is crud", and whether he was referring to his own works or not, well….. if the shoe fits, wear it.

The anthology opens with ‘Derm Fool’ (1940) about a regular joe caught in a quirky situation involving skin that won't stay on; there is a swell dame he needs to impress.

‘The Haunt’ (1941) is also about a regular joe who is trying to impress a swell dame; the plan involves a putative haunted house.

‘Artnan Process’ (1941) deals with two capable Earthmen sent to a remote planet to discover the secret of an energy conversion process. There is an emphasis on humor.

‘The World Well Lost’ (1953): two alien lovebirds /refugees come to Earth; placating their planet of origin requires deporting them back home, an act that troubles a crew member aboard the deportation ship. Although this story has received praise in the decades following its first appearance, the 'message' seems contrived rather than revelatory.

‘The Pod and the Barrier’ (1957): a starship crew must venture to breach a deadly force field. Much angst and drama among the crew. Even by 1950s standards the writing is very, very poor.

‘How to Kill Aunty’ (1961): a bedridden old lady is engaged in a nasty war of wits with her homicidal nephew / estate inheritor. Roald Dahl did so much more with this type of setup.

So, if you are thinking of getting ‘Starshine’ in the hopes that it represents a mid-60s, early New Wave collection by Sturgeon, that is precisely what it is not. You are better off staying away from this paperback.


MPorcius said...

A better Sturgeon collection would be A Touch of Strange from 1958, which includes at least one great story that I recall enjoying very much, "The Other Celia." "The Other Celia" was recently made into an art film which I have not seen.

D_Davis said...

I think you really missed the mark with this review. Even in the 1940s, Sturgeon was ahead of his time and very progressive, especially when compared to any of his contemporaries. Starshine contains some amazing stories.