Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Dreaming Jewels - Theodore Sturgeon

They caught the kid doing something disgusting out under the bleachers at the high-school stadium, and he was sent home from the grammar school across the street. He was eight years old then. He'd been doing it for years. 

1st Edition 1950
I'm not sure how anyone can put down a novel with a terrific opening line like that. It's famous with S-F fans and Theodore Sturgeon aficionados from what many consider his best novel. I haven't read enough to call anything a classic over anything anything else. I'll let others do that for me. But I have read plenty of Sturgeon's short stories to assume that I'd enjoy one of his novels. The Dreaming Jewels was a good one to start with.

The kid in the opening sentence is Horton Bluett, referred to throughout as Horty. I'm going to leave what he's caught doing under the bleachers a mystery so as not to spoil the fun for those who haven't read this novel. In brief, Horty Bluett has a miserable home-life as the adopted son of a couple of despicable parents who only took him in to improve their political standing among the community. Horty has no friends except another little girl, Kay Hallowell, who is nice to him in school. At home, his only companion is a jack-in-the-box toy he names Junky. Junky has been with Horty since his first year in the orphanage, Junky also has these two crystals for eyes...and Horty has developed a strange, otherworldly symbiotic bond with Junky.

After a terrifying beating and injury at the hands of his father, Armand Bluett, Horty takes Junky and escapes his home for a life on the road. He's quickly picked up by a group of sympathetic carnies named Havana, and his companions Bunny and Zena. All three are little people, and are returning from an errand in Horty's hometown. Seeing Horty's injury, Zena decides to take Horty back to their carnival and let him stay there as part of their act. To accomplish this, Horty will disguise himself as a female little person. The carnival is run by the intimidating Pierre Monetre, known as Maneater by the carnies who work for him. Monetre was once a brilliant young doctor and surgeon, until he fell into disgrace thanks to a tragic death under his care, followed by unjust accusations. Since then, Monetre has formed a deep hatred for mankind, in addition to pursuing some strange and secret experiments of his own involving some crystals he found once years before in a forest. Crystals that have remarkable powers. Crystals just like the ones that serve as Junky's eyes.

And with that setup, readers of The Dreaming Jewels are tossed into a blend of dark fantasy, science fiction and horror. There are moments here that reminded me of Ray Bradbury, but Sturgeon is perhaps more fearless and daring than Bradbury. There are themes of abuse, adultry, obsession and murder here that, while found in Bradbury's work as well, are revealed in disturbing tones. Much like those found in Sturgeon's short fiction.

The Dreaming Jewels has been reprinted dozen's of times and is probably easy enough to find out there. If you haven't read it, you're in for a good time.

3 comments:

  1. Great review of an excellent novel -- probably my favorite by Sturgeon. Very apt comparison to Bradbury, too.

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  2. Thanks for the comment. Yes, I really liked this novel. I'd read Some of Your Blood and liked it too. Sturgeon had a way with writing.

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