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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars

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on 12 December 1997
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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on 4 September 1999
...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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on 19 June 1998
I first read this as a teenager, from a compilation of sci-fi novels given me for my birthday. I still remember being compelled to read it until the last possible moment before my eyes finally gave in to sleep, every night, for a week, until I finished it.
Sometime in the intervening years, I must have mislaid the book, but I still get flashes from it now and then - "Tenser, said the Tensor, Tenser, said the Tensor, Tension, Apprehension, and Dissention have begun!". Despite several hunts for the book, I could never find it - but an idle browse on Amazon.com, and four weeks later, I just received my copy. I can't wait.
There's very little I can add to what the other reviewers have said, except to say that I'm not someone who ever really 'raves' about anything, retaining instead a healthy scepticism; that is, unless I find something truly astonishing, truly a seminal work of art. The Demolished Man may have flaws - the characterisation isn't of the highest order - but the complete realisation of this future world, the utter imaginative force that brings ESPers to life, the incredible portrayal of psychic conversation (it really does do something to your head), all make this a novel with few equals, and a sci-fi novel unrivalled. Buy it, borrow it, steal it, just make sure you read it at least once in this lifetime.
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on 12 March 1999
It begins simply enough. A detective specializing in mindreading investigates the first murder in many years, in a society where everyone can detect thoughts of others to varying degrees. The unknown suspect is therefore thought to be skilled in masking his/her thoughts. The victim is a wealthy business owner. The suspect who quickly develops is a rival business owner struggling to compete with the victim's company. The ensuing cat and mouse pursuit between the detective and the suspect is brilliant, and fills much of the story. The stakes are high, as any murderer faces the ultimate penalty--demolition(destruction of personality). The action and suspense build forcefully, as events escalate. The reader knows early on who the guilty person is. But when the detective discovers the truth, he finds much more than he ever suspected. I was completely amazed with the complex and brilliant revelations at the end of this book. With a handful of pages Bester manages to turn an already intriguing story into a fascinating exploration of human identity and the powers of the mind. This book is like no other, and succeeds both as a suspense story and an intelligent, thought provoking experience. Need a larger scale to rate this one.
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on 24 August 1996
I could not understand why _The Demolished Man_, a classic in the science fiction field, has been out of print for so long. So when Vintage Books finally reissued it in July of this year, it signalled the end of a ten year search for a copy of the book, and it did not disappoint. The concept is intriguing. Ben Reich is the head of one of the largest corporations in the future, but one man, his rival D'Courtney, stands in his way, and so he must die. The catch: society is policed by Espers, people with telepathic powers, who make it virtually impossible for anyone to successfully commit murder and get away with it. Can Reich get away with murder? How he does it and how he tries to get away with it are just some of the questions that will be answered when you pick up the book. But be prepared. Fasten your seatbelts. The action is so fast paced that transitions virtually disappear. In a style that foreshadows William Gibson and the cyberpunks, Bester masterfully creates a decaying world whose ultimate survival depends on the capture of Ben Reich. And he keeps us guessing until the very end.
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on 25 August 1999
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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on 28 June 1997
I had always considered myself well versed in the pantheon

of classic science fiction until one day one of my 7th grade students

(the son of an editor) put this book in my hands and told me that I had to read it.

On a two hour flight to Knoxville, my ideas of modern science fiction

were obliterated, much as the title would indicate.

Because of the telepathic talents of some of humanty, murder

has become an unpleasant detail of human history. Cooperate giant Ben

Reich is about to change all of that. Tormented by both his dreams and his

rival, Reich decides to end both the man with no face and D'Courtney

with one brutal act that will shock society to it's knees.

Then begins the cat a mouse game between Reich and

telepathic policeman Lincoln Powell. Have fun figuring out

which man is the cat!

Bester paints Reich as the solitary genius

with such skill that he is compellingly sympathetic while

still being horrifically repugnant in his motivations and actions.

As the story progressed, I found myself
wishing for the coldly

calculating Reich to succeed in his rather
brutal scheme

and get away with it, in spite of myself. At he same time, Powell proved to be

as admirable as his adversary by balancing his own intellegence with

an equally ruthless sense of honor.

Add to the detailed insight into the mind and character of Reich

a rich tapestry of the society that telepathy has produced and you get a

view of future history that is both optimistic and unsettling.

In spite of it's rather short length, "The Demolished Man" is very complete in

the details of life and society in future earth. There is no other

book that could be the first Hugo Award winner. I can only thank my student

for openning my eyes to this major icon of Science fiction literature.
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on 19 August 1999
This book is successful both as a sci-fi as well as a murder/mystery. Most of the book is devoted to the pursuit by Lincoln Powell, an esper(psychic), police detective of a very powerful and wealthy murder suspect, Ben Reich. The entire cat and mouse chase is written so expertly that every chapter holds your attention. Also, the interesting concept of demolition, the complete destruction of one's personality, and the pattern of psychic communication are intricately explored in this novel through some very well developed characters. I have only one complaint about this novel. The revelation made about the murderer towards the end of the novel seems to be reaching to add a very strong sci-fi aspect to the novel. In the end, though, I believe the novel delivers a very powerful and deliberate message. A definite enjoyable read.
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on 3 July 2000
This is one of the most enjoyable books I have read. Although first published in 1953, it is as readable today as it was then. You never know when the next twist is coming. The plot is very fast moving, without leaving you behind. Every time you re-read this book you will find bits you missed the last time, look deeper into the charactors and understand their minds and motives. All in all a GREAT BOOK.
I have a very brown and tatty copy I obtained in 1966. This has been read so many times it is falling to pieces. I am looking forward to obtaining a new copy so I can continue reading this timeless work from a master writer.
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on 10 September 1998
"The Demolished Man" is one of the best SF books that I have ever read. After reading Bester's "The Stars my Destination", a similarly engaging book, I read "The Demolished Man" and I place it now with my SF favorites: Ender's Game (Card), Foundation (Asimov), I, Robot (Asimov), Stranger in a Strange Land (Heinlein) This book is hugely symbolic, wide-reaching, fascinating, suspenseful, mysterious, awe-inspiring, and socially important. It mixes some of the best SF ideas I've heard with one of the greatest futuristic murder plots I've seen. Read it! Read it!
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