They caught Horty doing something disgusting out under the bleachers. He had to leave home after that—especially after his guardian "accidentally" maimed the boy’s hand.
By luck he found the perfect place to hide—a travelling freak show. With Zena the dwarf, Solumn the Alligator-Skinned Man, and the others, he gained sanctuary for himself... and for the glittering-eyed jack-in-the-box that was his only possession.
What he could not know was that his cherished toy was the clue to his incredible destiny—and that his refuge was dominated by a man who would stop at nothing to find out what made Horty... different.
The Dreaming Jewels is one of Theodore Sturgeon's most moving and compelling works—a novel of surpassing warmth and strangeness by a master of imagination."
--The Back Cover
1950, my edition 1977. 188 pages $1.75 cover price.
Sorry about the delay in between posts recently, I have had real life going on this last month, which has taken up most of my blog time. Expect me back in the saddle with weekly updates by the end of September.
I’ve read some short stories by Theodore Sturgeon in the past, and enjoyed them a little. He strikes me as a poor man’s Ray Bradbury, though a little less creative and slightly darker. The Dreaming Jewels felt like a fleshed-out short story—the premise was flimsy, the characters thin and the prose verbose, seemingly just to get the word count up.
The main character Horty has supernatural powers (telepathy, shape-changing, regeneration) that, for most of the book, are attributed to his being “special.” The final explanation of Horty's powers, which involved sentient crystals from a meteor, lacked the punch I had been hoping for.
The “freaks” from the carnival (a lizard man, a few little people, a fish boy in a tank) were malformed and incomplete creations of the same crystals, which had something to do with their mating. The details of this process were vague at best.
The main motivation for Pierre Monetre, the antagonist of the story who was obsessed with the crystals and ran the carnival in order to study them, has a general hatred for mankind. Yep, thats it as far as motive. Sturgeon definitely phoned this one in (just like I am phoning in this post!).
Though the beginning of The Dreaming Jewels was intriguing, I was very disappointed by the conclusion, specifically the lame happy ending in which everything works out for Horty and his friends. Two-thirds of the normal human beings in the book made up all of its villains, which made The Dreaming Jewels a rather boring book created for child outcasts and teenage misanthropes who consider themselves “different.”
I know that Sturgeon did better than The Dreaming Jewels in his career, and hope to highlight some of that here, as this book just isn't a good example of his career as a whole.