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Book of the Month > October-November 2016: The Demolished Man

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message 1: by Jocelyn (last edited Oct 19, 2016 09:00AM) (new)

Jocelyn (joceapotamus) | 103 comments All right guys, here we go! This month we're starting this club for realz by reading Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man. Feel free to discuss the book here but if you've gone further ahead in the book and you just can't wait to share, be sure to use spoiler disclaimers!

Imagine a world without murder. Then use it as the setting for a murder mystery...
Winner of the first Hugo award, this book was widely praised upon it's initial release. It influenced a generation of sci fi writers and still resonates today within the genre.

Goodreads blurb:

"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."

message 2: by Liz (new)

Liz | 24 comments Spoilers included. What I liked about TDM is the various fashion trends and modes of transportation that Bester predicted - what I love about sci-fi, especially older stuff. Having said that, ESP isn't really scientific and the book is based around that. I like books where I identify with the protagonist and I didn't care for him or, frankly, any of the characters. His character descriptions were minimal and I don't think I got to know anybody very well. I got lost trying to follow the jetting back and forth. I did like the surprise ending - probably the only place I was really engaged.

message 3: by Jocelyn (new)

Jocelyn (joceapotamus) | 103 comments I'm having a tough time identifying with him too. Or even liking him.

I'm just about finished but I'm also loving the predictions. You get that so much with older SF books. Sometimes with more modern SF, I think "this tech is cool but would never be possible." I wonder if people thought that then too? Only to see it, for many anyway, to become reality within their lifetimes.

message 4: by Liz (new)

Liz | 24 comments I can't remember which story or by whom, but the main character was in a business meeting when the phone rang. She took it out of her purse, completed the call, then put it away. The story was written in the early 50s. It might have been Phillip K. Dick. To think that the idea of cell phones was once only science fiction!

message 5: by Charles (new)

Charles | 16 comments Yes! Finally! Thank you, Jocelyn for getting this back in motion.
I loved this book--not as much as I did The Stars My Destination, but mostly for Bester's uncanny ability to predict.
Did I like the characters? No. But did I like Gully Foyle in The Stars My Destination? No! And I think that's the point. Bester creates the anti-hero, despicable, unlikable.
I thought it was prescient. Completely ahead of its time. It takes us to NYC in the 24th century where the anti-hero, Ben Reich, sets out to commit a murder--impossible since "peepers" (mind-readers) monitor this hyper corrupt city.
Bester worked as a writer for comic books, and his descriptive scenes are vivid and enthralling. There are a few linguistic speed bumps to navigate particularly early on in the book where, for example, Bester demonstrates what a group of mind-readers who "think" at each other might feel like, and some new words, grammar and slang potholes in the road. But for the most part, the reader is swept along a marvelously written road into, down and through the city and its denizens.
The plot twists and turns like the streets below Houston. (If you've been to Greenwich Village or the Lower East Side, you know what a rat's maze it turns into south of Houston Street). Whenever you think you know what's about to happen, it doesn't, and you find yourself going down a new, intriguing alley way, confronting big issues. "It was anger for the relentless force of evolution that insisted on endowing man with increased powers without removing the vestigial vices that prevented him from using them." That's one that makes you stop and think.--and has inspired sci fi writers ever since.
Or, "Listen normals! You must learn what it is. You must learn how it is. You must tear the barriers down. You must tear the veils away."
No spoilers here, but the mass cathexis scenes near the end of the book are like an acid trip gone wrong.
And this was written in 1951.

message 6: by Jocelyn (new)

Jocelyn (joceapotamus) | 103 comments Hello sci-fivers: I've been away but am back and will update asap :)

message 7: by Charles (new)

Charles | 16 comments Thank you, Jocelyn! I was beginning to feel a little antsy about my last post.

message 8: by Jocelyn (last edited Dec 07, 2016 04:58AM) (new)

Jocelyn (joceapotamus) | 103 comments It's interesting you've brought up the comic books- I could see this fitting in so well as a comic book or graphic novel. Some of the ways he described things, I would love to see visualized and this is a book that I think would fail as a movie. So seeing it put into graphic form would be fantastic! The way he wrote dialogue in this book would fit well within a comic book too. Gosh, my mind is exploding picturing this as a comic book.

You make a good point, he is definitely an anti-hero you're not meant to like, but I did end up wanting Ben to get away with it. I was getting so nervous toward the end of the book, wanting him to get away with murder. But then the last twist, that "demolition" is not in fact demolition of the body, but only of the mind- wow! I definitely did not see that coming. The word conjured in my mind a body being snuffed completely out of existence. The bit of social commentary he snuck in there about the death penalty was quite apt as well.

I really did enjoy this book, especially since it was totally different than what I had thought it was going to be. I did have a bit of a tough time reading it, mainly because of the writing style, but in the end I really enjoyed the story. It actually reminds me a lot of Stephen King- I am not a fan of Stephen's writing style (which in some ways is reminiscent of Bester's), but I always walk away from one of his books thinking, "I did not see that coming! What a fantastic story."

message 9: by Jocelyn (new)

Jocelyn (joceapotamus) | 103 comments Another thing I wanted to mention about Alfred Bester's writing style is his use of words. I'm not sure if it was because of the time he wrote in, or because of his creativity (or both?), but I really enjoyed the way he used certain words in ways I haven't seen them used before. Like "pneumatic" when describing Maria,
And of course, his typography choices for Wyg& etc.

It is certainly a very clever and entertaining book. In my opinion, it's a perfect blend of science fiction and detective/cat and mouse, with some profound literary elements peppered in.

message 10: by Charles (new)

Charles | 16 comments Yes, I think the brilliance here --and with Bester's The Stars My Destination--is that you actually start rooting for the anti-hero, as disgusting and unlikable as he may be.

message 11: by Jocelyn (new)

Jocelyn (joceapotamus) | 103 comments Yeah I was relieved that he in a sense got away with it even though he was so irritating.

I was thinking about the book again today and the computer popped into my mind. With its ticker tape and immense size- reminds me of those basement sized computers with 4 whole mb of ram! So much of the tech he described was so advanced, so much like what we have today, and then there's, well, ticker tape!

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