(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Theodore Sturgeon was especially noted for his interest in the “soft sciences.” Both The Synthetic Man and his better-known novel More than Human (1953) deal with alleged parapsychological phenomena that some scientists consider completely unscientific, including clairvoyance, precognition, telepathy, and telekinesis. Other scientists, however, including some psychologists and physicists, have studied such purported mental powers and reported evidence to support their existence.

Sturgeon had an unhappy childhood, and his cold, disapproving stepfather frequently appears, in thin disguise, as a villain in Sturgeon’s fiction. Through his experiences as an outsider, a loner, and a misfit, Sturgeon learned that there are compensations for almost any misfortune. He discovered the pleasures of reading and of exploring his own mind and learned, through its absence in his own early life, the importance of love and of belonging. He found that people who have suffered often have greater spiritual riches than people who have enjoyed more conventional lives. Sturgeon’s background and acquired understanding of life are reflected in the strong religious motif in much of his work. This motif counterbalances his daring scientific speculation, giving his work more breadth than the typical cerebral or calculatedly fantastic science fiction.

The Synthetic Man, like More than Human, is an “ugly duckling” story....

(The entire section is 434 words.)