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The Demolished Man (S.F. MASTERWORKS) Paperback – 8 Jul 1999

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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 1.8 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 102,499 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

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

Alfred Bester (1913-87) was born in New York and educated at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia. He was a scriptwriter and journalist by profession but he set the science fiction world alight with The Demolished Man and The Stars My Destination and his extraordinary short stories in the 1950s, and blazed a trail for the sf New Wave of the 1960s and the cyberpunk writers of the 1980s.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A. Morley on 13 Jan. 2006
Format: Paperback
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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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 8 April 2001
Format: Paperback
One of the few books to give a genuine sense of what it must be like to possess telepathic abilities. For that alone, Bester should be heaped with praise. It doesn't stop there, however. In Reich and Powell, Bester has given us two of science fiction's finest characters. Despite him being an egotistical monster, we can't help admiring Reich's ingenuity and determination; we can't help rooting for him (at least a little) because, despite his power and position in society, the existence of telepaths (and, specifically, a telepathic police force) gives him classic underdog status. The character of Powell could so easily have been drawn as a virtually unstoppable force for law and order. Instead, he is vulnerable and, much to his own frustration, only too aware of his short-comings. I really can't recommend this book highly enough.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Rod Williams on 19 Dec. 2004
Format: Paperback
It is one of the great shames of Twentieth Century Science Fiction that Alfred Bester never wrote more and Asimov less. This startlingly innovative, iconoclastic and experimental work, Bester's first novel, was in its own way the 'Neuromancer' of its day. On one level it is a murder mystery in which the reader witnesses the murder, and from then on follows the investigation to bring the perpetrator to justice, or in this case, Demolition. Demolition involves having one's personality erased and rebuilt without the fatal flaws. In a sense it is Death, since one retains no memory of one's former life.
Bester portrays a future in which 'peepers' (i.e. telepaths) comprise about two percent of the population and Humanity has spread out to colonise the Solar System. He creates a rich, fabulous and detailed tapestry of society in the Twenty Fourth Century, far more credible and sophisticated than can be found in the work of some of his contemporaries.
The same can also be said for the characterisation since even the minor characters in this fast-paced psi-thriller seem fully-rounded individuals, if a little grotesque and eccentric. There is for instance, the madam and clairvoyant, Chooka Frood, who lives in an 'eviscerated ceramics plant' in which there was an explosion long ago. Her living space is a riot of colours, glazed onto the structure of the building.
There is Keno Quizzard, the blind red-bearded gangster and Duffy Wyg&, (Bester is at his best when he wittily plays with text and punctuation marks, creating such evolved names as @kins and S&nderson) a seductive composer of advertising jingles.
Ben Reich, the murderer and central figure has evolved an ingenious plot to murder his business rival D'Courtney, a man who is trying to destroy him professionally.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Jolley HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 21 Aug. 2003
Format: Paperback
The Demolished Man earned Alfred Bester the very first Hugo award for best science fiction novel of the year ever awarded, and the novel's influence on science fiction has been immense over the years. The novel is a wonderfully original, fascinating tale of a future society in which guns and murder are all but forgotten, yet this brave new world's very future comes to hang in the balance as a result of one powerful man's thoughts, dreams, and fears. In the world of 2301 A.D., seventy years have passed since the last murder, and guns are nothing more than forgotten museum pieces. Espers, or peepers, men and women able to read minds when called upon to do so, are able to spot anyone contemplating a violent crime long before that person is able to act. Perhaps only one man would dare to plan a cold-blooded murder and have the guts, influence, wiles, and coercive power to pull it off; such an audacious action can only be achieved with the aid of a first class peeper, and the ethics of each and every peeper is basically unassailable. Ben Reich, head of the Monarch company and one of the most powerful men in the world, is losing his decade-long fight against the firm of Craye D'Courtney, and he eventually determines that he has no choice but to kill his rival. It won't be easy, especially the bypassing of peepers, but he has the will and the means to pull off the impossible. Prefect Lincoln Powell, a first class peeper, is called on to investigate the murder; figuring out who killed D'Courtney is easy, but proving it is something else. Convincing the super-computer at the district attorney's office of an open and shut case requires every single piece of the puzzle being put into place.Read more ›
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