Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Finding a writer I never read before is like connecting to a mind across the decades!



The Demolished Man – Alfred Bester (1953)

            Every once in a while a name will pop out of the daily skronk that enters my ears and remain as something to be explored.  That is what happened one day, years and years ago, when I happened to be watching a Simpsons episode.  In the episode, a nerdy character named Martin was speaking in front of the school in a bid for Class President (if memory serves) and shouted out, “As your president, I would demand a science-fiction library, featuring an ABC of the overlords of the genre: Asimov, Bester, Clarke! “
Another of the nerdy kids then asked, “What about Ray Bradbury?” and Martin replied condescendingly,
“I am aware of his work.” 
I laughed and laughed because I find Ray Bradbury’s writing interminably dull, and I have never seen fit to include him in any discussion of science fiction writers to admire.  Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke are all-time idols of mine.  However, in all the years I had read science fiction I never came across the name Alfred Bester.  I had to remedy that discrepancy.
            After doing a little research online I found that one of Mr. Bester’s most highly regarded works is the book The Demolished Man, which I proceeded to request through the Inter-Library Loan System that the Library I work at has in place.  There are a great many older sci-fi stories that entertain, but few that seem truly timeless, and this book is exactly that!  I found it hard to tell whether I was reading a 60+ year old book, or a cyberpunk novel! 

This image would fit either!


            The Demolished Man is structured as a murder/murder investigation in a future world where some people have psychic abilities, and are trained and hired for them.  The writing is so fast-paced, and whip-smart, reminiscent of Phillip K. Dick at his most ADD.  The typesetting is utilized to full effect as Bester shows us the mental conversations between “Espers,” the term used for those with psychic skills.  I got completely lost in this book and it was over far too quickly!  I will have to dig up more of Mr. Bester’s work.  Finding a quality science fiction writer that I had not yet read is like finding GOLD Jerry, gold.  It has been a while since I sunk my mental teeth into a work of fiction, and it felt great to be transported to another world.  I will have to dig up Bester’s novel The Stars My Destination next!

(This book can be read online here: http://ebooksbeus.weebly.com/uploads/6/3/0/8/6308108/the_demolished_man_-_alfred_bester.pdf )

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