The Demolished Man Hardcover – Jun 1951
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In a world policed by telepaths, Ben Reich plans to commit a crime that hasn't been heard of in 70 years: murder. That's the only option left for Reich, whose company is losing a 10-year death struggle with rival D'Courtney Enterprises. Terrorized in his dreams by The Man With No Face and driven to the edge after D'Courtney refuses a merger offer, Reich murders his rival and bribes a high-ranking telepath to help him cover his tracks. But while police prefect Lincoln Powell knows Reich is guilty, his telepath's knowledge is a far cry from admissible evidence. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
The first half of the book was pretty good, developing a vivid and gritty futuristic world where telepaths are a part of the human population. Read morePublished on June 28 2004
Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man remains an engaging, well-written novel even long after it was first published. Read morePublished on June 8 2004 by Amazon Customer
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... Read morePublished on Feb. 2 2004 by Matko Vladanovic
I assume that you have heard of this book. If you haven't read
it but plan to do so "some day," today should be the day. Read more
Still better than the best after all these years.
Some complain that the Freudianim of this book is wrong. Read more
classic pulp scifi. a fantastic read, well written, entertaining, thought provoking, engaging...too bad the author didn't spend his whole career writing scifi! Read morePublished on May 25 2003 by zolo
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)... Read morePublished on Sept. 19 2002 by lazza
I have been reading science fiction for the last twenty years. How is it that I missed out on this treasure? Read morePublished on Sept. 10 2002 by D. Austin