“I don’t know what’s worse: to not know what you are and be happy, or to become what you’ve always wanted to be, and feel alone.”
A new method has been developed to increase human intelligence. The technique has already been tried on the mouse Algernon, with fantastic results. Now it is to be used on a human being, and Charlie -a mentally backward 37-year-old with an IQ of only 68- is chosen as the test subject. The treatment works and soon Charlie's IQ is rocketing. But then Algernon starts to behave erratically...
The novel is built-up out of progress reports written by Charlie himself. The fact that the story is told from his point of view, makes his development very poignant. Starting with the childishly naive first entries, you can see him gradually turning smarter, into brilliance. But along with this intelligence, he also gains insight into the people around him - and this is not always a positive thing. The ending is absolutely shattering, but oh-so beautiful.
"Flowers for Algernon" isn't only my favourite science fiction story, it is in my Top-5 novels I have ever read, in any genre. This story gets to me every time. Each. And. Every. Time. The SF-aspect is only very slight. Apart from the new treatment, it reads like a contemporary psychological novel, which is just deeply, deeply moving. Read this one, please. I can guarantee that Charlie is a character you will never ever forget.
Author: Daniel Keyes
Title: Flowers for Algernon
Publisher: Gollancz, London
Year: 1994 (orig. 1966)
Number of pages: 237 p.