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Flowers for Algernon
by Daniel Keyes

Published: 2005-05-01
Paperback : 336 pages
10 members reading this now
14 clubs reading this now
8 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 1 of 1 members
With more than five million copies sold, Flowers for Algernon is the beloved, classic story of a mentally disabled man whose experimental quest for intelligence mirrors that of Algernon, an extraordinary lab mouse. In poignant diary entries, Charlie tells how a brain operation increases ...
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Introduction

With more than five million copies sold, Flowers for Algernon is the beloved, classic story of a mentally disabled man whose experimental quest for intelligence mirrors that of Algernon, an extraordinary lab mouse. In poignant diary entries, Charlie tells how a brain operation increases his IQ and changes his life. As the experimental procedure takes effect, Charlie's intelligence expands until it surpasses that of the doctors who engineered his metamorphosis. The experiment seems to be a scientific breakthrough of paramount importance--until Algernon begins his sudden, unexpected deterioration. Will the same happen to Charlie?

Editorial Review

Daniel Keyes wrote little SF but is highly regarded for one classic, Flowers for Algernon. As a 1959 novella it won a Hugo Award; the 1966 novel-length expansion won a Nebula. The Oscar-winning movie adaptation Charly (1968) also spawned a 1980 Broadway musical.

Following his doctor's instructions, engaging simpleton Charlie Gordon tells his own story in semi-literate "progris riports." He dimly wants to better himself, but with an IQ of 68 can't even beat the laboratory mouse Algernon at maze-solving:

I dint feel bad because I watched Algernon and I lernd how to finish the amaze even if it takes me along time.

I dint know mice were so smart.

Algernon is extra-clever thanks to an experimental brain operation so far tried only on animals. Charlie eagerly volunteers as the first human subject. After frustrating delays and agonies of concentration, the effects begin to show and the reports steadily improve: "Punctuation, is? fun!" But getting smarter brings cruel shocks, as Charlie realizes that his merry "friends" at the bakery where he sweeps the floor have all along been laughing at him, never with him. The IQ rise continues, taking him steadily past the human average to genius level and beyond, until he's as intellectually alone as the old, foolish Charlie ever was--and now painfully aware of it. Then, ominously, the smart mouse Algernon begins to deteriorate...

Flowers for Algernon is a timeless tear-jerker with a terrific emotional impact. --David Langford

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Member Reviews

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  "amazing!"by anderson2 (see profile) 05/21/13

 
  "A man goes from being mentally challenged to a genius."by abbeyonekanobe (see profile) 07/18/08

This was an amazing book about a man going from being mentally disabled to a genius because he had an experiment that changed him. Even though the character of the book had so many rough times I still... (read more)

 
  "Is ignorance really bliss?"by kfoulks (see profile) 07/18/08

We had a great discussion about what is more important to each of us... intelligence or to have friends. It was a heartbreaking book, and 50 years later (it was written in the 1960s) it seems unrealistic... (read more)

 
  "Classic Story"by Kathy E. (see profile) 04/02/08

This is a good opening for discussing the moral issues of testing on animals and humans.

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