The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

At the age of eight, Horton “Horty” Bluett is a lonely, unhappy adopted child whose best friend is Junky, a crudely made jack-in-the-box with strange-looking jewels for eyes. His sadistic stepfather, Armand Bluett, subjects the boy to relentless psychological and physical abuse, on one occasion cutting off three of his fingers by slamming a closet door on his hand. Horty decides to run away, taking Junky with him.

Horty says good-bye to a little neighbor girl named Kay Hallowell, the only person who has ever shown him any kindness. He steals a ride aboard a passing truck and finds himself among a group of freaks traveling with a carnival. Horty is befriended by a beautiful midget named Zena who disguises him as a girl and teaches him to sing and play the guitar. They become a popular duo and remain together for nine years, during which time Horty does not appear to mature, although he regenerates his three amputated fingers.

The fact that Horty can change the size and shape of his body at will makes it apparent that there is something radically different about him. He discovers, through Zena’s tutelage, that he is not a human being but a creation of extraterrestrial crystals that have somehow found their way to Earth. The crystals have the power to create nearly perfect imitations of life-forms, not as a means of personal reproduction but as a type of artistic activity. Zena confides that she is not a human being but a botched creation...

(The entire section is 493 words.)