Fantasy & Beyond

A Book Forum for Speculative Fiction

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By Elfy
#1108
I did threaten this and here it goes. There's a little bit of explanation required. A recent idea was floated by @Peat on his blog about a friend who was doing posts of his favourite books over his lifetime by publication year. I thought that was a pretty cool idea, so decided to do something similar. I never know when things are published, so I did a search on Goodreads for the year, and that gave me 200 results. Weirdly enough, the one I liked most of all of them, was the one that appeared first. I'm going to try to confine this to SFF books, although that particular classification may get a bit fluid.

1966 Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
I first encountered this book when it was mentioned on the TV show Person of Interest. Then it was chosen as a read along in Fantasy Faction.

I loved the book, really loved it. Most of the other readers didn't (not unusual for me, I seem to swim against the tide that way, or possibly I have bad taste).
The title character is a mouse. Algernon is a lab mouse who becomes the subject of an experimental surgical technique to increase intelligence.

When the scientists behind the experiment have success with Algernon (or so they think), the study is expanded to include a human subject. Charlie Gordon, a 32 year old male, with an IQ of 68. The operation is also a success on Charlie, with his IQ rising to 185 almost overnight.

Unfortunately, the increase in intelligence means that Charlie's relationships with other people around him rapidly deteriorate. By this stage he's adopted Algernon as a pet. Unfortunately, little by little Algernon's intelligence seems to be causing him to regress, and Charlie becomes convinced that the same thing will happen to him.

Ultimately the experiment kills Algernon and before Charlie regresses and can't remember his little friend, he makes a request that someone put flowers on the mouse's grave behind his former residence, which is where the book gets its title.
I cried when I read this. Although, I did wonder if the inspiration for The Brain from the cartoon Pinky & The Brain came from Algernon in the book. I found it deeply affecting. It's heart breaking to see the characters given hope and change, but then have it cruelly removed.

It garnered a fair bit of acclaim when it first came out winning that year's Nebula Award, after the short story on which it was based won the Hugo Award in 1959. There was also an Academy Award winning film called Charly based on it.

It's well worth the read in my opinion, although, as I said, it does have a very sad ending. In some ways, though, it's quite beautiful.

Join me next week, when I see what 1967 gives me.
Peat, DragonFlame liked this
#1110
It’s a beautifully heartbreaking book. I don’t know when I first encountered it, most likely via the librarian at high school who always gave me interesting books to read.

I’m actually surprised you hadn’t encountered it before Person of Interest, being as it’s such a notable book. I guess I’d read a lot more of the classics than you have from past discussions.
#1112
I read it a few years ago as part of a similar exercise: I did 50 years of SF 1950-1999, over a few years. (I'm not sure why I stopped at 1999, but 1950 is a pretty good place to start since it's pretty much when paperbacks started to become important. A lot of the early books are fix-ups or expansions from older magazine stories.)

It was an emotional ride.

My complete list was:
1950 - Galactic Patrol - E E "Doc" Smith
1951 - The Green Hills of Earth - Robert A Heinlein
1952 - City - Clifford D Simak
1953 - Childhood's End - Arthur C Clarke
1954 - The Forgotten Planet - Murray Leinster
1955 - The Long Tomorrow - Leigh Brackett
1956 - The Death of Grass - John Christopher
1957 - The Midwich Cuckoos - John Wyndham
1958 - The Time Traders - Andre Norton
1959 - The Enemy Stars - Poul Anderson
1960 - The Tomorrow People - Judith Merrill
1961 - The Joy Makers - James Gunn
1962 - A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle
1963 - Star Surgeon - James White
1964 - The Planet Buyer - Cordwainer Smith
1965 - The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch - Philip K Dick
1966 - Flowers for Algernon - Daniel Keyes
1967 - I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream - Harlan Ellison
1968 - Pavane - Keith Roberts
1969 - Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut
1970 - The Year of the Quiet Sun - Wilson Tucker
1971 - Dinosaur Beach - Keith Laumer
1972 - Beyond Apollo - Barry Malzberg
1973 - The Man Who Folded Himself - David Gerrold
1974 - The Mote in God's Eye - Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
1975 - The Wind's Twelve Quarters - Ursula K Le Guin
1976 - Man Plus - Frederik Pohl
1977 - In the Ocean of Night - Gregory Benford
1978 - In the Hall of the Martian Kings - John Varley
1979 - Kindred - Octavia E Butler
1980 - Riddley Walker - Russell Hoban
1981 - Windhaven - George R R Martin & Lisa Tuttle
1982 - Helliconia Spring - Brian W Aldiss
1983 - Helliconia Summer - Brian W Aldiss
1984 - The Integral Trees - Larry Niven
1985 - Helliconia Winter - Brian W Aldiss
1986 - The Falling Woman - Pat Murphy
1987 - When Gravity Fails - George Alec Effinger
1988 - Deserted Cities of the Heart - Lewis Shiner
1989 - Orbital Decay - Allen Steele
1990 - Jurassic Park - Michael Crichton
1991 - Orbital Resonance - John Barnes
1992 - Fools - Pat Cadigan
1993 - Ammonite - Nicola Griffith
1994 - The Engines of God - Jack McDevitt
1995 - The Terminal Experiment - Robert J Sawyer
1996 - Remnant Population - Elizabeth Moon
1997 - Fool's War - Sarah Zettel
1998 - Dreaming in Smoke - Tricia Sullivan
1999 - Teranesia - Greg Egan
It's amazing how badly I remember most of them.

Edit: Hmm, it is 2024, I could do another 25 years...
#1136
DrNefario wrote: April 4th, 2024, 15:08 I read it a few years ago as part of a similar exercise: I did 50 years of SF 1950-1999, over a few years. (I'm not sure why I stopped at 1999, but 1950 is a pretty good place to start since it's pretty much when paperbacks started to become important. A lot of the early books are fix-ups or expansions from older magazine stories.)

...

It's amazing how badly I remember most of them.

Edit: Hmm, it is 2024, I could do another 25 years...
I've just remembered where my books came from, and why I stopped at 1999. There was a series of blog posts about the defining SF books of each decade by James Wallace Harris, starting here, and all my choices came from those lists, mainly via the nice graphical interface at WorldsWithoutEnd: https://www.worldswithoutend.com/lists_50s.asp

If I did the next 25 years I'd have to source them somewhere else.
Lanko, DragonFlame liked this