by Theodore Sturgeon
It is, it is, it really is fiction.
Unless you’ve had it ruined for you, and I’m not going to do so, you can’t possibly expect what you’re in for with this novel. Even a brief story synopsis will be detrimental to those who’re interested, so you get only the broadest stroke: the book is a clinical dive into the psyche of a 23-year-old patient who wrote a letter while in the army that was flagged and got him set up for a psyche evaluation. The book is almost entirely told in letters between a psychiatrist and his superior, as well as a third-person recounting of his life by the subject himself.
What’s interesting about the short novel is not only the particular state of mind of the subject, or the consternation and eventual revelations by the evaluators, but what you may find out about yourselves in the process. Not to mention the revelations by the patient, who by all appearances is a bit of a simpleton:
“The first part, taking-in, gives you Satisfaction and the second part, throwing-out, gives you Relief. There is a whole lot of people in the world sick and crazy too who do not know that difference. They go all around looking for relief and then they get upset when it don’t satisfy.”
Sex is a major focal point, and everyone knows it as the key tenant of psychiatry, yet what happens to a profession revolving around sex when sex may not be the instigating factor? What was in that letter that caused all the hullabaloo in the first place?
Where the novel doesn’t succeed is the action quotient; there just isn’t one. It’s got plot, a whole heap of style, and truly defies classification. It’s most commonly identified as horror, but it only qualifies as such because it’s so tough to shoehorn it in anywhere else.
Traditional fare this is not, but fascinating it certainly is. Well off the beaten path, this one nevertheless belongs under the belt of students horror for its literary qualities and its between-the-lines subject material, adding a unique perspective to your repertoire. As such, it is essential reading. Your eyes will become a little clearer, and your position will shift—just a bit, but enough.
They stood side by side watching the grave get filled in and like someone said they looked as if they didn’t not understand it, and they did not.