on July 15, 2002
Though the always over-the-top Harlan Ellison does a fantastic job in the introduction of convincing you that this boook is the equal of Bester's greats, 'The Demolished Man' and 'The Stars My Destination', it isn't quite in that class.
Don't let that put you off, however. The Computer Connection packs in more wacky offbeat ideas in a single book than most writers have in a lifetime, and it is all done at a breakneck velocity fast enough to pass the likes of Michael Marshall Smith in the slow lane (and that's no insult to Smith).
The plot revolves around a small and select group of people made immortal through a particularly traumatic death - the narrator was roasted in a volcano, for example. The immortals take identities based on historical figures, which reflect their abilities and interests - there is a Christ, an Indian rajah and so on. Bester's depiction of immortals has only been bettered by Michael Moorcock in 'Dancers at the End of Time'. In seeking to expand their number, they accidently enable a powerful computer, Extro, to take over the candidate, the brilliant Cherokee physicist, Sequoya Guess. Extro then proceeds to use Guess to carry out its plans to rid the world of humans. Not only that, but there appear to be a traitor amongst the immortals themselves.
This review can hardly do any sort of justice to the utterly bizarre world that Bester has created, a world where giant pogo-sticks appear to be a major form of transport. As Ellison says, it's like a classic Hollywood screwball commedy (only forced through a giant psychedelic sieve). The only problem with this kind of commedy is that it is difficult to sustain over novel length, and Bester doesn't quite manage it; the book runs out of steam some time before the end. Still a must-read for any fan of New Wave (or any other) SF.
on March 14, 2002
It's a wonder nobody ever thought of filming Bester's books, for they have an effect much similar to that of a good movie - they rock you in your chair. Decades before anyone thought of the term "Cyberpunk", Bester already had his own view of the future, which happens to be very similar to the present - our present, the future present, even Bester's present. That is, of course, no accident, for Bester never forgets he's dealing with people, not machines - a fact which doesn't prevent the book from being filled with action, fun, (weird) technology, immortal people (among them an original neanderthal), an eccentric alien, and even some more conventional SF elements, such as The Mad Professor and a Time Machine.
Brilliant dialogues, thrilling action, unforgettable characters... In short - don't forget to get your hands on that one as soon as possible. I'm sure you won't forget to thank me for that advice...
on February 9, 2002
This is a great piece of SF adventure. It presages cyberpunk and does a better job of creating an underground society of eccentric immortals that The Highlander ever hoped to.
The novel is fast-paced, full of satirical gems, and funny as all get-out. But at the same time, it manages to support themes about technology, human evolution, and love and loyalty that are handled with as much thought and heft as any "serious" work.
The only gripe I've ever had with this book is that it ends way too soon, and in fact is screaming out for sequels that have never come. Not that the plot isn't fully wrapped up-- it's just that you hate to leave the company of these people who are so funny, profound, and warmly human.
This is a must-have book for any SF reader.
on May 27, 2001
Alfred Bester is perhaps the best stylist among the SF writers I've read. This work certainly benefits from that. The plot is rather thin and rather bizarre, involving a group of accidental immortals, a precocious teen, a supercomputer, and a kooky future. The grabber here is what surrounds the story: eccentric but believable characters, tongue in cheek narration, and a staricial glimpse of a future than may yet be. This book is everything that "The Demolished Man" tried not to be: silly, never taking itself seriously, sharply satirical. While many consider "Demolished" to be the classic, I found this to be the real Besterian deal.
If you're a fan of Bester, definitely try this. If you only know Bester as the guy from PsiCorps, then you owe it to yourself to see why JMs named a character for Alfred Bester. Clearly, he's one of JMS's influences.
on March 17, 2001
When this book first came out in 1975, it was Alfred Bester's first science fiction novel in twenty years. Bester's first sf novel (The Demolished Man) won the very first Hugo Award for best novel. His second (The Stars My Destination) is so dazzling it leaves TDM in the dust; it's considered by many (including me) to be the finest sf novel ever written, then or now. So you can only imagine the kind of anticipation that this novel generated. The buzz at the time was that it didn't "live up to the greatness of Bester's earlier work". I've even heard it referred to as "third-rate Bester". This is out-and-out balderdash (I'd use a stronger term, but then this review wouldn't get past the censors :-)). This novel doesn't compete with the earlier novels; it works on its own terms. It's the story of a society of immortals in a very bizarre future indeed, and their struggle against a computer which wants to take over the world. What impressed me most of all is that Bester's trademark "pyrotechnic" style hadn't been diluted at all in the twenty years since he wrote TSMD; if anything, this book is even more outlandish (a case in point: its characters speak a weird mishmash of languages of which twentieth century English, or "XX" as its known, is one of about ten). Bester's usual theme of man becoming superman is here again as well, but in a totally different setting. This story doesn't take itself as deadly seriously as TDM or TSMD, which may account for the lukewarm reception it received. Despite this, it's a thoroughly satisfying read that is miles ahead of most sf in terms of its imagination, its plot and its humanity.
on June 20, 2000
If you like Bester, one of the all-time greats, you'll like this. As only he can, Bester creates imaginative characters in even more imaginative situations. A group of merry immortals battles an ill-tempered computer network. This book is exciting and more than a little humorous. Read it if you like Bester and you're looking for his work beyond "Stars My Destination" and the "Demolished Man". You might like the "Deceivers" too.
on February 1, 2000
if you like bester, you'll like harlan ellison's insider's introduction...this novel relaunched bester after a long hiatus from sf