My Top 10 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Novels: #2 – Flowers For Algernon
#2 – Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (1966)
This is the only book I’ve ever read that has actually made me cry.
Yup, this 200 pound dude has actually starting shedding tears while sitting and reading a book. This book.
Algernon is a laboratory mouse which has undergone a procedure to increase its intelligence. When the procedure works, the scientists decide to try the procedure on a mentally challenged person named Charlie.
The book is written in the first-person from Charlie’s perspective. Charlie was asked to write progress reports before and after the experiment, and this creates a very unique reading experience.
The first few reports are before the procedure. Charlie has poor grammar, spelling mistakes and finds it difficult to write very much. But you gain a sense of connection with Charlie, especially when he discusses how he is treated by his family and co-workers.
As the procedure begins to take effect, Charlie’s writing becomes more lucid and he actually starts to do his own scientific research. He falls in love. Basically, he begins to live a normal life.
Then, Algernon begins to deteriorate, and Charlie wonders if the same will happen to him.
Despite being published 45 years ago, the themes of ethical scientific research and treatment of the disabled are still very much relevant.
It’s an incredible book that shared the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1966.
“all my life I wantid to be smart and not dumb and my mom always tolld me to try and lern just like Miss Kinnian tells me but its very hard to be smart and even when I lern something in Miss Kinnians class at the school I ferget alot.”
– Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon