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Flowers for Algernon [Mass Market Paperback]

Daniel Keyes
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (311 customer reviews)

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Mass Market Paperback, March 1 1984 --  
Audio, Cassette --  

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 Life Changing April 13 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Liked the Movie But I "Loved" The Book Sept. 17 2013
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
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. The movie leaves so much out and as good as it was, the part that was left out was the best part. This being the case,the book was a pleasant surprise. I can always tell when I read an exceptional book because it stays with me for a time after I read it, like an aftertaste. I have to tell you, the price was amazing and in no way reflects the quality of this book. Would I recomend this book to anyone? I already have. I even bought one for my daughter. It really earned the five stars I am giving it so let me take this opportunaty to suggest that you read it too. It is such a heartwarming story full of genuine emotion and self reflection. Written in first person, narrative, it makes you think, it makes you question things you might otherwise have never thought about, and it makes you feel like you have an emotional investment in the character from his rise to his greatest achievements to his eventual downfall. It's a page turner. If you have a heart, you'll love this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing road to a sob fest Sept. 9 2013
By Deijay
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book brought be back to my childhood. Its a great read if you want your heart ripped out.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Loved this book Aug. 2 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
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 himself the recipient of an experimental surgery to increase his intellect.

The story is written in the form of journals Charlie must write for the researchers to be able to chart his progress. He becomes more than anyone thought possible but then he loses it. It was a painful progression and regression to watch. You cannot help but feel the joys and horrors he experiences as he goes through this evolution.

It will be a while before I can shake this feeling I have from reading it. Horribly sad but also incredibly joyful.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Knowledge is a Precious and Painful Possession Feb. 18 2013
By John M. Ford TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback
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. Because Charlie does not understand the limits of his mental handicap, he pursues adult education classes with hope of making himself smarter. His life seems sad to the reader, but Charlie is mercifully insulated from awareness of the world beyond his reach.

His life changes when Charlie participates in a surgical experiment designed to improve intelligence. The experiment succeeds, and Charlie quickly develops first ordinary, and then extraordinary intelligence. Readers see the results in Charlie's life and in his understanding of those around him. Some of these realizations are painful, for both Charlie and the reader. Charlie's life changes direction again when it becomes clear that his increased intelligence is temporary. Algernon, a lab rat that also benefitted from the experimental surgery, begins losing his abilities and soon dies. Charlie declines as well, descending back into the familiar mental fog of his former life. But now he carries the emotional burdens of self-awareness and memory of a more complex world.

This is classic science fiction and one of the most moving stories about mental handicaps ever written. Although it was originally banned from public school curricula, it is now widely recognized as a valuable part of children's emotional education. The book's painful emotions produce a worthwhile educational experience. I highly recommend Daniel Keyes' book to anyone who teaches and loves children, especially those with special needs.

Forgive a personal note: I gave a copy of this book to my wife, Lynnette, while we were dating in college. It was a rewarding bridge between her mature interests in special education and my lighthearted fondness for science fiction. Like Charlie Gordon, we build the bridges to others that we can. And remember them.
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