"I tore down the Continental Shelf off the Bogue Bank while the pogo made periscope hops trying to track me. Endless plains of salt flats (music by Borodin here); mounds of salt where the new breed of prospector was sieving for rare earths; towers of venomous vapors on the eastern horizon where the pumping stations were sucking up more of the Atlantic and extracting deuterium for energy transfer. Most of the fossil fuels were gone; the sea level had been lowered by two feet; progress."
That's just the first paragraph of this completely insane book: breathless, delirious, practically collapsing from lack of oxygen in its rush to fill your head with its wild ideas. Before the first page is over, we've dove down to a secret hideaway under the salt flats to meet a time machine builder who goes by Herb Wells. Before the chapter's out, we'll have learned of Herb's doomed efforts to avert the tragic early deaths of Van Gogh, Mozart and poet Thomas Chatterton, but all that's strictly incidental to the plot. Our hero, such that he is, is Guig, the Grand Guignol, who murders men in failed attempts to make them immortal. The cast also includes Jacy, who you may better know as Christ, Jesus; and Hic-Haec-Hoc, a Neanderthal who's still kicking several millennia past his prime.
The reckless, wild, intoxicating prose, drunk on its own sheer invention, is peppered with obscure cultural references, chemical formulas, snatches of poetry and computer programming, bars of music, and letters to the editor. Any damn thing to get the point across: Bester was post-modern before anyone had a name for it.
And Bester isn't really writing science-fiction here: he's writing free-form experimental futuristic jazz, drenched in psychedelic insanity, bizarre factoids kiting on sheer imagination, riffing on his typewriter to a wild, weird beat that no one else on Earth can hear.
A lot of people dismiss this book saying it's a faint shadow of Bester's more famous novels, THE DEMOLISHED MAN and THE STARS MY DESTINATION. And frankly, they've got a point: those earlier works are more contained and controlled. This thing, frankly? It's kind of a mess. But it's a hot mess, dancing on table tops naked and ignoring all bounds of decent restraint. Later on, the lack of control would overtake the books in the shambling Frankenstein novels like GOLEM100 and THE DECEIVERS, the seams showing in the short stories and fragments Bester was stitching together, unable to maintain the jags of caffeinated energy characterizing his best books. Those later books still have moments of brilliance, but they are less than the sum of their parts. In this book, Bester is still on top of his game -- but maybe just barely.
Time has caught up to Bester's first book, the Hugo-winning THE DEMOLISHED MAN; its wild ideas have been nicked by mass market entertainment and its psychic cops have few surprises for readers. THE STARS MY DESTINATION is still ahead of the curve, and will always represent the peak of Bester's particular brand of magic. But THE COMPUTER CONNECTION is, arguably, his most wild, restless and joyous book. A lot of readers didn't know what to make of it 30+ years ago, and most won't now.
What it is isn't a novel at all, but a drug in ink form meant to be injected directly to the pineal gland.