The Demolished Man

by Alfred Bester
Reviewed date: 2003 Jul 1
Rating: 4
243 pages
cover art

The Demolished Man is not Alfred Bester's best book, but it isn't bad in its own right. The gist of the plot is that Ben Reich determines to carry out--and get away with--murder, in a future world where telepathy is a reality. If you can imagine fooling a whole police force of mind-readers and getting away with murder, then this book won't surprise you. But as for me, I was astonished at the ingenious devices Reich used to deceive those around him.

However, the book as a whole is slightly disappointing. While it may have been groundbreaking at the time of its writing, many of the ideas have since been overused, and as I caught myself thinking "Oh no, not this old thing again! Can't he think of anything new?" Which isn't really fair to Alfred Bester, because he wrote it first, but still.

Which is not to say the book isn't a good one. The first third of the book is thrilling, to say the least. Then it bogs down a bit before picking up again. Unfortunately, the ending shattered my hopes--not exactly a bad ending, but too predictable. Its idealism smacks of early science fiction writing--which of course this is.

In The Demolished Man Alfred Bester uses one of his favorite techniques: word pictures. That is, making pictures and designs by the physical placement of words on the page. It's one of the ways he introduces us to the world of telepathy--obviously telepathic communication is radically different from spoken communication, so they have developed their own art forms, one of which is weaving words into visual patterns as they speak/think to each other.

I'm not sure I find word pictures all that fascinating, but it is a rather unusual idea. I've only seen a couple authors other than Bester use the idea, and not as competently as Bester has, either.

The Demolished Man is an above-average book, but if you're going to read something by Alfred Bester I suggest you read The Stars My Destination, also known as Tiger! Tiger!

Archive | Search