Louisa Hall‘s novel, Speak, is a wonderful thing. Lyrical and understated, the book uses many types of language and effect to carry the reader through the story.
Using five different voices in various media and registers, the robot relays its stories as it heads to storage. Hall creates a set of subtle links between the narrators as they develop, whilst world building and collapsing.
There is a touch of Flowers for Algernon” reflected. In the Daniel Keyes’ story (it exists as short story and novel), the reader is shown the brilliance of Algernon’s world as it is developed and built before being trapped in the increasingly depressing collapse. The diary format is intimate, sharing the innermost secrets with the world and Keyes uses it to devastating affect. It is one of those moments where Sf tends to horror.
I think that there is another linked precursor, John Crowley’s Engine Summer. Using the motif of the story telling intelligence, the Crowley novel has the same effects as the Algernon, with a moment of realisation that I still find affecting. Hall is subtle in her way of providing this information. All of the above provide worlds that allows the reader to interact with them in a lisible way.
Hall brings out the human in the technology and forces the reader to think about the interaction between the two states. As MARY is created, the creators seem less concerned with the ethical implications but with their own lives. The panacea fails to cure anything but instead provides a new set of ills. The author allows the reader to make their own minds up about the issues.
Sometimes the language is jarring but overall the world is layered and beautiful. I should read the earlier novel now.