In the year 2301, guns are only museum pieces and benign telepaths sweep the minds of the populace to detect crimes before they happen. In 2301 ...Show synopsisIn the year 2301, guns are only museum pieces and benign telepaths sweep the minds of the populace to detect crimes before they happen. In 2301 murder is virtually impossible, but one man is about to change that...Ben Reich, a psychopathic business magnate, has devised the ultimate scheme to eliminate the competition and destroy the order of his society. The Demolished Man is a masterpiece of imaginative suspense, set in a superbly imagined world in which everything has changed except the ancient instinct for murder.Hide synopsis
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What can one say about the book that truly deserved the award it won? Demolished Man won the first Hugo Award in 1953 and earned the award. While not overly recognized in the way Heinlein, Asimov, or Adams were, Bester, in many ways, helped define what science fiction would become. Bester was one of the greats, he only wrote a few novels in his lifetime, but each is a cherished adventure through the powers of the mind. His influence and writing in this story established rules for telepathy that were later used by modern authors. Think Alfred Bester (the name is not a coincidence) in Babylon 5. And the echoes of Demolished Man, along with a book I would call ?sister,? The Stars My Destination, will continue to influence science fiction and speculative fiction in general for years to come.
Some of Bester?s plot elements are wonderful, resounding of the classic Greek tragedies. Perhaps my favorite little bit is the fact that when Ben Reich murders Cray D?Courtney he uses another telepath and, to avoid surface scans uses a ditty, a repetitious earworm again and again cycling in his head. What makes this so wonderful is that we?ve all had a song stuck in our heads, or a ditty of some sort. And we know how annoying that can be. Thus this becomes something every reader can identify with.
I don?t know why this book has fallen off the radar of ?books to read,? but it has. When people are introduced to science fiction, they may be introduced by way of Card or Adams (let?s face it Heinlein and Asimov might be too much to chew in a first bite). However, this wonderful book by Bester is a remarkable introduction to telepathy and the conventions of science fiction. It is small, short, but very powerful. And its characters are recognizably human. They still, even after the inundation of society with telepathy, see things the way they want to see them. The police, led by Lincoln Powell, still need physical, tangible evidence to convince the justice computer of the culpability of Ben Reich. And further even the perceptively ineffable Lincoln Powell struggles with his own darker side in the form of ?Dishonest Abe.?
One more thing that endeared this book to me: Bester drew with words. In one scene in the book we, as readers, see a scene in which a group of telepaths are talking and one can actually see them in the room, where they are located. And it is cool to see how one word is used in three different conversations among the conversants. Then when they start weaving their conversations, the section truly becomes art.
As a side note, the character names of @kins and Wyg& are interesting plays on our own language.
To sum up, this book is great, it should be read and re-read. If you have read Ender?s Game and liked it, Bester?s Demolished man is a new step down the path of speculative fiction that will enrich your life and make you wonder. But isn?t that the purpose of good fiction?
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