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I am trying to remember the name of a sci-fi novel I read in the nineties, when I was kid. It was a library book which, from what I can remember, was written maybe in the early 80's.

I remember in the first chapter a volunteer is injected with a drug that increases his IQ. As I recall, there is a random chance the drug might cause severe retardation instead.

After the drug takes effect, he walks out, and sees details he couldn't fathom before, like in the lobby the marble (columns I think?) has more meaning.

As pointed out in the comments below, it's not Flowers for Algernon.

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Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes? There isn't a brother, but his sister is mentioned quite a bit, and there is a mouse. – Zoe Nov 21 '12 at 17:32
I'm pretty sure it is definitely NOT Flowers for Algernon. In FfA, it was a procedure (not a drug). Also, the main character had been mentally challenged when the story began and reverted as the story progressed. I'm reasonably sure I read the novel @sleo is talking about (though I can't remember author or title) and the two stories are quite distinctive. – Donald.McLean Nov 21 '12 at 18:00
Thanks Zoe, FfA is an amazing book but unfortunately @Donald.McLean is right, that's not the novel I was thinking of. – sleo Nov 21 '12 at 19:09
@sjl I read this back in the 90's, but it was a library book which, from what I can remember, was written maybe in the early 80's – sleo Nov 23 '12 at 20:08
The title made me think of "Brain Wave" by Poul Anderson. The plot is clearly inconsistent with what you're asking about, but it's a great book. – Keith Thompson Jan 15 '13 at 0:45

It sounds like The R-Master by Gordon R. Dickson.


A repressively benevolent bureaucracy, intent on limiting and harnessing the effects of an IQ-boosting drug known as R-47, is thwarted by an underground led by an R-Master, latest of the drug-produced supergeniuses. Our hero's apolitical to start with but his chemically expanded perspective reveals the flaws in his superficial utopia. Energetically suspenseful, though the intriguing premise of an intelligence-enhancing drug might have been more fully developed.

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I'm pretty sure that's it. Except that I probably read the edition released under the title The Last Master (1984). The original edition was from 1973. – Donald.McLean Mar 2 '13 at 4:42

Could be Ted Chiang's Understand:

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Thanks for recommending this story..I have read it and found it really amazing, actually reading this particular story, is what triggered the memory of a book I had read as a child and just couldn't remember the darn name of it! – sleo Jan 16 '13 at 11:54

Just thought I'd mention "The Dark Fields" by Alan Glynn, basis of the movie "Limitless", though it wasn't written until 2001, so I doubt it's at least the novel everyone is thinking of.

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This is what I was thinking, but the 'MDT-48' is a pill- just as in the movie. – Solemnity Jan 15 '13 at 2:53
Thanks for the answer, but I don't think this is the book I was looking for. – sleo Jan 16 '13 at 11:55

flowers for algernon maybe, has a similar plot to the one you described

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The OP has already stated in the comments that it is not Flowers For Algernon. – phantom42 Mar 1 '13 at 19:31

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