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This review is from: Flowers For Algernon (S.F. MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
Like many I suspect, I tend to avoid books that are described as poignant, but due to the huge number of high ratings this book received I decided to give it a go. I'm really glad that I did, and very grateful that I had the chance to read this book. Like the best sci-fi (in my humble opinion), this book is literature first and sci-fi second, but it is also a tale that could not be written without the sci-fi framework. The magnetism of this book is that is how skillfully it describes the hypocrisy of society, both from the very lowest elements described (the coarse and resentful employees at the bakery) to the highest (the sly and patronising academics). Charlie navigates from one layer through to the next, with only a brief love affair to offset the cruelty of the world he lives in. However, Charlie remains a true hero due to his ultimate nobility and decency which he carries all the way through his stratospheric intellectual climb and into his subsequent descent, and it is these values that keep the reader engaged throughout the story.
The power of this book is that it humbles you, and moves you deeply regarding the casual injustices of the world. It is also a biting critique of the academic world - the part where Charlie denounces the pettines and cowardice of those who spend their lives churning out derivative research rather than risking their reputation on more ambitious projects is as valid now as it was then.
This book is a tremendous exploration of the shortcomings of humanity towards the weakest in their society and, despite being fiction, succeeds better than any journalism I know of at opening the reader's eyes and heart to the nature of bullying, exploitation and small-mindedness - whether physical or intellectual.