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Flowers for Algernon [Mass Market Paperback]

Daniel Keyes
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (314 customer reviews)

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Mass Market Paperback, March 1 1984 --  
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Book Description

March 1 1984 Bantam Classic
Flowers For Algernon made its  first appearance as a short story which was  rapidly and widely anthologized, and translated  internationally. It received further acclaim as a  moderated television drama, and as a motional picture  production. Now, full bodied and richly-peopled,  Flowers For Algernon is the daring  novel of a starling human experiment!  

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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


"A tale that is convincing, suspectful and  touching..." -- The New York  Times.

"Fascinating, agonizing... Superb."  --Birmingham News.

"This novel should be on your 'must read'  list." -- Palm Beach Post-Times.  

"Strikingly original..." --  Publishers'  Weekly.

"Absorbing... Immensely original... Going to be read  for a long time to come." -- Library  Journal.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly touching Sept. 15 1997
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
There are those who have attempted the topic before, to show the good or ill about artificially increasing a man's intelligence, and they have all fallen by the wayside, forgotten entries in the arena of literature, all because they forgot one factor: love.

In Flowers for Algernon, Keyes shows us a man who is jolted out of his comfortable world of stupidity and finds his friends who were not as good as he thought they were, that all he thought was nothing more than a veiled illusion. And he copes, as everyone must, he copes and finds love and comes to term with himself.

Just in time for him to realize that his intelligence is only temporary. In the most heart wrenching scenes of the novel, the reader must witness his intelligence fading rapidly, each journal entry a little less exact, the spelling a tiny bit worse, until the book comes full circle and he is back where he started from, only having a wisdom that he cannot understand, or comprehend.
Touching, moving, Flowers for Algernon is all that and more, it is an epic of emotion, an opera of getting what you want most and then realizing that you might have been better off.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A touching, intelligent story Aug. 17 2006
This award-winning novel by Daniel Keyes is nearly perfect in its execution, with perhaps the minor quibble of some dated slang that's a slight detraction. But that alone is not enough to prevent the book from receiving a well-deserved five stars. Keyes doesn't hit a false note in his story of the rise and fall of Charlie, a mentally retarded custodian at a bakery who briefly becomes a towering genius thanks to an experimental brain operation, only to loose it all as the effects turn out to be temporary. Worse, Charlie's deterioration is beyond even his advanced abilities to stop or reverse it; he has to bear the slow terror of sliding back down to his previous diminished mental capacity, with the hint that he- like Algernon, the lab mouse of the book title that was first to benefit from the operation- might die too. Although considered by some to be a "just" a sentimental story with a tearjerk ending, Charlie is a fully realized character from start to finish, one whose plight keeps you turning the pages, which is why this novel rates so highly. If you're a new fan of science fiction, or just want to sample what the genre has to offer, Flowers for Algernon should be high on your "must read" list. A newer novel with a similar theme is An Audience for Einstein, another book with an emotionally charged, touching ending.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Flowers For Algernon Sept. 26 2005
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This book was touching and meaningful. If you are a fan of faster paced books, this novel may not be for you. Flowers For Algernon moves relatively slowly, and readers grow attached to the main characters. Within the novel lies different messages concerning morals and everyday struggles.
Unique, and unlike any other books I have read before. You may want to pick it up and have a read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars If I Could Give It Six Stars, I Would!! May 25 2004
Along with John Updikes's "Rabbit Run" this is one of the great novels I have ever read. Period. Through the eyes and heart of Charlie Gordon, we see the best and the worst of humanity, we see a person with little resources available to him struggle with enormous challenges.
Thanks to a scientific invention that leads to a startling new procedure, Charlie's IQ raises from about 70 to over 300. It was interesting how getting smarter did not make Charlie any happier. He was probably happier mopping floors at the bakery than when he was able to understand "higher echelons" of society. The message of this book is that the goodness of the human heart can be pure regardless of educational level or intelligence.
I found most interesting how Charlie attempted to understand his earlier life as he gained more reflective abilities and how he attempted to understand his family. Also he
attempted to understand women. As a lower functioning person, he barely grasped sexual politics if at all. When he is forced to understand, he still doesn't because he sees the old Charlie in himself no matter how smart he gets. He sees the old Charlie glaring at him in the mirror.
Even as he starts losing his intelligence because of a procedure that was not perfect, he still has the great desire to retain as much as he can, and to keep reading books, a brilliant way to say through a novel, that learning leads to more learning in life and you can never completely get back to where you were before, but hopefully always moving forward.
This, for me, made me more sure of my unconditional positive regard for humanity, especially the potential for learning and love that we all have. Charlie taught me a lot and I know he will teach you a lot too!(...)
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4.0 out of 5 stars A penny about thought April 19 2004
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
(I just want to preface this by saying i've only read the short story, not the actual novel, but i felt i had to get some opinions out there, so take it or leave it)
I found this story fascinating, since intellegence has always been something i've been trying to figure out. When i was 10 or 11, i was told that i have a very high IQ (not newhere near genius, but high nonetheless). Over the years i came to realise that intellegence is highly over-rated. Our society places way to much of an importance on intellegence, even so much that people think that if you are more intellgent, you are a better person.It is helpful, sure, but no more so than many other things, and it most certainly DOESNT make you a better person than anyone else. Also, there is terrible discrimination against stupid poeple. I have a good friend who is, and he faces much the same things Charly does, though mostly behind his back. Its terrible!
Anyways, thanks for reading my random rant. I hope this was helpful at all, and p-lease read this sotry/book, its awesome
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 2 months ago by Tania**
5.0 out of 5 stars An example of how there is never an easy solution to complicated...
Very thought-provoking. An example of how there is never an easy solution to complicated problems. I love the 1st person style - it really makes the story complete.
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed this book
A good read, and simply written. I flew through this book and enjoyed it, I have since recommended it to friends.
Published 3 months ago by fionah
5.0 out of 5 stars Life Changing
This book should be recommended for life. Those who choose not to read it should be cursed to mentally stay in their teens until done so.
Published 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Liked the Movie But I "Loved" The Book
I guess the reason why I purchased this book in the first place is because I really liked the movie but the book was so much better. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Peter E. Larson
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing road to a sob fest
This book brought be back to my childhood. Its a great read if you want your heart ripped out.
Published 12 months ago by Deijay
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved this book
This is one of the greatest books I have ever read.

It's the story of the rise and fall of Charlie, a mentally challenged man who through either luck or misfortune finds... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Rose
5.0 out of 5 stars Knowledge is a Precious and Painful Possession
Charlie Gordon is not very bright, but has a life that works for him. He does not understand the cruelty of his coworkers, so is able to see them as his friends. Read more
Published 19 months ago by John M. Ford
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking
They say "ignorance is bliss", that really rings true to this novel.
I don't think I've ever cried this much reading.
Published on April 13 2012 by PandaThuy
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant novel
I discovered this novel after viewing the adapted film, "Charly." Once again, the film failed to do justice to the eloquent and compelling character development in "Flowers for... Read more
Published on March 5 2012 by The_Introspector
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