"Venus Plus X" by Theodore Sturgeon (1960)
"'We worship the future, not the past. We worship what is to come, not what has been. We aspire to the consequences of our own acts. We keep before us the image of that which is malleable and growing - of that which we have the power to improve. We worship that very power in ourselves, and the sense of responsibility which lives with it. A child is all of these things.'"
"Venus Plus X" is a really old book, a really overlooked book, and a really great book. It's a shame that most people don't read it nowadays - not that I can blame them. There are a lot of books like "Venus Plus X," great books, but forgotten books, sitting lonely on bookstore shelves.
One day Charlie Johns wakes up in the world of the Ledom, a hermaphroditic race descended from homo sapiens. Cut off from the world he remembers, he strives to understand the Ledom and their way of life. He is largely successful in this endeavor, though he draws unintended conclusions from his time with this fascinating and altogether alien race of child worshipers.
The jacket of this book proclaims it as "one of the greatest science fiction novels ever written," and I would not dispute that claim. It gets a bit preachy near the end, but the ending adds an ambiguity to the story that makes Sturgeon's philosophizing a bit easier to take. I would agree that this is a great book, even if it is a bit heavy-handed.
Incidentally, this is not Sturgeon's best-known work. That honor would go to "More Than Human," a book that I am extremely eager to read.