Can the award-winning science fiction novels of the past actually still be worth reading several decades later? Do they have messages, technology, and characters that are pertinent in modern society? Have I just been reading rehashed versions of past award-winners? There's only one way to find out...
read and review the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus award-winning novels.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes

Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes, tied for the 1967 Nebula Award for Best Novel. It also received a Hugo Award, but in a slightly different form for Best Short Story. If your education was anything like mine, you read this book at least once before high school graduation--probably more than once.

I enjoyed reading Flowers for Algernon in school, and felt that I remembered it very well--I almost decided not to re-read it for this project. Re-reading it was entirely worthwhile, and I found layers to the book that I missed on previous reads.

The key passage, for me, comes midway through the book when a coworker tells Charlie, "'s not meant for man to know more than was given for him to know by the Lord in the first place. The fruit of that tree was forbidden to man." Charlie blindly follows Adam & Eve down that well-beaten path, discovering wonders but also tackling previously unknown emotions like shame and condescension. Ultimately, Charlie learns that ignorance is only bliss if you've never known anything else.

Flowers for Algernon is well-written and compelling, and its language evolves right along with its lead character. In my mind, it *barely* qualifies as science fiction, but it's certainly worth reading--again.
Rating: 5/5

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