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The Dreaming Jewels

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  2,609 ratings  ·  211 reviews
Eight-year-old Horty Bluett is mocked by his classmates & abused by his adoptive parents until the day his father severs three of his fingers. He runs away, taking only a gem-eyed doll he calls Junky, & joins a carnival. Finding acceptance at last, Horty never dreams that Junky is more than a toy, nor does he realize that a threat far greater than his cruel father inhabits ...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published 2000 by Gollancz (first published 1950)
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Average rating 3.91  · 
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 ·  2,609 ratings  ·  211 reviews


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Char
Having read Sturgeon's Some of Your Blood a few years back, I've been on the lookout for more affordable Sturgeon books. Earlier this year, this one was on sale, and adding the narration was only a couple of bucks more, so I jumped on it. Luckily, I was very pleased with my decision.

This story was nothing at all like Some of Your Blood. But with an opening line of: "They caught the kid doing something disgusting out under the bleachers at the high school stadium.", how could anyone not continue
...more
Michael Jandrok
Jul 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’ll admit right off that one of my reading weaknesses is classic science fiction. Oh, I like the modern stuff, too, don’t get me wrong. But it just seems like there was a certain extra gear of craftsmanship in the older novels and short stories. Bradbury, Aldiss, Carter, Asimov, Moorcock, Blish…..too many giants of the genre to mention wrote tales that staggered my young imagination. My room growing up was full of cheap paperbacks and sci-fi and fantasy magazines like “Analog” and “Galaxy.” My ...more
Liz
Apr 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Last Christmas, I mentioned to my parents that I'd like to read more science fiction. Being the hella-nerds they are, mom and dad pooled their resources and, predictably, went overboard. Christmas morning, I unwrapped a giant cardboard box filled with sci-fi paperbacks. I was overwhelmed, but pleased with my new stockpile. I would reach in and grab a book every now and again by someone I had at least heard of: Heinlein, Bradbury, Clarke, and other typical fair of the genre.
But then I started lo
...more
Kathryn
Jul 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
The book blurb states this was Sturgeon's first novel and it is an impressive beginning. The only other book of the author's I have read is More Than Human, which was slightly more ambitious but also less enjoyable. I sympathized with the characters in this book far more. The story was simple and sincere but captivating and beautiful as well. The setting reminded me of HBO's Carnivale, that perfect and doomed show I wish to this day had never been cancelled. I am having a difficult time deciding ...more
Nate D
Jan 28, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: exceptional runaways
Recommended to Nate D by: Bucket of Blood in Chicago
Shelves: read-in-2014, sci-fi
For the 1950 first novel of Vonnegut's model for Kilgore Trout, I was actually pleasantly surprised by this one. A very human coming-of-age balanced by some dips into bizarre scientific study of abstract life (a little more optimistic about mediating between these worlds than Stanislaw Lem, however). And for a while wholly unpredictable, culminating in a completely startling revenge sequence. Ultimately, the trajectory has to reconform a relatively normal set of guidepoints, though -- the second ...more
Manny
Jan 23, 2009 rated it liked it
I hadn't thought about this book for ages, until the other day when I read Jessica Treat's fine short story Ants. They both start in pretty much the same way. Coincidence?
...more
J.M. Hushour
Wacky science fiction at its best, but maybe not Sturgeon's best. I'm probably being unfair comparing his other works to the great "More Than Human". "Jewels" stands out on its own. It's nothing phenomenal and it might seem a little less fresh than it appeared at the time it was written in 1950.
The plot should be enough to ensnare you: an 8-year old boy with a jewel-eyed jack-in-the-box named Junky gets his fingers cut off by an evil foster father, so he runs off to a carnival where the midgets
...more
Simon
Jan 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
Theodore Sturgeon only wrote SF because no other genre could possibly have contained the immensity of his ideas. But he wrote unconsciously of the genre and his work tends to be devoid of the usual trappings found in many other SF writers work. That this was originally published in 1951 only serves to intensify my admiration for this man's work, reminding me just how ahead of his time he was.

Sturgeon is an ideas man so one might compare him to the likes of A.E. van Vogt and Philip K. Dick but he
...more
Stephen
3.5 stars. This is another one that is right in the middle of 3 and 4 stars. This is another well written, emotionally charged story about an 8 year old boy who runs away from his abusive foster parents and joins up with a travelling carnival full of "special" people. From there it is a "coming of age" story as only Sturgeon can tell it full of unique aliens, misfits, mad doctors and dreams of worldwide destruction. Recommended!! ...more
Neil McCrea
Jan 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
"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."

That opening paragraph is quite the hooker, to use Stephen King's parlance, it draws you into the book and sets the pace for what's to come.

The works of Theodore Sturgeon have been a major gap in my classic Science fiction library. I haven't managed to avoid him entirely, of c
...more
Erik Graff
Oct 13, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sturgeon fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: sf
Theodore Sturgeon is unusual among mainstream male science fiction writers of the fifties and sixties in that he writes with sensitivity, focusing more on his characters than on technologies or extraordinary plots. He is favorably comparable to Ray Bradbury, though less given to the utterly fantastic. This, his first, novel is a sympathetic portrayal of an abused boy, a theme unusual to the period, and of how his alliance with other social rejects saves humanity.
Gideon
Apr 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The original cover is incredibly pulpy. I love it so much.


The way this book unfolds is so subtly scifi and I love it. There’s no robots, no space travel (except implied), no aliens trying to take over (intentionally). Just aliens that aren’t intednding to impact humanity at all.

Theodore Sturgeon builds a word that has one foot in the mundane and one in the unusual. The introduction of carnies will tend to do that. For some reason I can’t explain, Sturgeon’s world works incredibly effectively ev
...more
Andrew
Feb 25, 2015 rated it liked it
Theodore Sturgeon to me is a bit of mystery - I have a number of his works and I am slowly working my way through his collected works (an impressive series I must admit) and his short story " Saucer of loneliness" is one of my all time favourite stories - even before the new twilight zone turned it in to an amazing episode - but still his work surprises me.
He is universally accepted as one of the all time great science fiction writers being cited by many authors as being their favourite or an i
...more
Julie
Dec 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Sometimes, I'm just in the mood for old-school absurdity SFF. This hit the spot especially nicely since the villains weren't fetishized into heroes. The women get a little more agency and wit than usual.

I loved the way Sturgeon makes you loathe Judge Bluett. The portrayal of Maneater is less finely-tuned, but you can sense the real delight Sturgeon took in making you shudder at the Judge. And, this is why I love Sturgeon's work. He drops amazing associative descriptions like comparing a voice to
...more
Carol
Jun 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Dreaming Jewels... also published as The Synthetic Man .... just won't allow itself to be slotted into just one category...but I can describe it as a horrifically dark science fiction tale with a dash of humor...with a pinch of humanity and a large helping of social commentary. The characters are not your average, everyday characters. There is absolutely nothing "normal" about them. Add them into the ingredients...mix with a little suspended disbelief and you have a tale that will appeal to ...more
Charles Dee Mitchell
May 24, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: mid-century-sf
I don't know enough about Sturgeon's writing to know if he realized just how weird this story is. As its central plot device, an eight-year-boy passes himself off as a female midget for ten years. Although an explanation is later offered, fantastic but in keeping with the story, nothing is made of this by those who are in on the deception.

The setting is a traveling carnival. The jewels are beings that fall from space with great regularity but disappear into earth's landscape. They are living bei
...more
Raj
Sep 02, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
Horty is a little boy who runs away from his abusive adoptive parents and joins the carnival. There he finds friendship and company but never realises that his companion Zena is protecting him from the carnival's leader, the Maneater. It's not until many years later that he discovers the truth about himself and the jack-in-the-box with the jewelled eyes that he couldn't bear to have apart from him.

The central notion of the crystal jewels in this book is fascinating. A strange, mostly unexplained
...more
William
Dec 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror-fiction
"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."

Come with me back to 1971. I know it's a scarily long time ago, and many of you weren't even born, but picture a wee Scots lad, 13 years old, and a science fiction geek in love with Asimov, Clarke, Wells and Wyndham. That's me that is. I'd also read a few of Dennis Wheatley's
...more
Pat Cummings
Feb 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
My first encounter with Theodore Sturgeon was this tale of loneliness, rejection, despair and revenge. It was a good book to begin with, and not just because it was Sturgeon’s first novel. Here was a classier self-delusion than the common fantasy of the secret adoption, a world in which a child might discover that he was something much better than the hidden heir to royalty.

Horton Bluett is a somewhat tragic child. Tormented by other children at the schoolyard for the disgusting act of eating an
...more
Idleprimate
This is an astonishingly great book. It is, all at once, a painful and uplifting story where the fantastical elements provide an allegorical relief for adversity, and alienation, the cruelties of the world, the meaning in all we express and the power of connection and purpose. It has an arch, lurid, operatic sort of story; it incorporates a gloriously luscious noir sensibility, and a homeliness that reminds me of John Steinbeck or Morley Callaghan. It has prose that balances being muscular and d ...more
Hunnapuh Xbal
Jan 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Probably this book marked my taste for Science Fiction, Ray Bradbury said of Sturgeon that "... it is a lucid elf who has sought refuge under a bridge and who writes with a quick feather as he listens, above his head, to the thunders of a timeless world," there is magic and poetry in bulk in this beautiful book.
All the characters are endearing, Horty, Zena, Havana, even the bad guys, Armand, and the Canibal, the story develops in an atmosphere loaded with... Music? Probably yes, it's the kind of
...more
Chris
Jan 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So, I'm updating this review on my cell phone while traveling - quick review!

The Dreaming Jewels has a very familiar storyline - unhappy young man, terrible family, boy runs away to join the circus. However, it's not exactly that simple.

The novel cleverly deals with gender, gender fluidity, growing up, being different, and finding acceptance. It's also not particularly conventional in its conclusion - there's not really a happy romantic ending per se, though being more or less a novel acceptab
...more
Hannah
I liked this book, it was a quick, absorbing read. The story and the characters could have been more fleshed out; the plot was ultimately rather thin but it did have me on the edge of my seat for a while there.

I think I'm the opposite of Michael below me: I'm not much into SF, especially not the technical kind with lots of spaceships, but I'd love to get into SF like this more. Is there a name of this kind of SF? If anyone happens to read this and has any tips, let me know!
...more
L S
Aug 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I've reread The Dreaming Jewels a few times since 1992. I still quite like it. In particular, I enjoy the Americana of the WWII era setting and the use of the carnie world as as a relief against which the perversion of the mainstream world is cast. Great early sci-fi. ...more
Kevin Phyland
Feb 18, 2021 rated it really liked it
8 year-old Horton ‘Horty’ Bluett runs away from home to escape his abusive stepfather after three of his fingers were crushed and severed, taking only a battered and broken jack-in-the-box that he has had since a foundling. He is taken in by some midgets and other assorted ‘freaks’ from a carnival and meets the proprietor, the volatile ex-doctor Mr. Monetre, or Maneater. Maneater fixes up Horty’s hand after the midget Zena convinces him to disguise himself as a young girl, and he/she becomes par ...more
Kazima
Nov 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Once again I'm surprised by Sturgeon's wholesomeness and sentimentality. I found this tale quite.. well, not cozy, but rather feel good. Reading this parallel to Carter's Magic Toyshop, they seem similar in some respects (strange people and magics, despotic and evil paternal figure, young protagonist with a mother figure who can't quite protect them as well as hoped), but at the same time so fundamentally different. TMT is utterly depressing, so I was glad to have this book to lift me up in betw ...more
Denis
Mar 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: softcover
"The Dreaming Jewels" (aka "The Synthetic Man") consists of a standard Sturgeon theme: Misfits with extraordinary sensitive human traits. He often includes obligatory quasi pseudo-science, but his strength is with his depiction of human emotion and how one who is somehow alienated from society and or his own culture, copes with the so called "norm".
The protagonist – a 'weird' adopted kid, who is not loved in his home, gets sent home from school because he was caught eating ants. The result leads
...more
Misha
I loved More Than Human. And while this shares themes with that one, it is a distinctive book.

For one, this first line and paragraph: "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."

I have fallen for Sturgeon's writing style, his oddball characters and unpredictable storytelling. He writes, as his character remarks on the b
...more
Beth
Nov 10, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The sub-title is "The Dreaming Jewels" A re-read from my youth -- first published in book form in the early '50s. The basic premise is that there are aliens among us, aliens who occasionally copy a human being who then goes on, unconscious of his non-human status, to operate as best he/she might in human culture. Circus freaks (this was written in the early 50s) may be incomplete humans or failed copies. At any rate, it’s a good place for a copy to hide. Underlying discussion—what makes an indiv ...more
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Strange little foundling Horty is abused by his adoptive parents, and runs away. He's 'adopted' by a group of midgets and joins a travelling carnival... but the carny hides some deeper secrets and more subtle cruelties than even his previous life.. what is the explanation for Horty's mysterious abilities? And why is he so strangely attached to his childhood toy, a jack-in-the-box with weirdly glittering jewellike eyes? ...more
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Theodore Sturgeon (1918–1985) is considered one of the godfathers of contemporary science fiction and dark fantasy. The author of numerous acclaimed short stories and novels, among them the classics More Than Human, Venus Plus X, and To Marry Medusa, Sturgeon also wrote for television and holds among his credits two episodes of the original 1960s Star Trek series, for which he created the Vulcan m ...more

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“Implicit in this was humanity. With it, the base of survival emerged - A magnificent ethic: The highest command is in terms of the species. The next is survival of group. The lowest of three is survival of self. All good and all evil, all morals, all progress, depend on this order of basic commands. To survive for the self at the price of the group is to jeopardize species. For a group to survive at the price of the species is manifest suicide. Here is the essence of good and of greed and a wellspring of justice for all of mankind.” 0 likes
“Implicit in this was humanity. With it, the base of survival emerged - A magnificent ethic: The highest command is in terms of the species. The next is survival of group. The lowest of three is survival of self. All good and all evil, all morals, all progress, depend on this order of basic commands. To survive for the self at the price of the group is to jeopardize species. For a group to survive at the price of the specifies is manifest suicide. Here is the essence of good and of greed and a wellspring of justice for all of mankind.” 0 likes
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