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Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews

The Demolished Man

Copyright 1953 by Alfred Bester

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SOJALS rating:     
one SOJALS point one SOJALS point one SOJALS point one SOJALS point no SOJALS point    Very good (4/5)

I first read this in 1969 and most recently on the 26th August 2002

In the world of the 24th Century, the two top conglomerates are Monarch Utilities & Resources and the D'Courtney Cartel. Ben Reich is the boss of Monarch. He's the richest capitalist in the solar system, but he wants more. In particular, he wants to take over his only rival, the D'Courtney Cartel. He's ruthless, unscrupulous and a psychopath.

With legal avenues to a takeover blocked, he'd happily turn to illegal methods, but he knows he'd be caught - in the world of the 24th Century, ESP has become a reality, albeit it a rare one, and espers can sniff out a man's guilt just by reading his mind.

But then Reich decides to murder Craye D'Courtney himself in order to take over his company. In this world whose security is guaranteed by espers, premeditated murder has become an unknown crime. However Reich believes he has conceived a perfect plan. He'll need a top telepath to support him, but he can corrupt and cajole one to provide the appropriate service.

To succeed he'll need to be calm, cool and quick-witted, but he's been having very, very bad dreams and he's heading for a fall. On his trail will be Lincoln Powell, the Police Prefect of New York, determined to bring him down.

This is one of the great classics of SF, a scintillating novel. The world of the 1950s transported to the 25th Century, but with better technology and with ESP introduced to grant us an unusual view of a man's mental breakdown.

This time around I wasn't so impressed at the idea of Ben Reich as world-changer, but still loved the book, Bester's first novel, especially its change of pace toward the end which takes it from being a detective story set in the future to something more in the style of Philip K Dick's degrading universes, or more correctly a style of universe originated by Bester but and adopted by Dick a decade or two later.

Amazingly I still remembered Reich's rhyme:

"tenser" said the tensor, "tenser" said the tensor
tension, apprehension and dissension have begun.

Loaded on the 24th September 2002.
Cover of The Demolished Man
Cover art by Evan Gaffney, John Shlesinger/Swanstock and Phototone

Reviews of other works by Alfred Bester:
Tiger! Tiger!
The Computer Connection
The Deceivers