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Flowers For Algernon (S.F. MASTERWORKS) Paperback – 13 Jan 2002

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz; New Ed edition (13 Jan. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857989384
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857989380
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.8 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (323 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,723 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon 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 a 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 realises 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 ...

A timeless tear-jerker with a terrific emotional impact, Flowers for Algernon is the 25th choice in the millennium SF Masterworks series. --David Langford

Book Description

Classic novel of a daring experiment in human intelligence.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Chris Johnson on 13 Jan. 2005
Format: Paperback
Flowers for algernon is one of the most amazing books i have ever read. Full Stop.
I picked it up just last week and read the whole thing within two days, thats just how great it is. The main storyline is that you have a main character, Charlie, who is mentally handicapped. He is given an operation to become more intelligent and the book goes on from there. The ascent from his stupidity to his intelligence is superbly written, showing you how he's learning to do more while not missing out the obvious part, that he's realized his friends aren't really his friends.
The story cannot and should not be told in a review like this, but i'd just like to say that i had tears in my eyes when i read the final few pages. Even though i was in the car with my parents at the time.
Only one more thing to say, just buy it
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65 of 67 people found the following review helpful By A. Morley on 16 Jan. 2006
Format: Paperback
Charlie Gordon, IQ 68, is a toilet cleaner at a bakery. After an experiment is done on him by the local University his IQ gradually increases in parallel with the test mouse, Algernon. However Algernon starts to display erratic behaviour which leads the super-intelligent Charlie to suggest both their intelligences will start to drop back to their previous levels.
Flowers for Algernon is in my opinion one of the greatest stories ever written. It is superbly told through Charlie’s diary entries which catalogue his days just before the experiment and the following months after it. We see the gradual improvement in his grammar, his spelling and punctuation and learn of his life through his dreams which he is instructed to write down. What is most compelling about the novel is the moral dilemma that is presented to the reader when Charlie becomes intelligent. In the beginning of the book he believes he has friends at the bakery whereas in actual fact they are gently mocking him. By the time he becomes intelligent however he is aloof and has no friends (make-believe or real). He also is incapable of certain emotions at this stage which poses the question at the end of the novel – at which stage was he better off?
This is rightly in the SF Masterwork series, it is my favourite book and has won the Hugo Award (as a short story) and Nebula award (as the full length novel).
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Robert J. Kerr on 2 Feb. 2000
Format: Paperback
Normally wary of books billed as "classics," I bought this on a whim, not realising that I was picking up what would become the most poignant and moving story I have ever read. From the first words, I was gripped by the tale of Charlie Gordon, a clinical moron who is given genius level intelligence through the intervention of science. The story of his rise from intellectual stupor, and his subsequent fall, is written with heartbreaking depth and emotion from his perspective, and we are treated to a discourse on what it means to be human. This is a book that should be read by everyone. A superb novel, well-deserving of the "Masterwork" label.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Penguin Egg on 14 Nov. 2002
Format: Paperback
Charlie Gordon is a retard, but an operation boosts his intelligence so that he becomes a genius. However, it becomes clear that the operation might start regressing and he may end up as retarded as when he started. The story is skilfully told in diary form, with the writing accurately reflecting the mental ability of Gordon. We watch through Gordon’s eyes his mental ascent to unassailable heights; fumbling with his emotional development as it lags behind his intellect; coming to terms with his past….and brooding upon his eventual future. Although the story is sad on so many levels, the book is never depressing and always compelling. This is because Keyes is a writer of skill and subtlety, and deserves to be known to a wider audience than his narrow science fiction base. A minor 20th Century classic.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By P. Davie on 13 April 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Could have been mawkish and over-sentimental. Could have been overly simplistic in its message. Could easily be seen as an "ignorance is bliss" fable with little more to commend it than the fact that it asks us to be sympathetic toward those less fortunate than ourselves. It, to my mind, is none of those things.

Its genius lies in its narrative structure - at each dramatic turn it outwits any second-guessing you may have entered into regarding revelations about Charlie's past as well as any thoughts as to how his intelligence may progress. Charlie's progress is neither predictable nor ridiculously sentimental. Especially since - regardless of his eventual self-awareness - there is an all-pervasive naivety that (I can only imagine) must have been incredibly difficult for Keyes to convey as brilliantly as he does.

What's perhaps more important is not the emotional investment we get in the main character, but the depth and resonance found in the other key players - especially when this is given to us, at all times, by the (first) mentally challenged (then) emotionally awkward Charlie. It is perhaps best just to say that there are no real villains in the novel - just people being people. (I could write more here but it would spoil the plot).

Overall, it is a book that should make you think about your own mental and emotional development. Again, I don't want to plot-spoil but, if you ask me, one of the final comments regarding self-effacement is by far the most poignant and intelligent in the whole book.

Compulsive reading.
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