Sci-fi novel fails to meet expectations

Daniel Keyes’ classic novel, “Flowers for Algernon,” is a science fiction drama that should be really good, but is just not.

Charlie Gordon, a mentally disabled man who undergoes surgery as part of a psychological study in order to raise his IQ, narrates “Flowers for Algernon” through a series of progress reports.

As his IQ rapidly rises after the procedure, he is forced to learn how to become an entirely new person nearly overnight.

With the help of a cast of psychologists and doctors, Charlie faces a series of challenges, such as sexual relationships and trying to convince the academic world around him that he is more than just a patient; all while being watched by “old Charlie.”

Charlie finds solace in the only other living thing that knows what he is going through, a small white mouse named Algernon.

“Flowers for Algernon” is interesting in the beginning because when Charlie was mentally disabled, he had an extraordinary personality that the reader could connect and sympathize with, but as his IQ
rises, his personality becomes more robotic and loses the ability to be perceived as a believable human being.

The entire novel has a feel that something amazing and mind-shattering is going to happen and make all the boringness worth it, but nothing ever happens.

Then, the novel just ends, leaving the reader disappointed.

However, “Flowers for Algernon” does shed some light on touchy subjects, especially for the ‘50s, such as the care of mentally handicapped patients and reaching sexual maturity.

It is the touchy subjects that caused the novel to come under scrutiny from literary critics.

In the ‘70s, school boards in British Columbia and Alberta banned the novel from its high school classrooms after parents complained that it is “filthy and immoral.”

However, I’m pretty sure double beds on the television were also considered filthy and immoral so one generally shouldn’t pay attention to the opinions of ‘50s parents.

In 1958, Keyes wrote “Flowers for Algernon” as a short story for “The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction” and in 1966 adapted the story into the novel.

In addition, “Flowers for Algernon” has been adapted in numerous movies, television shows, radio shows and one Broadway musical, which, after listening to some of the soundtrack, can only be described as offensive and terrible.

Usually, banned books are edgy and fun, but “Flowers for Algernon” is neither of those things.

No offense, Mr. Keyes, but this is a story that should have remained short.

Paige Jurgensen/Staff writer

Paige Jurgensen can be reached at