To begin, Microcosmic God is one of my favorite sci-fi tales. It’s a story about a hermitic inventor who lives on a small island off the coast of New England, his only contact with the outside world being a radio that connects him to his banker. This banker makes an obscene amount of money off the inventor’s creations, while the inventor cares little for material wealth. Not only does he not need wealth, he is able to do without food, light or sleep. (His first few inventions were designed to eliminate these needs by means of concentrated food pills, a device Sturgeon calls a ‘light pump,’ complete with a pseudo-technical description of how it works, and a colorless elixir that is derived from a number of drugs and chemicals.)
He spends his time wholly with his greatest creation, a sort of enormous terrarium that holds within it a miniscule race of the inventor’s creation, one that lives at a greatly accelerated pace and is only visible by the inventor’s use of exceedingly high speed microscopes.
Thus, the inventor is able to solve problems by posing them to his tiny people and then putting them in a situation where their lives depend on coming up with a solution. The results he passes on to the banker or mentions them in passing, as it is not the results that he is interested in, but the experiment. As someone who greatly enjoyed science experiments in both high school and college (and who was somewhat at a loss as what to do with the results), I greatly empathize with the inventor, though I would think twice about the creation of an entire race of beings merely for my own amusement, entertainment and knowledge. (Then again, I do really like ant farms…)
There are a few issues that I have with the story, things that dissolve my suspense of disbelief, though nothing so egregious as to take me out of it completely. For example, the scientist manages to live completely without human interaction for an exceedingly long time on the island, when a lot of experiments have proven that any ordinary person, when subject to long periods of isolation, goes cuckoo for Coco Puffs (or whatever type of cereal they had in the forties).
True, the main character has his inventions, and he is exceedingly dedicated to study; Sturgeon sets him up as having an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Also, by the end of the story, the scientist is joined by an engineer that happens to be on the island after the scientist puts up an impenetrable shield around the lab to keep out intruders, so he has someone to spend the rest of his days with in his intellectual endeavors, a modicum of human contact, at least.
Another thing that gets me—though I forgive Sturgeon for it—is the ease with which the inventor accomplishes his miraculous feats. Partially this is done for the sake of the story, partially this is due to the time period in which the story was written (the early forties). For example, the inventor is easily able to communicate with his tiny creatures, even though the idea of communicating with human beings without a common language is a nearly impossible linguistic feat. Imagine, then, trying to correspond not with men of another culture, but another species entirely.
Then again, the ease with which the creator does what he does is part of why this story appeals to me so greatly. It is a positive story, one in which perseverance and intelligence wins the day, though it is not without conflict, (the banker uses the scientist’s inventions against him in his quest to take over the island). In the end, the inventor, utilizing his greatest creation, is able to keep his safe haven…well, safe.
So that's my review of Microcosmic God. I think my next few blog posts are going to be like this one, reviews of stories from the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. If you think this story sounds interesting (and it is, believe me), you should check it out, whether in this book or not. Sturgeon is a brilliant writer and this is probably my favorite story of his.