Synopsis: In the far future, bureucrat Dorian has a nearly fatal accident and gets an artificial body. He can no longer endure the touch or presence of any human – like his influential wife. The initial drug therapy and psychological conditioning didn’t help him.
She drew back, and I tried to quell a mental nausea almost as profound as my regret. . . […] Around me I wanted machinery — thrumming, inorganic machinery — and the sterile, actinic emptiness of outer space. I wanted to be the probeship Dorian Lorca.
To overcome his revulsion, he gets special psychological treatment back on Earth at the House of Compassionate Sharers.
He doesn’t get a psychologist, but an alien training partner who/which seems to be a machine without sentience. A very strange interaction starts, through which Dorian starts to heal.
Review: At the height of “innovative” psychological treatment in the 1970s, this story includes enough mystery to wake up the bored patients. But the story didn’t age well, given the last fifty years advancements in the area of PTSD and depression therapies.
The novelette is loosely connected to Bishop’s “Glaktik Komm” series, including his well known novel Transfigurations and story Blooded on Arachne.
During Dorian’s stay in the clinic, he develops from a unretable protagonist to a compassionate and forward looking human. Just as people should develop in a special clinic.
The novelette is not easily accessible and Bishop is ambitious in his literary style. Usually, I like the author’s voice, but this time, the complexity didn’t come to fruition and I couldn’t connect to the story.