Sunday, November 09, 2008

Daniel Keyes's Flowers For Algernon

It's interesting to note that Flowers For Algernon is categorised as science fiction. The truth is I'm no science fiction buff, and have absolutely no intention to be one. This is my first of such genre, I believe, and without regret too, all credit to this review.

I have to say though, that Flowers For Algernon is rather an unusual product. Partly because I have always seen the genre in "Star War", or as tales set in space. Sure, there are psychology and the issue of science versus nature when the protagonist, Charlie Gordon, a thirty-something good-natured man with a low IQ, volunteers as the first human subject for an experimental brain operation to enhance his intelligence. But what shines in this compelling page-turner is the emotional journey that Charlie is put through, as he becomes a genius after the surgery, only to face a regressive intelligence. At the heart of the story lies the ethnics of medical science: do humans truly have the authority to stain nature's blueprint and act as "God", despite all the scientific advancement?

Written convincingly as a compilation of journal-like "Progress Reports" penned by Charlie, one can't help but be moved by his exceptional motivation to learn to read and write, to better himself. Truly, to watch yourself having it all then to lose it all, is such a heart-wrenching experience, especially if it is something intangible, and inside you. Then, there is the emotional development that Charlie endeavours to bridge, as he struggles to come to term with his past and childhood. Alas, all is in vain! Eventually, Charlie and Algernon, the only laboratory mouse to have successfully undergone the operation, share the fate of the operation's defect. What is perhaps more cruel is that Charlie has to prove the invalidity of the hypothesis with his intelligence before fading into oblivion.

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