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5.0 out of 5 stars Tension, Apprehension, and Dissension Have Begun...
Bester was a writer of the 50s, the brute-force, high-tension 50s of film noir, cool jazz, Brando, Tennesee Williams, and "Sweet Smell of Success". Nowhere is the essential nature of the decade better depicted than in his two novels of the period, "The Demolished Man" and "The Stars My Destination".

The premise of "The Demolished Man" is simplicity itself:...
Published on May 21 2004 by JR Dunn

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars REPROGRAMMING MANKIND
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...
Published on Sept. 3 2002 by Worldreels


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5.0 out of 5 stars Tension, Apprehension, and Dissension Have Begun..., May 21 2004
By 
JR Dunn (New Brunswick,, NJ USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Demolished Man (Paperback)
Bester was a writer of the 50s, the brute-force, high-tension 50s of film noir, cool jazz, Brando, Tennesee Williams, and "Sweet Smell of Success". Nowhere is the essential nature of the decade better depicted than in his two novels of the period, "The Demolished Man" and "The Stars My Destination".

The premise of "The Demolished Man" is simplicity itself: how do you go about committing murder in a society where the cops can read minds, and alternately, how does the telepathic cop nail his man when he knows damn well he's guilty but has no evidence? A not unusual SF premise, more compelling than most, perhaps. But what makes "Demolished Man" worth reading a half-century on is its milieu and style. Bester was that rarity in SF, a writer of true sophistication. There is not a page of this novel that does not glow with that sense of knowledge of the world beyond the pulps. Some of us, alas, grew up thinking that this was what SF should be. (William Gibson learned from this novel--though not enough.) There was scarcely room for this kind of thing in the 50s. There is no room for it now, nor any sign that there ever will be again.

In its final pages, "Demolished Man" makes a metaphysical shift from detective story into something else, a near-religious leap of transcendance that could only be portrayed in science fiction, and then only in the best. A widely-known feature of the genre is the fact that its writers tend to stick to well-worn paths, grinding out the same ideas over and over. When Bester finished with the theme of "Demolished Man", no writer touched it ever again. Nobody dared try.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of the science fiction greats, Jan. 17 2004
This review is from: The Demolished Man (Paperback)
(First, just to make something clear: this book has no connection to the Snipes/Stallone stinker movie _Demolition Man_.)
Bester's first novel (after years of short stories, comics, and radio) also won the first Hugo Award, and deserved it. This is cyberpunk mayhem thirty years before anyone invented the term, a lightning ride through language, deception, and murder. The book I find it most closely resembles is Paul Cain's crime thriller _Fast One_, duplicating its speed and moral relativism.
In Bester's imagined future, Espers (telepaths) make murder impossible to commit, so mad industrialist Ben Reich just has to find a way to get away with it. The plot follows policeman Lincoln Powell, a powerful esper, in his quest to nail Reich, and Reich's delirious evasions. At stake may be the whole of society.
I have only one negative thing to say for this book: it still isn't as good as Bester's other great novel, _The Stars My Destination_. Buy both of them today and plunge into the best of science fiction.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of sci-fi's most acclaimed and influential novels, May 26 2003
By 
Daniel Jolley "darkgenius" (Shelby, North Carolina USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Demolished Man (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 Tight, Engaging Story, Dec 15 2002
By 
fidficus (Chicago, IL USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Demolished Man (Paperback)
Powerful corporate executive Ben Reich attempts to get away with murder. He's opposed by mind reading police detective Lincoln Powell.
This book was a pleasure to read. Bester has a wonderful, crisp writing style that lends itself well to his quick-moving plot. Plot is the real focus of this story. Bester explores both the characters of Reich and Powell, but he never does so at the expense of the story.
Mind reading is Bester's key conceit in "The Demolished Man". In Reich's world, Espers, as they're called, are ranked into one of three groups based on their mind reading ability. Much of the plot revolves around both of the main characters trying to use mind reading to their advantage. Powell relies chiefly on his innate mind-reading ability, while Reich obtains the help of other Esper characters. Bester does a fantastic job of integrating this main concept into his story.
I always derive some amusement from the technology imagined in older sci-fi novels. For instance, why do the humans who have developed the technology to take quick flights to the moons of Jupiter, still use computers that read and write via tape?
Too many modern sci fi/fantasy authors write slow-moving, bloated books. The Demolished Man is the exact opposite -- succinct, fast paced, and engaging. I highly recommend it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars fast-paced thriller in the form of a science fiction novel.., Sept. 19 2002
By 
lazza (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Demolished Man (Paperback)
The Demolished Man is my first Alfred Bester novel. And I was very impressed with it. It has the delicious characteristics of being a mystery novel in a futuristic (24th century) science fiction setting. A great story that is also very competently written.
As for the story, we are in New York City a few hundred years in the future. Mankind has evolved to the extent where there is a substantial number of people with mind-reading (ESP) capabilities. These people are somewhat segregated from the main populace, unionized, and serve specific roles in society. Because of the difficulty of keeping secrets with such people around it seems that society benefits greatly from their presence.
Yet there is a power-hungry man who has rather forceful and nasty ambitions. He is not adverse to using anyone, including the ESP-enriched individuals, to his own self-interests. Then he gets involved with a murder, and a super mind-reading cop enters the fray. Mix this with some rather intriguing dream sequences and you have a wonderful reading experience.
Bottom line: a terrific early science fiction masterpiece. Strongly recommmended.
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4.0 out of 5 stars When Sci/Fi was young, Sept. 10 2002
By 
D. Austin "Stutty" (Germany) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Demolished Man (Paperback)
I have been reading science fiction for the last twenty years. How is it that I missed out on this treasure?
"Demolished Man" sports a full-throttle driving plot that never lets up. Murder is the game. From page one to the end the story is utterly focused on the execution of a murder and the capture of a murderer. Very well written and spiced with psychic "peepers", it is very clear how this book became a classic.
However, this is not "hard" science fiction. The author tells us that there are people living on the moon, Ganymede, and Venus, but does not go into any detail at all as to how it was done. Sometimes we are asked to suspend our disbelief to a greater extent than normal. That aspect is not necessarily a drawback, just a point to be noted.
Bester's vision of the future is fascinating and quite racy at times, at least a PG-13 if not R. While the reader is not pummeled with "here's how the future looks" he does get tidbits here and there gracefully inserted into the narrative and dialog.
As good as it is, there are not really any deeply probing points that prompt introspection or philosophical meandering. It's more like a roller coaster, just good fun.
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3.0 out of 5 stars REPROGRAMMING MANKIND, Sept. 3 2002
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This review is from: The Demolished Man (Paperback)
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Four, sir; three, sir; two sir; one -- go and get this book!, Aug. 10 2002
By 
L. Feld "lowkell" (Arlington, VA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Demolished Man (Paperback)
"The Demolished Man" by Alfred Bester won the first-ever Hugo Award, and it's obvious why it did. Extremely well written in a cyber-punk/comic book style, this book was revolutionary when it appeared in the 1950s, and remains fresh 50 years later. Fascinating idea, executed with style and panache, this book ranks up there among the best science fiction books ever, and a must read for anyone who likes that genre. Amazing. Still, having said that, I have to agree with another reviewer who points out that this is NOT Bester's best book, and that just about everything done so well in "The Demolished Man" is done even better in Bester's all-time classic, "The Stars My Destination."
As usual, Bester explores themes of power, the human mind, personal freedom and privacy (in a world where telepaths can read your thoughts and where crimes can be detected before they happen), politics, high and low society, money, the nature of truth and reality, sanity, and the grayness of morality. All this is even more impressive given that the book was written during the paranoid, good vs. evil, democracy vs. communism, Joe McCarthy red-baiting 1950s. In fact, "The Demolished Man" can be read on one level as a clever commentary on/"demolition" of that strange decade. As in "The Stars My Destination," Bester writes in a highly entertaining, creative, and unique way, with unexpected - and often subtle - humor, plays on words and language in general, and song lyrics which are guaranteed to drive any telepath far away from your thoughts ("Tenser, said the Tensor. Tension, apprehension, and dissension have begun.").
This is not a perfect book, with obvious flaws in the plot and a somewhat contrived ending, but these are relatively minor problems. Overall, this is a work of soaring imagination and style, and I highly recommend it to everyone. So, go out and get this book, before the countdown ends - "Four, sir; three, sir; two sir; one!"
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4.0 out of 5 stars Crime and Punishment...Sci-Fi Style, July 23 2002
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This review is from: The Demolished Man (Paperback)
Alright, so this was not crime and punishment, but that is exactly why I picked it up. Every once in a while I get the itch to read something that is Science Fiction, but I find it hard to find sci-fi books that are my style. I prefer the sci-fi I read to be interpretations or depictions of our future (as in the future of "Earthlings." For example, I really liked 'Farenheit 451' (~Bradbury) and 'Brave New World' (~Huxley). This book was exactly what I like to read. Despite taking place in a future where ESP is a skill you'd have on your resume, this book contained well-developed, "real" characters. The psychological development of the characters was excellent. You get a good sense of Ben Reich's myriad of feelings as he tries to pull off a crime that is virtually impossible to pull off. The mistakes he makes, the effort he goes through to escape his antagonist, the emotions he feels as he's being pursued...all make for a fast-paced storyline (I read this book in one evening all in one sitting). There is so much I could say about this book, but if I had to pick one thing that I really enjoyed it was the sense of chase...you're on edge to see if Reich gets away with murder. In that sense it really made me think about Farenheit 451 (which could've been why I liked it so much). Overall, this book had solid characters and a good theme...I recommed it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A worthy winner of the 1st ever Hugo, Jan. 13 2002
By 
Craig MACKINNON (Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Demolished Man (Paperback)
By a coincidence of timing, this book was written just in time to win the first ever Hugo Award. On hindsight, it is a worthy choice. This is the story of a world where a small group of people have ESP; they belong to a guild designed to police themselves and to use their powers for good. In such a world, murder is generally stopped before it can occur - as soon as you have murderous intent, your thoughts betray you to the vigilant Esper society.
Enter Ben Reich, one of the (2) richest, most powerful men in the solar system. He wants to murder his main rival, and the book first follows his story of how he tries to get away with it. He starts by enlisting his own Esper to run interference for him, and by learning an annoying advertisement jingle to fill his conscious mind and distract the mind-readers. Once the murder is committed, we switch to the Esper police investigator trying to prosecute the crime. He knows Reich has done it, but the problem is finding objective proof, as Esper testimony based on mind-reading is inadmissible. This sets up a stragetgic game of move and counter-move between the two adversaries.
The book is enjoyable to read - it has an optimistic, yet realistic tone. There are slums and some Espers try to use their powers for personal gain, but on the whole the society is lawful and the people are prosperous. You feel comfortable in the world, and that helps you get on with the intricacies of the story. Others have mentioned that it's a little dated, and heavily emphasises a Freudian view of the mind. That's true, but it's still fun to read, and is much less dated than, say, Heinlein books of the same vintage, because it deals with primeval instincts more than technological advances.
Thus, I feel this book has stood the test of time, and is still worthy of another look (or a first look, if you haven't yet read it).
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Demolished Man (Sf Masterworks 14) by Alfred Bester (Paperback - July 8 1999)
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