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on September 3, 2002
Written fifty years ago, Bester's story gives us another tactic for polishing man's morality-human Espers or peepers who can read the minds of would be liars, cheats and murderers. However there is always a method for circumventing the truth. In this case it was the constant recitation of a musical jingle (a similar device was used in Helperin's TRUTH MACHINE). The peepers are presented as the keepers or priests of man's morality in spite of fact that several of them broke their vows in search of money or power. It is strongly suggested that in the evolution of man, development of esp powers will become essential for peace.
Although there were satellite villages, space travel, high tech weaponry and artificial intelligence framing the story, I kept realizing that I was only reading a psychological, murder mystery. The futuristic setting wasn't really essential. The title may easily have been THE MAN WITHOUT A FACE, the murderer's recurring dream and hallucination. The ending flows into the realm of Freudian theory and repressed guilt. The title, THE DEMOLISHED MAN, refers to a total reprogramming of a man's brain, whereby criminal traits can be erased as the subject receives a second chance at life. The most I can muster is three stars.
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on May 5, 2001
Yep; that's it. If one hasn't read A. Bester's other novel, the later 'The Stars my Destination', one can easily give 'the Demolished Man' a 5-star rating.
I happened to have read the former. So I was, understandably, disappointed with 'The D-Man'.
Understandably? Uh-hm; maybe not.
The problem arises because both novels share a number of great ideas and themes. Central is Bester's obsession with the power of the human mind and the feats (or defeats) it can lead us to: In 'The D-Man' we have Ben Reich, multi-billionnaire; in 'The Stars' G. Foyle, (interstellar) seaman: both have a mind capable of amazing potential to understand - or DISTORT! - and to achieve - or DESTROY.
A secondary but very important theme (though hidden as to its true nature in 'The D-Man' until the last pages) is that of revenge: both Reich and Foyle want to kill for having been rejected. Other common sub-themes abound: Telepathy (foremost in 'The D-Man'), beautiful and sexy women, Corporate business and High-society parties, typographic colour and colourful typography (thank God for the author having worked in the Comix and Advertising industries!). Lastly, the two Bester novels share a 'detective story' format where an all-revealing surprise is sprung at the end.
Here the similarities end and the problem manifests itself: whatever 'The D-Man' does, 'The Stars' does better. Far better.
'The D-Man' is not as rich and varied in its settings and its characters; not as broad in its scientific scope (Telepathy dominates from beginning to end). It is not very 'tight' in plot development, there are too many 'loose ends' (How could a Solar-System-Wide famous tycoon like D'Courtney have a grown-up daughter that noone has heard of - not even his arch rival? How and why did Barbara, fleeing the murder site half-mad, end up in Chooka's Rainbow house? Why did Quizzard, sent to kill the girl, go there with his wife instead of one of his goons and why did he end up -being blind- choosing to fondle this girl insted of killing her? Why... why...)
But the major flaw of 'The D-Man' is not its inconsistencies, its quaint coincidences (Powell, the Police prefect, who can only marry another telepath like him, discovers the girl he has fallen in love with is a latent TP) or its, at times, naivete (Reich, with a Solar-wide Commercial empire to run, having a 'hands-on' approach). It is the implausibility of its central premise: The motive of Reich having gone to all the trouble to plan and execute the impossible crime against all odds - murder in a society that employs mind readers - rings hollow.
Equally weak seems the solution Powell resorts to to nail his man after all else has failed. So do I have any nice words to say about this book? You bet I do!
The basic concept is absolutely fascinating: murder in a society where cops can read your brain - WOW! - this alone is worth the price of admission. But Bester's creativity does not end here. Throughout the story the reader is treated to a host of other original ideas - ever heard of cyberpunk? ... this was not the very first Hugo winner by accident! At the time it came out there was NOTHING like it on the scene; it created waves whose ripples can be felt to this day.
Inventiveness aside there's the story-telling. Could Mr. Bester write! The prose is vibrant throughout, the economy exemplary, more in time with our fast-paced times than the half century ago when this story was penned. In fact, the reasons this book wears its age so well have more to do with its style than with its scientific insights and predictions. All in all, an enjoyable read, not just an essential read for all serious SF fans. Certainly a lot better than a lot of the crap Editorial Marketers feed us these days.
But 'The Demolished Man' is not a top novel, at least not after the stardards Bester's own 'The Stars my Destination' set. That, is probably the Best SF work of all time.
Only maybe it wouldn't be if Alfred Bester had not experimented with his pet themes in 'The D-Man'. Think of this book as the studies Rembrandt or Michelangelo did leading up to their Master paintings and sculptures.
'Understandably' disappointed? Uh-hm, cross that out.
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on August 20, 2000
I am not surprised to find many readers grant 5 stars to this book, because this book really gets some interesting ideas even it is written many years ago. However, I think the main background of this book is pretty native or superficial. This book described a future society where many people with certain super ability can make that society nearly perfect. I surely suspect that point. There is no technique can be used only for good or for bad. There is no reason to believe that bad guys like Church and Tate are so rare among the group of Esper. Also, the world is tender to balance. Whenever there is something new, should have something against it. Like new locks will inspire thieves to invent new break in techniques. The research of blocking peeping should be a very important topic if in a world with so many peepers. Therefore, the plan of Reich looks too simple and unbelievable.
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on August 20, 2000
I am not surprised to find many readers grant 5 stars to this book, because this book really gets some interesting ideas even it is written many years ago. However, I think the main background of this book is pretty native or superficial. This book described a future society where many people with certain super ability can make that society nearly perfect. I surely suspect that point. There is no technique can be used only for good or for bad. There is no reason to believe that bad guys like Church and Tate are so rare among the group of Esper. Also, the world is tender to balance. Whenever there is something new, should have something against it. Like new locks will inspire thieves to invent new break in techniques. The research of blocking peeping should be a very important topic if in a world with so many peepers. Therefore, the plan of Reich looks too simple and unbelievable.
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on December 26, 2001
Not Bester's Best. Written in 1951, The Demolished Man is actually a murder, suspense novel set in the distant future. The fairly weak plot has the main character, (an industrialist) murder his corporate opponent, even though no one has gotten away with a murder in 70 years. The reason is simple, the police prefect and a small but important segment of the population have ESP. The police prefect "cheats" and reads our killer's mind, thus confirming he is guilty, but then must spend 75% of the story coming up with non-ESP proof, because apparently ESP is not admissible in court. Anyway, the whole story was rather preposterous with a number of flaws. I daresay Demolished would not even still be in print if not for Bester's other work The Stars My Destination which is nearly perfect.
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on July 27, 1998
After reading Bester's other book (The Starts My Destination) I quickly snatched this one up, only to be disappointed. The shift in focus that occurs about one-third of the way through the book was not smooth, and there was way too much Fruedian psychobabble in the book, Granted, this book was written during the time when that was chic, but it really doesn't carry over well at all to our time. The ending started to pick up the book a bit, but then the last chapter, like so many others, was quite disappointing.
Read it if you are in the mood for a mediorce classic, but if you are trying to catch up on the true classics, skip it.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 2, 2004
Well, to start a review of a first Hugo winner, one would need to compose ones mind, to agree with himslef what he has to say to other readers...I did that, and I still do not have a clue whaat to say to you. If you watched Minority Report you know the general outline of a world...It is the world where any crime is not possible, becouse one can not hide his raw instincts in a world of telepath... But Ben Reich did that, he murdered, with passion, in with that act he started his fight with society...Of course, one can not succesfully fight society which is the moral note of every anti-utopian book...
This is not the story of the world, world is presented in scratches, in the bits of information that we need to now to build a case for our character, this is the story about the desperate act in a world where desperate acts are not permitted...
where does, if it does, it fail? Plotline, development, dialogues are something that you will find in every pulp novel out there, book is interesting and you will not be able to stop reading it, but one can see too much influence of the SF writting stile of '50s...
Average book that you should read to build your common knowledge (or culture, as some would call it)...
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