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August Books 10) The Demolished Man

10) The Demolished Man, by Alfred Bester

I think I mistakenly noted that I had already read this on that sf/f books survey the other day. I really did read it last night and this morning, and it really is excellent, to the point that it's almost impossible to describe without sounding clichéd (… pyrotechnic prose … crazed imagination … far future but recognizable New York … crime novel meets sf …). Not that it is completely without flaws - we are told that there hasn't been a successful premeditated murder in 79 years, but by the end of the book not one but three people have been killed, and the prevalence of murder weapons and nasty people makes it sem improbable that the murder rate is so very low. The psychic motivations and action of the villainous Ben Reich are vividly narrated but don't really bear deep scrutiny. The gender relations seem a weird combination of 1950's morality with occasional lapses into Suetonius. But it really is a great book all the same, driving you on to finish it. Won the first ever Hugo award, in 1953, the year of birth of Dave Langford and Walter Jon Williams.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 15th, 2004 11:58 pm (UTC)
Oh, I agree with you, it's a great book. Though the murder thing did bother me when I read it, because it just doesn't make any sense at all. But the style is a total trip. It's full on.
Aug. 16th, 2004 06:32 am (UTC)
... tension, apprehension, and dissension have begun.

I find "Stars My Destination" to be a better book, but only slightly, and either one is very much worthy of the Hugo. Bester was able to write exciting books while also hitting interesting points.

The flaws are relatively minor; worldbuilding is a particular art which, truth be told, cannot be done perfectly. Middle-Earth is amazingly detailed in some areas, falls utterly flat in others. Clement designed some of the most wonderful alien worlds, but even his aliens -- while physically designed well -- were often human beings in suits judging by attitudes and behavior.

They also emphasized "premeditated". I think the point is that there may be MURDERS, but they're very little premeditated beyond "OOoooh, she's finally pissed me off tonight. I'll wait behind the door and then... POW!" As opposed to, say "I'll get in Mr. Richman's good graces, get his life insured to me, then about a year later, poor Mr. Richman will have a terrible accident and fall down the stairs."
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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