Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Demolished Man” as Want to Read:
The Demolished Man
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Demolished Man

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  28,231 ratings  ·  1,303 reviews
In a world in which the police have telepathic powers, how do you get away with murder?

Ben Reichs heads a huge 24th century business empire, spanning the solar system. He is also an obsessed, driven man determined to murder a rival. To avoid capture, in a society where murderers can be detected even before they commit their crime, is the greatest challenge of his life.

Paperback, SF Masterworks #14, 250 pages
Published July 8th 1999 by Millennium (first published March 1953)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Demolished Man, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Demolished Man

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.99  · 
Rating details
 ·  28,231 ratings  ·  1,303 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Demolished Man
This is what my poor review looks like now that the 'pre' tag is broken:

So too?
what telepath
do a
are think fun
Oh of
kind the
It's Demolished
... and here's the source:


Come on Goodreads, fix this bug! You've been sitting on it for months.
Oct 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Glenn Russell

"If you won't let it be merger, then I'll make it murder."

American author Alfred Bester's 1953 zooming supersonic science fiction crime thriller The Demolished Man features power- hungry Ben Reich, corporate tycoon a la Jonas Cord from The Carpetbaggers, moving and shaking and shooting he way through 24th Century New York City and beyond. Action and more action - enough unexpected zigzags to keep any reader guessing. A batch of highlights from this future world:

Brain Peepers: Many thousands of
Jeffrey Keeten
Feb 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mario the lone bookwolf (semi reviewing hiatus )
One of the first Sci-Fi crime novel hybrids with an epic scramble between a Psi investigator and an ingenious, but normal human. This opens the questions of how each side can use its special abilities to fool the opponent and what potentials of Psi may be relevant in the future.
Around this, a quite fitting description of today's circumstances draws a picture of a disparate society.

Next to the fantasy Psi that is simply there, pharmacological and technical possibilities may be on a table in a far
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Aug 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016

Winner of the very first Hugo Award in 1953, "The Demolished Man" is a classic by any metric you might measure it with. Some fans and critics consider it a watershed moment, the transition from planetary romance, with its laser guns, barely dressed ladies and bug-eyed monsters to 'serious' considerations of the impact of technology on society and on individual lives. Under the pen of Alfred Bester a futuristic murder investigation becomes the eternal struggle for the soul of Man, as it is played
Bill Kerwin
The Demolished Man (1953), first winner of the Hugo Award, is an ingenious amalgam of noir policier and dystopian science fiction of the mega-corporate/telepathic surveillance variety. It poses the question: what if you are a very rich man who wishes to kill another rich man, but you live in a society in which mutant telepaths (called “Espers” or “peepers”) guard every big corporation and work for the metropolitan police? Is the perfect crime still possible? And how would you go about committing ...more
Sep 20, 2009 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Richard by:
I probably never would have gotten to this classic if a reading group hadn’t chosen it… and I really wouldn’t have missed it.

My response was kinda “meh”, and I’ve been thinking about why. I believe at least two problems can interfere with my appreciation of any old book, and science fiction often has further liabilities.

The first general problem is that these works, when new, were sometimes exploring ideas that were fresh and invigorating. The passage of years and the spread of mass media means
Sep 26, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: scifi, sfmasterworks
SF Masterworks #14. Another eerily almost-surreal futurist tale from Bester; this one's a detective story focusing on the wrong-doer in a world that strongly relies on people with extra sensory perception in all the key businesses and industries. Shaping Freudian thought, Agatha Christie whodunnit and sci-fi galaxy world-building around a very much character driven dive into the possible dangers of profit/power driven free thinking, this was the first book to receive a Hugo Award!

Another Bester
May 24, 2012 rated it it was ok
So, I finished this book yesterday. The first lady that you meet in this book spends two pages begging the hero character to marry and have children with her, even though she knows he doesn't love her. The second lady that you meet in this novel is a shop girl that spends her whole scene trying to get the protagonist to "kiss her like he means it" "pout" The third lady that you meet in this novel is a ditsy esper 3, only invited to the party because of her looks. She makes a fool of herself and ...more
Apr 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic-sf
The Demolished Man: A SF classic about murder in a telepathic society
(Posted at Fantasy Literature)
If I had read this book back in 1952 when it was first published, I would have given it 5 stars, no question. But in 2014, with 60 years of refinements in the genre, it suffers from some very dated dialogue and characterization, and some really condescending portrayals of women, so I'm afraid the present value of the book is 4 stars.

Having said that, The Demolished Man remains an impressively-imag
Jenny (Reading Envy)
The very first Hugo winner of all time, The Demolished Man is more like a crime novel that happens to be in a science fiction universe, an earth where nobody has committed a murder in 70 years because so many people are trained to be telepathic.

The people who have telepathy are referred to as Espers, and go through training, and fall into three categories depending on their abilities.

This is a good read because of the action (fast-paced) but also because I love all the little details of the wo
Shayan Foroozesh
Jul 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: FeReShte
Recommended to Shayan by: Ali Nazifpour

Alfred Bester, one of the icons of science fiction (though I didn’t know him until a month ago [yep you got me I’m not much of a sci-fi guy]), challenges himself by writing an inter-genre novel, The Demolished Man , which is the Hugo Award winner dated in 1953. The novel is certainly one of his best novels but a way behind to best his best Bester novel: The Stars My Destination . Yet it was a pretty entertaining novel with some good old ancient obsolete science. Oh I’m exaggerating; you
Apr 17, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommended to Jareed by: Hugo Awards List
“But man is not made for defeat," he said. "A man can be destroyed but not defeated.” (Hemingway, 1952)

The human spirit cannot be defeated, but it can be destroyed, in this case, the complete eradication of what you once were, the complete destruction of the psyche, the birth of The Demolished Man.

Awarded the first ever Hugo Awards in 1953,The Demolished Man is considered to have had an extensive impact to the genre that rippled through the ages especially in the cyberpunk generation
Vit Babenco
Mar 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Man will find a way to cheat even in the most utopian society – the nature of human being is incorrigible…
The Demolished Man is a unique and very idiosyncratic dystopian mystery and an early harbinger of cyberpunk.
The tale is taking place in the distant future where psychiatric science is in prime and psychic phenomena factually rule society. Psychology is used to detect criminals and even to escape reality utilizing catatonia.
“A great new treatment… Patient goes into catatonia. It's an escape.
Nick Imrie
Mar 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: SF completionists
The Demolished Man is sometimes called the first cyberpunk novel, and it took me ages to figure out why. There's one computer in this story and it doesn't even have a screen. The characters feed data in using punchcards.
But that's not where the cyberpunk comes from. The Demolished Man features a society of telepaths, known as Espers, and Bester has clearly given a lot of thought to how telepathic communication might work – and pretty much predicted how conversation works on the internet! People
4.5 stars. One the first (if not the first) true SF psychological thrillers. A superb read that ranks up there with another classic Bester novel, The Stars My Destination. A true science fiction classic that lives up to the name. Highly recommended.

Winner: Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1953)
Lit Bug
Aug 28, 2013 rated it liked it
3.5 Stars

This book manages to both impress and fail to impress, on account of its strong plot and weak narration.

The conception is realistic, exciting, and has enough elements of SF - that of a world teeming with graded Espers or mind-readers who police the world that has now expanded to settle on various planets, and catch the criminal before he can even properly lay on the plan.

In 2301, Ben Reich, owner of Monarch corporation, decides, in murderous passion, to murder (of, course) his rival - k
Oct 17, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
An enjoyable story that combines a murder mystery with SF. I liked it, but was a bit let down after the awesomeness that was _The Stars My Destination_. Once again Bester introduces an sfnal change to the world and logically posits some of the possible changes that would result in society: in this case it is psychic ability.

The most obvious impact that Bester examines is the way in which crime and policing will be affected by the fact that a fairly large segment of the population can at least se
A pulpy energy drives this science-fiction noir through writing that is sometimes clunky, sometimes excellent (check out Jenny Colvin's review for a quote of the great passage that describes an exploded ceramics plant), a future setting with ESP-endowed "peepers" investigating the first murder in many years, and interesting if too broadly-characterized characters. This future has some inevitable dated elements mixed with some quite interesting details, and there's a whole Freudian subtext that's ...more
This is a 2.5 for me and I'm hovering on which way to round it. What will I decide??

See, this book has rubbed off on me! At many turns, this book sounds overwhelmingly cheesy. I can see why these roots of sci-fi are so interesting to people, because they're such a product of their period as well as reaching for something forward -- thus, it's weirdly bold and corny at the same time. This book is focused on its characters, which is a very good way to write. (This was a present from Evan, who poin
Executive Summary: Part sci-fi, part detective novel, part thriller. I was a bit surprised I enjoyed this one so much.

Full Review
When this book was announced as the September Sword & Laser pick, my initial reaction was: "never heard of it".

The premise sounded interesting, and all of my friends who read it prior had given it a 5. Good sign. But it's 60 years old. It was in fact the first book to win the Hugo 60 years ago this year.

I don't read a lot of classics. I've found most of the ones I'
Nate D
Sep 30, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: billionaire murderers to-be
Recommended to Nate D by: $2 vintage sci-fi
Shelves: read-in-2012, sci-fi
What was up with the 50s? Not only are nearly all the female characters lovely, inneffectual young ladies being cast aside by by powerful older men but the ont exception is a powerful older man falling in love with a literally infantalized expression of various Freud-based concepts. Which leads me to Jake's comment on the general embarrassing proliferation of particularly dated Freudisms. And then, it seems for a while that our protagonist is, seriously, a dashing billionaire with the sheer rebe ...more
May 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
I just love it when one of the classics provides me with what I like to read in a good novel.
Of course it is dated (how can a book from 1953 not be?), and of course the women are referred to as „pretty girl“, but this only rubs me the wrong way if I can’t get into the rest of the story (or if it is done in a too patronizing way). Just get in the mindset of the back-then popular Freudian psychology and this story works well.

It is an inverted detective story where the reader follows the murderer a
RJ from the LBC
Dec 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bester's debut novel is informed by not only his prior career in public relations, writing scenes with profit-hungry executives, but also his work in the pulp magazines and comic books where he learned to write big loud characters and action and drama that jumps off the pages like BAM! ZAP! POW!!! Bester mashes up a pulp murder-for-profit plot with ESP-laden detectives and Sci-Fi tropes like flying cars and interplanetary settlements with an ending that's a bit too pat but ends up landing the fi ...more
I decided that the book that won the first Hugo would be the perfect place to start the Worlds Without End Grandmaster Challenge, which invites participants to read twelve books this year by recipients of the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award.

The Demolished Man is a strange combination: outwardly pulp, but with a thoughtful exploration at its core. It is science fiction, insofar as it takes place in a potential future, and is full of the standard trappings of pulp SF: flying cars and rou
I read this as a little lad.

Fun, its notions of telepaths, on reflection, may well have gone on to influence Philip K Dick.

It's central idea that criminals should be rehabilitated and returned to function in society remains science-fiction however, indeed one has to wonder where writers get these crazy ideas from.
Rachel (Kalanadi)
3.5 stars, rounding up since I was fascinated by the plot and writing. Can definitely see the influence this might have had on Delany.

Any gripes I have are predictably about how women are treated (you know, naked or infantile, or both).

But otherwise, wow!
Erich Franz Linner-Guzmann

Eight, sir; seven, sir;
Six, sir; five, sir;
Four, sir; Three, sir;
Two, sir; one!
Tenser, said the Tensor.
Tenser, said the Tensor.
Tension, apprehension,
And dissension have begun.
Mar 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It was really fascinating to try to see this book through the eyes of it's contemporaries, give or take a few decades. I've read a lot of classics, and I'm ashamed that I had never gotten around to this one until this late. As a cat-and-mouse tale it was solid and fascinating. As a malicious psychological examination of megalomania, ethics, and daddy issues, the book really shines.
The style is very good for the day. I've read much, much worse, but honestly, it's still good even for today's writi
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
The Evolution of ...: Dec. 2018 - The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester 49 25 Dec 31, 2018 01:28PM  
Science Fiction I...: The one that started it all 1 9 Sep 12, 2018 06:43PM  
Sperm treatment in Delhi 1 6 May 24, 2017 10:37PM  
Dystopian Society: the Demolished Man 1 11 May 01, 2017 02:44PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • They'd Rather Be Right
  • The Big Time
  • Double Star
  • A Case of Conscience (After Such Knowledge, #4)
  • To Your Scattered Bodies Go (Riverworld, #1)
  • This Immortal
  • Lord of Light
  • Gateway (Heechee Saga, #1)
  • More Than Human
  • Stand on Zanzibar
  • Way Station
  • The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress
  • The Stainless Steel Rat (Stainless Steel Rat, #4)
  • The Einstein Intersection
  • Man Plus (Man Plus #1)
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz (St. Leibowitz, #1)
  • Babel-17
  • Worm Holes (Quantum Roots, #2)
See similar books…
Alfred Bester was an American science fiction author, TV and radio scriptwriter, magazine editor and scripter for comic strips and comic books.

Though successful in all these fields, he is best remembered for his science fiction, including The Demolished Man, winner of the inaugural Hugo Award in 1953, a story about murder in a future society where the police are telepathic, and The Stars My Desti

Related Articles

Earlier this year, the co-creators of the hugely popular comic book series Saga announced that they'd be...
321 likes · 41 comments
“Be grateful that you only see the outward man. Be grateful that you never see the passions, the hatreds, the jealousies, the malice, the sicknesses... Be grateful you rarely see the frightening truth in people.” 76 likes
“Eight, sir; seven, sir;
Six, sir; five, sir;
Four, sir; Three, sir;
Two, sir; one!
Tenser, said the Tensor.
Tenser, said the Tensor.
Tension, apprehension,
And dissension have begun.”
More quotes…