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Kiln People
Beth Meacham, David Brin

The Demolished Man

The Demolished Man - Alfred Bester I have a bee in my bonnet that I would like to deal with first. I tend to feel annoyed (even though I shouldn’t) when people ask for sci-fi recommendations with the caveat that the book being recommended must not be more than 10 years old. The reason given for this clause is usually because the science is “wrong”, there is no internet or history did not turn out the way the author depicted in the book. WUT? I would like to reiterate that it is not a sci-fi author’s job to predict the future, the whole point is to speculate. Anybody who want to get into reading sci-fi but steadfastly refuse to read the classics from the 50s, 60s etc. is really doing themselves a disfavor and missing out on some of the greatest sf stories and ideas ever written in the history of mankind.

Which brings us to Alfred’s Bester’s The Demolished Man, first published in 1953. Read this or his other classic [b:The Stars My Destination|333867|The Stars My Destination|Alfred Bester|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1433671750s/333867.jpg|1398442] and you will understand why I insist sci-fi readers should never neglect older science fiction. These are two terrific stories that stand the test of time.


In [b:The Stars My Destination|333867|The Stars My Destination|Alfred Bester|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1433671750s/333867.jpg|1398442] Bester posits a strange future society where everybody can teleport using the power of their mind. In The Demolished Man not everybody is a telepath but they are quite commonplace and can be found in all kinds of profession. Boy, did he get the future “wrong”! In lesser hands, this conceit would never work but Alfred’s Bester was able to spin a great yarn from this fairly simple premise.

The Demolished Man is an “inverted detective story” in the reader is immediately told who the murderer is, but the difficulty for our hero is how to catch the devious bastard. The murderer Ben Reich is a “normal”, non-telepathic person, but he is extremely smart and is able to foil even mind reading policemen. For example to avoid his mind being read by telepathic police he goes to a commercial jingle writer to play him a jingle that lodges in his brain after just one listening and bounces around it in an incessant looping playback. The hero policeman Lincoln Powell can barely keep up with him even with all the telepathic power (and manpower) under his disposal. The climax of the book is wonderfully surreal and reminds me of Ursula K. Le Guin’s [b:The Lathe of Heaven|59924|The Lathe of Heaven|Ursula K. Le Guin|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1433084322s/59924.jpg|425872] and PKD’s [b:Flow My Tears the Policeman Said|22584|Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said|Philip K. Dick|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1398026028s/22584.jpg|949696]. A friend recently told me that I sometime inadvertently put spoilers in my reviews so I’d better not elaborate any more on this point.

Bester’s writing style reminds me of noir detective fiction by the likes of [a:Raymond Chandler|1377|Raymond Chandler|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1206535318p2/1377.jpg], with the clipped dialogue and witty banter. The book is quite short so there is not a lot of room for character development, but the protagonist and antagonist are quite complex and believable characters.

All in all a gripping, entertaining and very readable sci-fi classic that should please all sci-fi fans.