“Understand” (1991)

Creators

Ted Chiang (writer).

Extent

Read in 2017.

Subject

Human super-intelligence.

Commentary

Probably SF’s most intelligent take on intelligence. Chiang flirts with superhero tropes and stretches credibility but ultimately stays within hard boundaries to good effect. I would have loved to see a novel-length treatment dealing with the protagonist’s past and his emotional development. This could have been a less conservative, more open-minded update to Flowers for Algernon (1966). It is an appropriately reductive alternative. As such it realizes the promise of Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, without the morbidity of the “study in scarlet” metaphor.

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