The topic is interesting, but the book itself is junky. Oops.
Brilliant is not as brilliant as it wants me to think it is. Probably it’s really hard to write a book on such a huge topic, but then isn’t it the author’s and the publisher’s responsibility to focus and communicate the topic appropriately, to create and then meet readers’ expectations?
If you want to know specifically why I didn’t like the book, or what I still managed to learn from it, keep reading.
Before it was an award-winning sci-fi novel, it was an award-winning sci-fi short story. It’s commonly studied, deep, and poignant. (I’m not really a fan of poignant.)
Flowers for Algernon tells the story of a retarded man named Charlie who undergoes an experimental surgical procedure to increase his intelligence. Algernon is the mouse whose success has convinced scientists that the procedure should be tried on a human test subject. It is clear early in the book, if not from the title of the book itself, that the procedure ultimately fails. Hence the poignancy.
For more on the format, plot and themes, continue reading.
See below for my thoughts on this excellent novel, when and why I read it (twice!), and a list of other books I’ve read that are about India or by Indian authors.
My write-up of the premise, characters, themes and what I liked about the book contains some details about the characters that could be considered spoilers but does not give away the climax or resolution of the tale.
Singapore is not a great place for book bargains. However, I have had some luck with book sales that travel around and set up in shopping mall atriums. (Atria. Happy now, Firefox spellcheck?)
If I were the roadrunner, this would be the perfect trap for the coyote to set up. I would fall right in it.
Now, no doubt I have some books that are pretty useless to me. In fact, you could say that at any given time, all my books except for about three of them are useless to me. Some, like the ones written in Thai, Greek, Korean, Arabic or Burmese, are likely to remain useless to me forever.
Still. Still, I ask you. Of what possible use is a book on ROCKHOUNDING IN IDAHO to anyone in Singapore? I mean, I love rocks—and books, obviously—and I fully understand the notion of armchair travel. And yet. This book. It cannot help me find rocks in Idaho as long as I am physically in Singapore.
Am I right? Seriously, this book is never going to sell…
I mean, for the same money, you’d clearly be better off with Daytrips from Washington, DC.
I am currently reading what is essentially a murder mystery (set in revolutionary Boston but with magic). I almost never do that. This book was signed by the author and recommended and given to me by the person it was signed for (my brother’s housemate).
At some point I realized that by an odd coincidence, the book I read immediately prior to this one was ALSO essentially a murder mystery (actually a contemporary thriller, set in the UK). It is ALSO signed by the author.
I did not read these two in a row on purpose. And actually, it turns out I didn’t really read them in a row; there was a YA fantasy novel in between that I read in one sitting. It’s just that I’m trying to read books more or less in reverse order as they come into my possession, and these are both books I got recently. And they’re not that much alike—they’re not even the same size!—except that they both revolve around murder cases and they’re both signed.
I just read Little (Grrl) Lost by Charles de Lint. My paperback has a shiny, metallic bluish cover depicting the character Elizabeth, who looks spunky. I went to put the book back on the shelf and look for another to attack next and discovered another Charles de Lint book. Also blue. Also depicting a spunky teenage girl. Titled The Blue Girl. For a moment I thought the publisher had perhaps retitled the work for the paperback edition, and that thus I unknowingly had bought two copies of the same book.
But no. Apparently Charles de Lint has written two entirely different blue-themed books featuring two entirely different spunky teenage girls. That’s a relief.
Kudos to Scott Fischer for the cover of Little (Grrl) Lost and to Cliff Nielsen for the cover of The Blue Girl. I know Cliff’s name because of some excellent Madeleine L’Engle covers. May your revenue stream never run dry, Cliff.