- Paperback: 295 pages
- Publisher: Bison Books (1 October 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0803261624
- ISBN-13: 978-0803261624
- Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 1.7 x 20.3 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 327 g
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The Wonder Paperback – 1 Oct 1999
From the Back Cover
His casual conversations with ministers and philosophers decimate their vaunted beliefs and crush their cherished intellectual ambitions. The Wonder compels obedience and silence with a glance. His mother idolizes him as a god. Yet no one is more hated or alone than the Wonder.
This is the chilling tale of Victor Stott, an English boy born thousands of years ahead of his time. Raised in the village of Hampdenshire, the strangely proportioned young Victor possesses mental abilities vastly superior to those of his fellow villagers. The incomprehensible intellect and powers of the Wonder inspire awe, provoke horror, and eventually threaten to rip apart Hampdenshire.
Long recognized as a classic of speculative fiction but never before widely available, The Wonder is one of the first novels about a "superman". J.D. Beresford's subtle and intriguing story of a boy with superhuman abilities paved the way for such noted works as Philip Wylie's Gladiator and A. E. van Vogt's Slan.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Victor Stott is born to a simple woman and an extraordinary cricketeer; neither is the sort one would expect to produce a child of inhuman brilliance. Before the age of six, Stott has formed a theory of force for which no communicable English-language concepts exist. He also has a compelling stare that keeps both the curious and the dangerous at bay. Young Victor has no concern for manners, and he treats the intellectually inferior humans that surround him as nuisances: “They are geese and hens to him, creatures to be scared out of his vicinity”. Stott's father soon loses patience with the "blarsted freak" and moves out, but his mother adores him as if he were a baby divinity.
In his blinkered little English town, Stott comes quickly to the attention of both friend and foe. His partisans are the novel's journalist narrator, and a member of the local gentry who puts his library at Stott's disposal. Stott's foes are the local Reverend and the district’s school council members. The Reverend, in particular, loathes Stott. He clearly fears the challenge that Stott’s mere existence poses to theological dogma. Meanwhile, the only village resident over whom Stott cannot exert any authority at all is a young, severely mentally disabled hydrocephalic who is constantly trying to play with Stott.
Beresford delights in using his prodigy to lampoon small-town English life and its intolerant, parochial ways. Also in Beresford’s satirical sights are fanatical partisans of sport--the sections on cricket may try the patience of non-British readers--and, a little daringly for the time, religious authority. That said, those who would dismiss the book as being pertinent only to a bygone place and era are reading it very superficially.
Perceptive readers will easily see that the book has much relevance to our time. They will also note that, although Stott is seldom at center stage, his presence permeates the novel. This narrative tactic subtly shows the destabilizing effects that Stott’s incomprehensible genius and sheer otherness have on several strata of society. Beresford's other brilliant tactic is to make Stott express himself in gnomic phrases that suggest an alien struggling to communicate with an extremely lower form of life, not unlike a human trying to convey intellectual nuances to a dog. As a result, and unlike most later portrayals of supernormal intelligence, Stott really does seem “too many thousands of years ahead of us", as one character claims.
How Stott manages among the competing factions, and what becomes of him, I'll of course leave readers to discover for themselves. I would simply add that Beresford's book should also be read by every intellectually gifted or super-gifted man or woman. Not to make them feel good about themselves, but rather to make them see that, no matter how advanced they may think themselves, even the most brilliant humans are mere children, or even lower animals, compared to the potential that the Wonder embodies and invites us to imagine.
Understood properly, Beresford teaches the high-I.Q. bunch, as well as the human species itself, a much-needed lesson in humility. After Stott has absorbed nearly the whole of human knowledge, his host asks the five-year-old Wonder what he makes of “all this”. The Wonder, struggling for words, replies, “So elementary…inchoate…a disjunctive…patchwork”. Members of the human Bandar-log, be they of ordinary or extraordinary intelligence, would do well to remember Stott's wise assessment.
It was never clear exactly how this story was going to turn out. That proves to be so much of the enjoyment. It was also fascinating to see how the human condition hasn't changed much in the last century. The struggle between religion and science still exists; and in many ways this story may help explain why the Church of England has turned out the way it currently exists. Small towns have always had their busy bodies and local Board of Education's always struggle to deal with the exception.
I really enjoyed the ending. It did a wonderful job of putting the entire story into context and of the challenges that the "Wonder" experienced. I am really glad this book came to my attention.
In addition, there is implied the notion of intentionality on the part of a parent, manifesting in the child in ways that parent cannot understand. The question of what makes us human, and would we still be human if our curiosity was resolved, is manifested through the story. Climactically, the possibility of escape from time and space is implied--a notion that would set the physicist/mystic David Bohm aflutter.
And our own attitude? The being is regarded as freak, an affront to religion, and paired with a witless congenital idiot in the popular mind.
It works on many levels, and should be better known.