I was in search of yet another sci-fi novel to read when I came across “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes. As I am still catching up on the classics and “Flowers for Algernon” is considered to be one, I decided to give it a try.
The story has an interesting premise – Charlie Gordon, a 32 year old men had been mentally disabled since childhood. He works at the bakery and dreams of becoming a smarter person. Charlie had been selected to participate in the scientific experiment to improve his IQ – followed by a successful procedure on Algernon – the lab mouse.
After the operation, Charlie’s intelligence starts to improve at a rapid speed. In a few month, he supersedes the doctors who are working with him. He hopes to finally make friends yet he feels just as isolated from the society as he did before. Meanwhile, Algernon’s performance starts to deteriorate – after another few months the mouse dies. Charlie realizes that he is destined to follow the same path. He then tries to make the best out of the time he has left.
I can’t say I liked this book. First things first, this is definitely not a typical sci-fi one would expect. I don’t need to have alines and robots in every book I read but “Flowers for Algernon” was really a stretch. If anything, it falls under the “psychological fiction” to me. Because I wasn’t expecting to read that type of a literature, I was in a constant denial as I progressed.
The story is being told in a form of a memoir by the protagonist himself. Due to the nature of Charlie’s condition, I couldn’t help but feel pity for him starting from the first pages. Again, maybe because I wasn’t prepared for this, I felt emotionally hijacked throughout the course of the book and that also annoyed me. Since we only know Charlie’s side of things, I was missing other character’s perspective on his evolution. Speaking of other characters – I found them not well developed. As a result, it was difficult to connect and empathize with them.
Overall, I expected the book to propose some thought-provoking ideas on the impact of high IQ on the humanity and the individual themselves. But all we got was that one day Charlie could barely read and the next day he spoke 20 languages. There were not really any description or analysis of what Charlie felt as he was gaining that extraordinary knowledge and that was a bit disappointing.
As I mentioned at the beginning, the idea behind this novel is really interesting. I wish it was further explored though.