Saturday, June 28, 2014

Brief Thoughts: Flowers For Algernon

I read "Flowers For Algernon" a few months ago, a little bit too early for it to have been my first reviewed book. But in light of its author Daniel Keyes's recent passing, I thought I would give a few thoughts on the novel.

"Flowers For Algernon" is one of the most famous Sci-Fi novels--although it is almost too far into the literary genre to sit easily with speculative fiction. In any case, it involves a mentally challenged man who is given a surgery to increase his intelligence. Told in apostolic form, it follows Charlie Gordan's journey to genius--and the consequences that follow.

In short, it's brilliant, wonderful, touching, effective, and sincere. A must read.

In length, the entire story is overshadowed with an air of tragedy. I loved Charlie from the first, barely-legible entries in that journal. Though he changes drastically over the course of the novel--and not all in ways that I hoped for--I still wished that I didn't have to reach the last words and part from my good friend.

I finished the novel in three days, carrying it with me to wherever I thought I might have a spare minute to read.

Let me say this outright: Portions of the book are very difficult to read, because Charlie begins as a less-than-literate writer, and like Faulkner, Keyes chooses to portray this by the most direct means. But unlike Faulkner, whose prose sometimes allows style to overcrowd substance, Keyes portrays something profound and heartbreaking in the most effective way possible.

There are minor flaws to this work. The last half of the book drags on a bit, in particular, until it reaches the climax, at which point it again tightens up. The book is predictable--I knew from about five pages in how it would end--but I think this was partially intentional, and it doesn't reduce the emotional impact of the ending.

I'm not generally a Sci-Fi fan--while I find the concepts fascinating, I am sometimes let down by the lack of attention character receives..... Also, it tends to expect some amount of math ability, which I cannot provide. But "Flowers For Algernon" joins the ranks of The Giver as one of my favorite works touching on the genre.

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