lukas, October 16, 2013 (view all comments by lukas)
A rather neglected figure in sci-fi, Alfred Bester (1913-1987) was an influential and forward-thinking writer who merged the pulp of the genre with the more sinister and serious aspects of speculative fiction. This novel, which won the first Hugo, has elements (paranoia and madness, a future that is less sleek than drab, evil corporations) that would later surface in P.K. Dick's books. Also recommended, "The Stars My Destination."
FNORDinc, September 13, 2010 (view all comments by FNORDinc)
‘The Demolished Man’, set in the 24th century (2301-2400), pre-meditated murder has been abolished. It is not that people do not have murderous thoughts, crimes of passion still occur. Mankind has begun to harvest latent abilities in the human mind. Telepaths, known as Espers, are globally recognized and have formed a society inside our own.
It is the existence of these telepathic individuals that deters murder. How can you avoid being “demolished” if the details of the murder you commit are easily read by a man standing next to you? How can you commit the murder in the first place, if someone walking down the street can hear your mind as you plan the details?
Ben Reich, owner of Monarch Enterprises, contacts his rival businessman Craye d’Courtney and requests that they merge corporations. It would be of benefit to them both, and makes sense. Unfortunately, after d’Courtney responds, Reich misinterprets the coded positive reply. In a fit of anger, Reich has decided to find a way to kill d’Courtney.
The concern is how to do this with out being caught. If he can beat out the telepaths, keep the police off balance, and avoid tainting himself.. it could all work out.
There are a number of elements that really stood out for me while reading this-
The Existence and organization of Espers:
Seemingly an amalgam of various worker’s unions, the Espers (telepaths) have adopted a bastardized Hippocratic Oath to keep their society and selves in line. Nicknamed “Peepers” for their ability to Peep into the brains of others, they walk a fine line of being loathed and revered. They need these structures for safety sake.
Peepers work in all branches of life. Class 3 peeps (the lowest ability) work as assistants, secretaries, and a number of other positions where additional clarity and quick response times are appreciated. Level2 Espers find work as researchers, policemen, corporate anti-piracy bagmen, private dicks, etc. Level1 being the more obscure of the three, is highly sought after they are the peepers that other Espers cannot read the minds of (easily).
Ear Worms are what we call songs, and jingles these days that get stuck in your head for long periods of time. Not referred to in this manner in the book, they do serve as an interesting tool. It has to be pretty difficult to filter through all the garbage in people’s minds. How hard would it be for a mind reader who has to combat against addictive loops of structured words and jingles?
Typeset and book lay out:
This would be a difficult book to read in digital format. At points, the layout and structure of the page is imperative. For example, in one scene, a room of telepaths are having a party. They are excited and having telepathic discussions, but none of them are following a standard protocol for communication. the page show the cluttered way in which words are mashed together if they fail to work together, reading each others minds in tandem
After they realize exactly how disorganized they are, they solidify into a more structured thought process, even playing games where thoughts would be drawn out into designs and images.
‘The Demolished Man’ is the first book to ever receive the Hugo Award for science fiction in 1953. The relevancy of this is pretty awesome as this book was very much ahead of it’s time.
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