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The Demolished Man (S.F. MASTERWORKS) [Paperback]

Alfred Bester
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
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Book Description

8 July 1999 S.F. MASTERWORKS

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 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.

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The Demolished Man (S.F. MASTERWORKS) + The Stars My Destination (S.F. MASTERWORKS) + Gateway (S.F. MASTERWORKS)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz; New Ed edition (8 July 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857988221
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857988222
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 59,683 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Alfred Bester's early, pyrotechnic novels gave us two of SF's greatest antiheroes: Gully Foyle in The Stars My Destination (1956) and Ben Reich in The Demolished Man (1953)--which deservedly won the first-ever Hugo Award for Best Novel. Reich is an obsessed monster, haunted by nightmares of a Man With No Face, driven and compelled to murder a rival magnate in a future where crime can't be hidden from police telepaths. The penalty is Demolition: erasure of the criminal's mind. Armed with an ugly weapon holding very special ammo, an insane jingle to mask his thoughts, and the resources of his interplanetary business empire, Reich takes on the world--but, as hinted by clues in chapter 1, he still doesn't understand his own buried motives. It's an impossible problem for police chief Lincoln Powell, one of the hated mind-reading elite--who knows very well whodunnit but can't go to court on telepathic evidence alone. Bester's dazzling 24th century is full of brilliant and dotty conceits, most famously the woven typographic patterns of telepaths' group 'conversations'. A gripping, headlong storyline hurtles from Earth's decadent high society to its lowest dives, with an interlude of mayhem at the Spaceland asteroid resort. The final confrontations are apocalyptic and unforgettable, with major psychological shockers and a moving aftermath. A genuine SF classic. --David Langford

About the Author

SALES POINTS * #14 in the Millennium SF Masterworks series, a library of the finest science fiction ever written * The first-ever winner of the Hugo Award for best sf novel of the year. * ¿Bester¿s two superb books have stood the test of time. For nearly fifty years they¿ve held their place on everybody¿s list of the ten greatest sf novels¿ -- Robert Silverberg * ¿Alfred Bester wrote with the pedal to the floor and the headlights on full beam. His work combined erudition with an unparalleled imaginative inventiveness. Bester was writing cyberpunk while William Gibson was still running around zapping the other kids at school with a toy raygun¿ -- James Lovegrove

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
It’s genuinely hard to believe that this book was written in 1951 because it reads like a cyberpunk novel written yesterday. It’s breathtakingly fast yet still manages to flesh out two of the most interesting characters in SF.
The Demolished Man builds a world of hugely powerful corporations and guilds where murder has been eliminated through the use of telepaths called ‘espers’. The story revolves around Ben Reich, the head of the vast Monarch business empire. (Incidentally somehow the picture on the front cover of this particular edition just doesn’t particularly remind me of him – too Neanderthal-like; Reich should look much more intelligent). Keen to expand it he decides he must murder his business rival and take his company over. For me, the best novels are ones that supplant a genre onto the background of a typically SF setting and here it is done superbly with a crime/redemption theme. Reich’s opponent is police chief Lincoln Powell – a level one esper, and therefore the most powerful. What follows is an incredibly quick-to-read story that is both fulfilling and really exciting.
Rightly, this book appears in many top 10 SF books of all time, often lurking within the top 3. Its influences on other works are quite clear to see in my opinion. Most obvious is the cyberpunkers of the 80’s but the ‘espers’ outlook towards their powers reminds me of Robert Silverberg’s Dying Inside in that both books see the telepathy as an inescapable curse as well providing the obvious benefits. (In fact I recommend Dying Inside as well to see what probably most of us would do with such power!)
The only problem I can foresee is how to rate this.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback well as a whole lot of fun. Prepare yourself for the plunge into a fully realized future society, as well as into the minds of the people that inhabit it, for an exploration of humanity and society very much unlike any other out there. Age means nothing; "The Demolished Man" may be an "old" sci-fi, but that does nothing to diminish its power. The future is always mutable.
The unthinkable happens. Driven by nightmares dominated by The Man With No Face, infuriated by the machinations of a rival, ruthless businessman Ben Reich prepares to commit a crime unheard-of in over seventy years: he will consciously, premeditatedly, murder another man.
And he does.
Of course, although murder is considered somewhat antiquated, the police force is still set up to deal with it, and it is up to Lincoln Powell, detective and telepath, to discover the identity of the murderer-and his motive.
Of course complications ensue. The characters are fully realized, sympathetic or antipathetic as their function in the story demands; the society is rich and complex; nothing has a simple solution, and the final revelation is one that even the reader didn't see coming. Occasionally the story seems too reliant on Freudian psychology...but that's a minor quibble, an unimportant chip in a masterpiece. Read and enjoy. Alfred Bester doesn't get read as much as he used to-although thanks to the excellent science-fiction show Babylon 5, and the associated Psi Corps novels, he may be coming back into fashion. And speaking of fashions, it's time to go play Sardines at the house of Madame Maria Beaumont, the Gilt Corpse...Let the games begin.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good science fiction, not great science fiction. 12 Dec 1997
By A Customer
I welcomed the re-issue of this book as it gave me a chance to read what has been touted as one of the truly great works of science fiction. With these expectations, I could only be let down. It has a complex plot (although it seems simple enough at first), and some of the surprises are truly masterful. I particularly liked the description of demolition. The best part of the novel is a long, psychic vs. normal police investigation where Bester has two characters handicapped by aspects of their society place a wonderfully written chess game where the final stake is the oft-mentioned demolition. But, overall the book has some failings.

A lack of character

The characters of the book are too simple and too Freudian. Lincoln Powell is by far the most interesting, but the alter ego that Bester sets up for Powell never really reaches the climax that it deserves. Ben Reich starts off as your simple, marxist caricature of a rich man, and really has little room to grow, either into an interesting character or a truly hateable antagonist.

Sometimes science gets in the way of science fiction ...

and this is a classic case. It is hard to read this book because the science is so dated. It is a hardcore Freudian read, and the characters are strictly governed by Id, Ego, Superego, and refer to these as truths. Although Freud is very influential in the way we think about thinking, Bester uses ideas about disorders that were fresh at the time, but have not aged well and have become dated.

Buy the book

Go ahead and buy The Demolished Man. It truly is an influential book. Gibson echoes many of the themes and characters, and the television show, Babylon 5 has a whole organization structured around its Espers Guild.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Embarrassing
This may have been state of the art in 1953, but it deserved to be left in its grave. The plot is thin and the characters one dimensional (please god no one mention the female... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Simon
5.0 out of 5 stars Another slice of Bester brilliance
Anyone who's read The Stars My Destination already knows the incredible inventiveness that lies behind Alfred Bester's work, and this book taps into the same resources. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Michael John
2.0 out of 5 stars Dated and overrated
This book is dated in terms of its vision of the future (which is quite quaint), its view of women (who are mostly sexually available, beautiful and subject to violence) and it's... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Edward Matthews
5.0 out of 5 stars An SF novel that ticks all the boxes.
Oh yes, this was brilliant.
It ticks the boxes that matter: psychological characterization, plot twists, fascinating well-extrapolated sci-fi setting, powerful and concise... Read more
Published 19 months ago by I. Cummings-knight
1.0 out of 5 stars A single idea that fails to make a worthwhile story - disappointing
This is considered an early and ground-breaking SF classic, but for me the book was a great disappointment. Read more
Published on 11 Aug 2010 by John M
4.0 out of 5 stars Demolished man
I have read alot of the SF Masterworks series as well as newer SF and find it very interesting to see the different types of approach. Read more
Published on 4 Jan 2010 by Nathanj
1.0 out of 5 stars Appalling
Okay, this was the first time I'd heard of the book or, indeed, the author and I read it along with three other "famous" sci-fi books that I had promised myself I should read. Read more
Published on 12 May 2008 by L. Dowling
5.0 out of 5 stars Tensor said the tensor
Once read, never forgotten. "Tension, apprehension and dissension have begun". I still remember that thirty years after reading it. Read more
Published on 11 Dec 2007 by Nigel Charman
4.0 out of 5 stars Mostly excellent, a little heavy on the Freudian opinions
Given its age, genuinely excellent. Particularly the leading characters; along with his other anti-hero Gully Foyle - of 'The stars my destination' - Ben Reich is one of the great... Read more
Published on 18 Oct 2007 by sam
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique and Inspiring
It is one of the great shames of Twentieth Century Science Fiction that Alfred Bester never wrote more and Asimov less. Read more
Published on 19 Dec 2004 by Rod Williams
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