He Who Shapes
Reviewed date: 2004 Sep 13
He Who Shapes is published in Tor Double No. 12, along with The Infinity Box by Kate Wilhelm. He Who Shapes won a Nebula Award.
Charles Render is a psychiatrist. His specialty is neuroparticipation--dream shaping. Render designs elaborate dreams for his patients, and with the technology of the ro-womb he can administer these dreams to his patients while monitoring and even participating in the dreams. This direct form of mind analysis results in precise and accurate diagnoses.
Of all the Shapers Render is the best, and he knows well the dangers of his profession. But when Eileen Shallot asks him to teach her to be a Shaper, he accepts the challenge. She is blind, but if he can teach her see in her dreams, she may be able to learn enough to become a Shaper and treat others. But the danger is that her exhilaration and emotion at seeing through Render's shaped dreams might shape Render's own mind, leaving him permanently brain-damaged.
The concepts in He Who Shapes are intriguing. The major characters are developed well, but I found the supporting cast to be entirely forgettable; but in a novella such brevity is acceptable. My only complaint, and this is a big one, is that the ending is obtuse and cast entirely in poetic terms. Not in poetry or in verse, but it is couched so deeply in metaphor and symbolism that it just doesn't make sense.
Still, He Who Shapes is good. I understand why it won a Nebula. I rate He Who Shapes a three out of five.