Understand

Ms Jobling recommends a short story by Understand_by_Ted_Chiang

I recently watched the film ‘Arrival’ (which I highly recommend) and discovered that it was based on the short story ‘Story of Your Life’ by sci-fi author Ted Chiang. I bought his collection of short stories and decided to start from the beginning and read the stories in order, rather than skipping straight to ‘Story of Your Life’.

Surprisingly, my favourite story in the collection was called ‘Understand’. It centres on Leon who, after drowning and ending up in a coma, undergoes experimental ‘hormone K therapy’. After waking up from the coma, doctors find that Leon’s damaged neurons are regenerated and that his intellectual capacity is dramatically increased.

After a short time, the CIA become interested in Leon and a government psychologist called Clausen begins doing tests on him. However, Leon realises that the authorities see him as a danger; he leaves the city and before long tracks down another hyper-intelligent man named Reynolds, who has also undergone the same therapy.

The narrative builds up to the meeting of the two characters and the psychological battle they engage in…

I won’t give away the ending, but must say I found it totally mind-blowing and would recommend it to anyone who is looking for something different to read – you can even borrow it from me!