THE NEW HUMANS (1909) – Written by B Vallance. No other name has come to light for the author of this thought-provoking work. Explorer Montgomery Merrick is roaming around the wilds of 1909 Uganda when he falls down a mountainside and into a concealed valley.
Merrick’s injuries are such that he does not expect to survive but he wakes up on an operating table in fine condition. Looking down at him are amoeboid humans who don barrel-shaped exo-skeletons whenever they need to keep their forms stable, as in during the surgery they were performing on Merrick.
One of the beings speaks English and introduces himself to the recovering patient as the Chief Adaptor, who takes credit for “repairing” our hero. Merrick gradually becomes aware that his ultimate fate is still being debated by his odd saviors.
While being held virtual prisoner in the home of the Chief Adaptor, Montgomery Merrick learns that the race of Adaptoids are descended from a group of Europeans who discovered the concealed valley over 300 years earlier. A scientific genius among the settlers experimented on himself and his fellows, “improving” the imperfections of the human body through biochemical means.
Over time this trans-human tinkering resulted in the entire race’s current form: shapeless, shifting amoeboids who have no bones to break and no organs in vulnerable positions. The Adaptoids can also “sprout” as many limbs as they need at any given moment then simply retract those temporary limbs into their amorphous bodies.
The barrel-shaped exoskeletons can also serve as “vehicles” for the amoeboid beings. These New Humans reproduce asexually, with each one of them capable of ejaculating eggs that grow into younger members of their new race. Much of this is explained to our hero through a beautiful woman that he assumes is a fellow outworlder.
In truth she is the daughter of the Chief Adaptor who – through concentrated effort – held herself in the shape of a human woman for an extended period to help Montgomery feel more at home. She eventually lets herself drift back into her natural, amoeboid form.
But you can’t keep them down on the farm after they’ve seen Paris, as the saying goes. The Chief’s daughter comes to enjoy assuming human form because she likes the effect it has on Merrick, who acquires the hots for her, and the effect it has on some of the other Adaptoids, who begin to feel atavistic stirrings of lust.
An Adaptoid rival grows jealous of Montgomery Merrick and persuades the Chief Adaptor to use the outworlder as a guinea pig. The Chief agrees and plans are made to attempt to surgically transform Merrick into a New Human, a procedure which has always killed the attempted subject, since the ancient Adaptoid genius took his scientific secrets to the grave with him.
Our hero tries to escape but is captured and put on trial. The presiding authorities are angry at the Chief Adaptor for planning to experiment on an unwilling subject but once they realize Merrick was trying to romance the Chief’s daughter the explorer’s fate is sealed.
He is cast into the desert with minimal supplies and soon dies. He recorded in writing his bizarre adventures in the secret valley and that manuscript supposedly provided the basis for this story.
The New Humans is pretty enjoyable. It fakes you out as if it will be a standard “Lost Race” story, especially when Merrick first encounters the beautiful woman. Her real nature takes the story down refreshingly unique territory.
I was particularly struck by the bio-chemical nature of the trans-humanism presented in this tale. Not only is ANY sort of trans-humanism theme a bit unexpected in a 1909 novel but readers get a bonus since it’s not mechanically implemented.
This work is definitely worth at least one read for a change of pace. +++
FOR TEN MORE EXAMPLES OF ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/2014/03/03/ten-neglected-examples-of-ancient-science-fiction/
FOR WASHINGTON IRVING’S 1809 depiction of an invasion from the moon click here: https://glitternight.com/2014/05/05/ancient-science-fiction-the-men-of-the-moon-1809-by-washington-irving/
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Thank you, Sable Nance.