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Back To The Future

For a long long time I hadn’t read any science fiction, although it was one of my favourite genres. Last week, on impulse I took up Alfred Bester‘s The Demolished Man. Once started, I couldn’t put it down and finished the novel in a few hours. Talk about reading at the speed of light!

Futuristic New York sets the stage for this psycho-sci-fi where mind reading capabilities of telepaths called peepers have successfully averted crimes, especially murder, for the past 70 years. Ben Reich, owner of Monarch Enterprises is haunted by nightmarish visions of “The Man With No Face” whom he identifies as his business rival D’Courtney. By enlisting the support of corrupt Esper Augustus Tate, Reich manages to murder his competitor, after his attempts at reconciliation are rejected. During the subsequent murder investigation, ace peeper and sleuth Lincoln Powell discovers that Reich is the murderer and sets about building the case for his “demolition”. His quest for the murder motive, method and opportunity are repeatedly thwarted by Reich. Just when Powell has gathered all evidences for Reich’s conviction an unexpected turn of events renders the case invalid. Powell comes to realize that his adversary is unconscious of the real murder motive and that he could prevent further disaster only at great personal cost.

The central characters of the novel are subtly nuanced – Reich is not the archetypal villain and Powel is not the typical saintly investigator. Both have their flaws and redeeming qualities. The battle of wits between the two men and the surprising celestial twists and turns keep you glued. Bester ensnares your attention and keeps it till the last word. The end is unexpected even though one could make out its vague outlines from the several clues scattered over the pages. Overall, an excellent piece of sci-fi, with a social message which could be realized only in the realm of imagination at the moment. Future beckons…

 Comment: Excellent read if you fancy science fiction

Categories: Bibliophilia
  1. April 27, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    You’re working your way through the classics, then? Slaughterhouse 5 is excellent (Vonnegut himself apparently rated it A+ but gave most of his books Cs and Ds). I also especially liked Cat’s Cradle and Player Piano.

  2. tailrace
    April 27, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    Hi John

    Thanks for the comment. This is the first time I read Alfred Bester and I loved it. I do have couple of his other titles; haven’t gotten around to reading them so far.

    Don’t think Demolished Man was ever made into a movie. Didn’t find any reference in IMDB. Demolition Man doesn’t come anywhere near this one. You are right about the bullet. Reich used a capsule of water sealed with gelatin for the kill so as not to leave any traces of the bullet, besides providing him a perfect alibi.

    Am planning to read Slaughterhouse Five next. What’s your opinion on that one?

  3. April 27, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Haven’t read it for years but you’re right, it’s an excellent read.
    I have half a memory of a character in the book called @kins, and someone being shot with a ice bullet – first first time I came across this idea and it would have been about 40 years before CSI picked up on it!
    I also have a suspicion it got adapted for film, maybe more than once? Maybe I’m just associating it with Demolition Man which is a completely different thing…
    I subsequently read some of his other works but this one, which I think was his first novel, always seemed to be his best work.

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