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My Top 10 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Novels: #2 – Flowers For Algernon

April 29, 2011 1 comment

#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

All Entries

#10 – Watership Down

#9 – The Harry Potter Series

#8 – The Wheel of Time Series

#7 – The Stars My Destination

#6 – To Say Nothing of the Dog

#5 – Doomsday Book

#4 – Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal

#3 – The Farseer Trilogy

#2 – Flowers for Algernon

#1 – The Martian Chronicles

‘A Dance With Dragons’ To Be Released on July 12!

March 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Yes, after 5 years since “A Feast for Crows” was published, George RR Martin has finished the 5th book in his Song of Ice and Fire series, entitled “A Dance with Dragons”!

The news was announced today on Martin’s webpage, and later confirmed on the Tor homepage.

Fans have been waiting a long time for this book, and it seems like a good time to release it as well. The first book, ‘A Game of Thrones’ has been adapted as an HBO series and will have its first episode shown on April 17.

A big year for Martin, and his fans. A lot of people are going to be excited about this one!

Are eBooks Really Killing Paper Books?

October 21, 2010 1 comment

I love to read. Always have. Ever since I was a kid I’ve always had my nose in a book. So when eReaders started appearing on the market I had some mixed feelings. Sure they are portable and kind of cool, but they don’t feel like a book. They don’t smell like a book. There is just something about a good dead-tree book isn’t there?

Last month it was my birthday, and I got a Kindle. And in a word, it’s awesome! The screen looks better than I had imagined, its light, portable, and I can carry around an entire personal library of books at once.

My Kindle. Yay!

But there seems to be a growing fear that eReaders and eBooks will spell the inevitable doom of the printed word. And perhaps those fears aren’t completely unfounded.

I spent my first couple hours with my Kindle downloading all the free classic books that have had their copyright expire. Dracula, White Fang, Alice In Wonderland, and so on. I actually have real copies of these books hidden in a basement somewhere; but let’s be honest, I never actually read them. But since I got the Kindle I’ve already gone through a couple of Sherlock Holmes novels and re-read all my favourite Edgar Allan Poe short stories (Seriously, how awesome is ‘The Cask of Amontillado‘?).

But those poor old paperback versions of the same books still sit collecting dust in my basement. However, I think this is a great advantage of eBooks. Imagine all the eReaders out there with copies of Oliver Twist and Moby Dick and all the classics. Everyone will be carrying them around and, eventually, they may even read them!

I also never read a real newspaper anymore. I get all of my news online. Now you can have a newspaper electronically delivered to your Kindle every single day, wherever you are. Who needs all that ink smudging on their fingers anyway?

A couple of months ago Amazon fueled this fear of eBooks when it announced that eBooks were outselling hardcover books. This was quite an announcement, but be sure to take it with a grain of salt. Hardcover books only contribute a small portion of their total sales. But this still shows a growing trend in the market: people want to buy eBooks.

So does this mean that the printed book is doomed? Of course not!

I think the growing popularity of eReaders is just like the advent of mp3 players like the iPod when it came out 10 years ago. The term “mp3” was still unknown to most people, but already the winds of change were coming to the music industry.

Digital downloads of music took the market by storm. iPod sales have been climbing for years, though now they have started to level off as the market gets saturated.

This did mean declining CD sales. Used CD stores started going out of business.

Sam the Record Man, one of Toronto's most famous record stores, closed on May 29, 2007 after more than 75 years in business. Photo by David Sherret from Flickr.

But the CD never went away. It is still around. I still like to go to a dark, dirty, smelly club to see an independent band rock out harder than any big name band could ever do. They always have a box in the corner where they sell their personally pressed CDs, and this is where the CD market will live on. Sure, it’s not big business. But people love to support bands that they love, and this will never change.

Not to mention Vinyl! I think printed books are probably going to end up just like vinyl records. Any music enthusiast probably owns a vinyl player. A lot of indie bands release their albums as vinyl records, with a passcode for the digital download from iTunes. People still buy vinyl and keep them for their aesthetic and purist appeal. But for everyday listening we all still carry around an iPod; so for everyday reading, people of the future will all be carrying an eReader. But you bet your ass they will also have a collection of real paperbacks on their shelves at home.

That eReader could be a Kindle, or an iPad, or simply a smart phone. But the technology is here to stay. And yes, it will probably result in declining paper book sales and some books stores going out of business. I feel bad about that, but at the same time the market has to evolve. Technology has to improve, and it was only a matter of time before this affected books. Read on!