Reviews of Ultimate Egoist, the (1994)
Review by clong (2006-03-10)
This first volume of The Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon reprints all of the earliest surviving Sturgeon stories, some of which have never before been published. Most of these are "short shorts with a gimmick," stories that he churned out weekly during 1939 and 1940 as he tried for the first time to make a living as a writer. As is clear from reading the fascinating Story Notes at the end of the book, Sturgeon himself had a low opinion of many of these stories, and it seems doubtful he would have ever chosen to include them in a collection. Still, they certainly show him as a young writer striving to master his craft, and if several of these "short shorts" are downright mediocre (especially the made to order holiday themed stories), a few are delightful. My favorites of this ilk were "Golden Day" and "The Long Arm."
Scattered through the collection are eleven more ambitious stories that range in quality from very good to stunning. "Bianca's Hands" is the first distinctively different tale. "It" is a pulse-pounding horror story with a twist. In "He Shuttles" we see a protagonist that gives hints of the characters that would dominate Alfred Bester's two great novels that would appear a few years later.
Sturgeon is on occasion very funny. I am still laughing about "Fluffy" the most insightful story about cats ever put on paper. And "Ether Breather" included a couple of the funniest lines I can remember reading in recent years. Several of these are short little romances, and we certainly see evidence of Sturgeon's unique facility (amongst science fiction authors, anyway) of capturing people in love.
Everyone should read Theodore Sturgeon, and while this collection may not include his very best stories, it is facinating to see how he got started.