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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Demolished Man and The Stars, My Destination = Buy
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...
Published on 13 Jan 2006 by A. Morley

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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hugely Influential, But Flawed
Winner of the inaugural Hugo Award in 1953, this sci-fi/murder mystery is currently in development in Hollywood under the auspices of Australian director Andrew Dominik. A groundbreaking and hugely influential book in many ways, it's aged quite well, with only a few hints here and there showing its age. That said, the story's got enough flaws to make it disappointing to...
Published on 31 Aug 2004 by A. Ross


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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Demolished Man and The Stars, My Destination = Buy, 13 Jan 2006
By 
A. Morley (Ripley, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Demolished Man (S.F. MASTERWORKS) (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. Does the time it was made in mean that because it was ahead of its time it deserves a higher rating? Also does its reputation and the fact it won awards also artificially inflate the rating? I suspect if you gave this to a SF lover who hasn’t read anything pre-1985 they would still believe this an amazing book – it is simply timeless.
Therefore – 9.5/10
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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
This review is from: The Demolished Man (Paperback)
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. Read it for what it is, a truly influential work of science fiction from sci-fi's early days. Do not look for it to speak too much for today's society, and don't look for it to keep to the standards of current masters such as Clarke, Gibson, and Robinson (Its lack of characterization makes it even have trouble standing up to past masters like Heinlein). It is good, enjoyable, fast paced science fiction. It doesn't, though, leave the reader with either the social questions or the post-technological awe of great science fiction.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another slice of Bester brilliance, 4 April 2013
This review is from: The Demolished Man (S.F. MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
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. Whereas "jaunting", or mental teleportation, was one of the cornerstones of that novel, in The Demolished Man the foundation concept is that of "peepers", people born with a gift for reading the minds of others. What you get as a reader is a fast-paced, very slick novel with plenty of twists and turns... basically a high-concept game of cat and mouse, but done with real style and finesse. The other weird thing about Bester's books is that despite the huge advances in technology since they were written, they don't feel at all dated. Treat yourself to this without any hesitation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tension, apprehension, and dissension have begun..., 4 Sep 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Demolished Man (Paperback)
...as 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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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant., 8 April 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Demolished Man (S.F. MASTERWORKS) (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
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique and Inspiring, 19 Dec 2004
This review is from: The Demolished Man (S.F. MASTERWORKS) (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. He enlists the help of Gus Tate, a high-level telepath and psychiatrist, to provide him with access to his victim and to cover his tracks.
The murder however, is witnessed by D'Courtney's daughter who subsequently disappears.
It is up to Lincoln Powell, telepath, pathological liar and police-chief, to search for clues and find enough evidence to convict Reich and have him 'demolished'.
The settings include a romantic and implausible (but acceptable within the context of the work) Venus, and Spaceland, a flat space-habitat covered with atmospheric domes, which has become a kind of giant Theme Park in space.
Intrigue upon intrigue follows as Reich feverishly attempts to cover the tracks of his murder before Powell can discover the evidence to convict him.
It's a psychedelic rollercoaster of a novel, and highly recommended
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of sci-fi's most acclaimed and influential novels, 21 Aug 2003
By 
Daniel Jolley "darkgenius" (Shelby, North Carolina USA) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Demolished Man (S.F. MASTERWORKS) (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. The bulk of the novel revolves around Reich's machinations and brilliant moves and Powell's equally brilliant countermoves, with the case (and the novel) taking on much deeper implications toward the end as Powell begins to realize that his suspect is not only a dangerous man in the normal sense but is in fact a grave danger to the very universe as it now exists.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of The Demolished Man is Bester's presentation of thought and communication among peepers. Not only does he gives us a sense of the telepathic communication of a group of peepers, he describes it in an incredibly visual way; basically, he paints fascinating word pictures of telepathic thought communication. Bester also uses a good deal of slang and invented concepts in his story, which is just one of the many aspects of the writing that cyberpunk and other avant-garde science fiction writers have been influenced by over the course of recent decades. Lest you fear that Bester's writing is overly theorized and dull, I should point out the fact that the novel is blessed with a good deal of humor, action, insightful emotional complexities, and even a love story of sorts. The ending holds a surprise or two for the reader (although the careful reader will figure out many things along the way), ensuring that the ending is in no way a let-down from the suspenseful and engaging read leading up to it. It is a pity that Alfred Bester did not publish more novels and stories than he did over the course of his distinguished career, but the science fiction legacy he did leave behind will forever be studied, emulated, cherished, and most of all enjoyed by generation after generation of readers.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An SF novel that ticks all the boxes., 30 Dec 2012
By 
I. Cummings-knight (Doncaster, South Yorkshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Demolished Man (S.F. MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
Oh yes, this was brilliant.
It ticks the boxes that matter: psychological characterization, plot twists, fascinating well-extrapolated sci-fi setting, powerful and concise prose, and a loyalty to it's premise that shouts a challenge to other writers to dare attempt to explore it further.

Might be the best novel ever written about telepaths. Though this is an unqualified assumption (yet to read Psion, More Than Human, Dying Inside etc).

I bet Babylon 5 has a debt to pay this novel.
The prose is almost like Raymond Chandler or someone writing SF.(
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4.0 out of 5 stars Demolished man, 4 Jan 2010
This review is from: The Demolished Man (S.F. MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
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. Although this book does not have the technical complexities of "modern" SF it is a very good read and concentrates much more on the story and the wider social and moral issues developed by the writer. This is definetly a classic SF read and the ideas proposed are developed by many other newer authors. Please read it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars At its time this changed the direction of SF field ..., 25 Aug 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Demolished Man (Paperback)
This is simply a must read for any serious reader of science fiction. It changed the way SpecFic was written, and what it tended to deal with. The subject matter was decades ahead of the field of the time, and so to this day it stays current. It might not be as "slick" as some other cyber-punk novels, but Bester wrote this 30 years before cyber-punk was even named, and so this fast paced adventure full of twists, and surprises still fills the bill. Everyone should read this book, if they want to understand where any writer since Bester is coming from, since this book influenced everyone since, and set the mark for others to best. It took some time, but it has been achieved, but there is still place for this book. You can't predict what will happen next, and the ending will really leave you thinking. All in all this is very interesting book. So enjoy, because after you finish it you won't look at SF in the same way. (Especially when you realize when this was written.)
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The Demolished Man (S.F. MASTERWORKS)
The Demolished Man (S.F. MASTERWORKS) by Alfred Bester (Paperback - 8 July 1999)
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