The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester
  • Stars of Story Splendidness
4

Not sure why it's taken me so long to find this classic scifi book, but the Masterworks series is bringing some classic works out in paperback, so it's worth scouring your local bookstores, though I'm not sure if these are available outside the UK.

It's hard not to read this older title without seeing it through the lens of The Matrix. Minority Report and Inception, because there's a lot of the same vibe. Without giving spoilers, it's safe to say that this book is set in a future where esp is relatively common and so affects a great deal of daily life. It's intriguing to speculate how people would behave if they knew their minds could be read at any moment. Relationships would certainly be difficult, and crime becomes an interesting exercise.

I enjoyed this book and I enjoyed the journey that the writer took me on. As with a lot of older texts, you may raise an eyebrow or two at some of the sexual politics. OK, make that, all of the sexual politics. Stereotypes abound, but I tried to see past that because the book was written a while ago and thankfully times have changed a little. But I did struggle with one or two slightly tortuous scenes that may have kept readers in suspense in the past, but hold no surprises for a modern audience. In other words, I could see where he was heading with the plot long before he revealed it.

Taken in context, this book was way ahead of its time. This title won the first ever Hugo Award, and I can understand why. If it's the purpose of speculative fiction to push the boundaries of received wisdom and examine ideas that go beyond our current knowledge, then I'm sure it did its job.

This is a solid piece of speculative fiction that will make you think. You'll enjoy most of the characters and you'll have fun with the main concept. But unfortunately, you'll be stuck with a dreadful earworm as you imagine a certain phrase that is repeated again and again – when you see it, you'll know what I mean, so don't say I didn't warn you.

If you like speculative fiction and a touch of crime, give it a go. The cover image below will take you to your local Amazon store:

The Demolished Man

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