A science fiction epistolary written in 1st person is not something I would normally read, being the fantasy-lover that I am. Of course, exceptions exist for all, and Flowers For Algernon is an oddball for me.
Indeed, when I first heard of the novel, I did not think I was going to read it. But then I stumbled across an excerpt, a very brief one too, and my fate was sealed.
Without spoiling anything that the back of the novel won’t spoil anyway – the main character is intellectually deprived. And the whole novel is his own diary (a.k.a. epistolary), and the author did his best to make it realistic. The diary is as you would expect a dumb person’s diary to be – full of nonsense, grammar and spelling mistakes, and just things that make you laugh (at the person, of course).
That’s why I had to read that book! It was a challenge. It was something new. It was a world different yet the same, recognizable and not, predictable though unexpected.
At first that was enough to get me through the pages. After all, it’s not all the time that you need to think on every sentence just to get what it means. But of course, it got annoying. And most conveniently it stopped.
Once the main character, Charlie, becomes intelligent enough to spell (again, nothing the back of the book won’t tell you), we start seeing 20th century New York in a totally different light. Daniel Keyes experiments with a variety of styles and new ideas to show Charlie’s POV, and that’s where 1st person works awesomely for him! (not sure if that was a word)
Needless to say, the characters in this book are simply stunning. Not necessarily the best characters I’ve seen, but they work well with the setting and the plot, which works out for an awesome reading.
There are many novels, films, and TV shows that try and take on a perspective of a handicapped, or otherwise unusual person and show us how they view the world. Examples are: The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time, Dexter, I Am Sam.
Flowers For Algernon takes all that’s been done in those pieces and takes it to another level. It uses science fiction concepts to show us a journey that is impossible in our time and really manages to collect all possible POVs into one person, yet leaves out the key parts of each. And the result… well you’ll have to read the book for that. Let me just say that Flowers For Algernon is like nothing I’ve ever read before. And I’ve read quite a bit. This is not another science fiction story. This is a classic that will appeal to audiences of all genre preferences. The novel has won awards to prove it and sale charts to back it.
My only advice to you is read it. For it will be one of those books you read all night cuz you just can’t stop. One warning will go out though – those who cry easily: watch out. This book is not the happiest fairy tale.
Have fun writing,