Picture from "The Library Dragon" by Carmen Agra Deedy, illustrations by Michael P. White

"Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist.
Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed."
- G. K. Chesterton

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Classic Science Fiction - Flowers for Algernon

Follow Charlie’s emotional and intellectual journey from retardation to genus, in his own words, when he undergoes an experimental surgery that has already successfully increased the intelligence of a mouse named Algernon.  Will Charlie end up like Algernon?  This classic science fiction tale was originally written as a short story in 1958 and first published in the April 1959 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  It won 1960 Hugo Award for Best Short Story and the expanded book version won the1966 Nebula Award for Best Novel.  Like much science fiction, Flowers for Algernon “explores moral, social, intellectual, philosophical and ethical questions” (Sarick.) It does so through the character of Charlie.  By writing as Charlie, the author was able to use a range of styles and language as well as tone and mood.  Since the book does focus on ideas, the pacing is slower.  The setting of the book does depart from the usual other worldliness of most science fiction in that it is an everyday setting we are familiar with.  If anything, because it was written over fifty years ago, it seems almost antiquated in many respects.  It’s the experimental operation and the idea of playing God that pushes this novel into the realm of science fiction.  I don’t read much traditional science fiction, but perhaps becasue this novel focused on character and ideas, I really enjoyed it.

Keyes, Daniel. Flowers for Algernon. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1996

Sarak, Joyce G. The Readers' Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction. American Library Association Editions, 2009.

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