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Flowers for Algernon

February 26, 2011 Leave a comment

altFlowers for Algernon (S.F. Masterworks)

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keys

Sci-Fi Masterworks Series

‘Charlie Gordon is a floor sweeper’, so the jacket blurb describes. This is not in the same ball park as those standard ‘space based’ Sci-Fis akin to Star Trek. This could well be considered a psychological insight into the ever-changing human state.

In this tale we follow the fortunes of Charlie who, at the outset, is ‘blessed’ with an IQ of 68, well below normal. There’s little to distinguish him from anyone else other than his inability to understand anything more than the ‘here and now’ – and with those around him either despairing at his ignorance or taking advantage of his simple nature there seems to be no real chance for progress.

That is, until he is confronted with the option to be ‘made’ intelligent through a surgical procedure. Without hesitation he takes the option with the assumption it will improve him, such is the engrained belief that everyone else knows best.

Over time he surpasses all around him, including those that performed the experimental procedure. He finds himself able to comprehend so much and yet, at the same time feels completely isolated from all – far more so than when he was a simple floor sweeper who was the butt of all jokes.

This book is not an easy read for the personification of the language itself – at the start this ‘diary’ monologue is that of a man with an IQ of 68. However, as the language improves so does Charlie’s understanding of his situation – and with hindsight he is conflicted by feelings of animosity to those around him for taking advantage of such an innocent; the former him.

Extra-ordinarily architected, this story shows the shifting of a human psyche from a constant to a growing, changing, learning individual who, once capable of objective and abstract thought, is from time to time offended by the routes used to get there. The conflict creates dead ends of thought to be avoided and quickly, as described in the text, the protagonist understands that to be productive, one must be happy.

In numerous ways this book illustrates humanity, from the ‘birth’ of the new consciousness to the ‘nursing homes’ visited towards the end, and all the confusion of love, sex and work between the two.

In short – fantastic. I thoroughly recommend this book – but don’t take my word for it, read it for yourself! 😉

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Categories: Books

The Stars My Destination

January 18, 2011 Leave a comment

The Stars My Destination (S.F. Masterworks)

The Stars My Destination (S.F. Masterworks)alt

by Alfred Bester

My rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Brilliant. Took me a fair while to get into – it seemed fairly disjointed for the first half of the book, but that may have been due to the sporadic nature of my reading at the start of this month (January – just back at work). Second Part of the book accelerated and, like an urgent message from an anti-hero on speed, made it’s impact. I liked it.

Written in the 1950’s ‘The Stars My Destinationalt‘, despite sounding like a rather crap self help group, seems to be bang up to date even today. The only minor criticism that could be brought against it is that ‘some’ of the science seems fairly vague; this downfall, however, is more than made up for by the extra-ordinary imagination that drove the creation of the   more ‘believe and they will come’ based ideas.

In Gully Foyle’s time: The world is a very different place with humans empowered, not just by knowledge, but by new physical abilities which (given their non-prejudiced distribution among the masses) have caused society to tear itself apart. This may now be all in the past – but such patterns have a tendency to repeat.

On a lighter note: Bester started writing this book in the UK and hence many of the names are based on English place names, book shops or a rather large holiday maker – so the locals said…

Go read it!alt Fancy buying it? Here’s a link to Amazon and the book itself: The Stars My Destination (S.F. Masterworks)alt.

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Ender in Exile

December 31, 2010 Leave a comment

Ender in ExileEnder in Exile by Orson Scott Card

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Got the thing from a lovely second-hand book shop in Brixton, turn left when you get out of the tube and second left – it’s down that road on the right. Being second-hand (cheap) and a reminder of the first book in the series I read when I was sixteen, this one is a pleasure to read. A bit like a holiday to times past…

The plot of the original book is far too fantastical to try to summarise; I’ve noticed that much from reading the odd review of ‘Ender’s Game‘ before – they tend to leave me with that feeling, ‘Bloody Sci-Fi nutters – they’ll read anything’; the characters are reasonably well ‘explored’, so there’s enough there to empathise with (to use reviewers parlance), the sci-fi ideas (i.e. future technology) give the author plenty of scope to get his characters from one side of the galaxy to the other without breaking into a sweat (which ultimately lead you to consider faster than light travel and transportation via de-materialisation and re-materialisation). It’s all good fun.

So, in short, we’re talking about a series of books about a child who is psychologically messed with to produce a human being who is capable of mass murder on a planetary scale and, as a consequence, able to save lives on the same scale. An intelligent monster who is entirely human and so equally adept at creating harmony out of the chaos he may well have caused (or, at least, was held responsible for) in the first place.

So: I like it. Although it’s only a bit of fun. The characters’ interactions are far more interesting than the storyline itself – which makes me wonder why I’m reading sci-fi AGAIN!

Fancy buying it? Here’s a link to Amazon and the Ender series: The Ender Quartet Box Set: Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, Children of the Mind.

View all my reviews

Categories: Books
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