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The Demolished Man
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Group Reads 2018 > Dec. 2018 - The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester

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message 1: by Jim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 3970 comments Mod
This is the topic to discuss December 2018's 1940-1959 read, The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester. It was first published in 1953.


RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) | 610 comments Started this one yesterday. Bester's The Stars My Destination is one of my all-time favorites so I'm looking forward to this one.


message 3: by Ed (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ed Erwin | 1826 comments Mod
I can't actually remember whether I read "Start My Destination" or "Demolished Man". I've definitely read and liked one of them. Anyway, I've got this on hold at the library and should get it later this month.


Buck (spectru) | 895 comments I read this in 2014. I only vaguely remember it.

This is my brief review: Classic science fiction in the manner of Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein, with a touch of PKD thrown in for good measure. This is something of a detective story that in the end becomes a psychological thriller. Set in a futuristic world, it moves along pretty well and has a strong psycho finish.


message 5: by Leo (new) - rated it 3 stars

Leo | 547 comments I also read The Stars My Destination and enjoyed that one from the start.
The Demolished Man I find more down-to-earth and until now (20% in) not that special .


RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) | 610 comments I wasn't expecting so much about ESP. That was always a big topic for PKD too.


Oleksandr Zholud | 732 comments RJ wrote: "I wasn't expecting so much about ESP. That was always a big topic for PKD too."

I thought about it - it seems that most Golden Age writers liked to add a little esp., e.g.
Heinlein, Asimov, Bradbury, Clifton, Marks

it seems a SF fad those days, which largely disappeared later


message 8: by Jim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 3970 comments Mod
The Rhine Institute was big back in the mid 20th century for pushing PSI abilities. Even after it came out that they'd fudged some stuff & their statistics sucked, it took quite a while for the furor to die down.


message 9: by Marc-André (new)

Marc-André | 298 comments Oleksandr wrote: "RJ wrote: "I wasn't expecting so much about ESP. That was always a big topic for PKD too."

I thought about it - it seems that most Golden Age writers liked to add a little esp., e.g.
Heinlein, Asi..."

Thank John W. Campbell for that. He was the editor for decades for the Astounding sci-fi magazine. He believed in psychic powers (coined the term psionic), pushed for psionics in sci-fi literature, greatly influence writers like Asimov and thus influenced the genre profondly for better or worse.


Oleksandr Zholud | 732 comments Marc-André wrote: "Thank John W. Campbell for that. He was the editor for decades for the Astounding sci-fi magazine. "

Thanks for the info


RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) | 610 comments Oleksandr wrote: "Marc-André wrote: "Thank John W. Campbell for that. He was the editor for decades for the Astounding sci-fi magazine. "

Thanks for the info"


Yes, thank you. I didn't know that.


message 12: by Jim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 3970 comments Mod
I started this today. There are some fun quirks & he sure sets up a futuristic world quickly. I liked the way the names are spelled such as @kins.


message 13: by Ed (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ed Erwin | 1826 comments Mod
I couldn't wait for the book at the library, so I started reading a scanned copy of January 1952's issue of Galaxy magazine. That contains the first of 3 parts. Do any of you know if it differs significantly from the published book?

With the magazine form, it is fun to read with the old yellowed pages and old-fashioned illustrations. And one page, the page after page 27, though it looks like it says page 24, the left and right columns of text are switched, which made for a bit of confusion.

Nice so far. The story seems to combine film noir with SF ideas. I'm enjoying comparing the rich, powerful guy with a current prolific tweeter.

For anyone "listening" instead of "reading", you will miss some of the fun. There is some interesting stuff done with telepathic speech making patterns on the page.

Deaf people might not like the way they are described here.


message 14: by Jim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 3970 comments Mod
At a glance of a few pages, the Galaxy story reads the same as my old paperback, although I don't have the great pulp art.

If anyone else wants to see it, the Internet Archive has a copy of the magazine free to read here:
https://archive.org/details/galaxymag...

It's on page 33 right now.


message 15: by Ed (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ed Erwin | 1826 comments Mod
I love the advertisement in there for a new kind of medical plan that can pay you $100 per week for a hospital stay! You'll probably have money left over! Polio benefits at no extra cost!


message 16: by Jim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 3970 comments Mod
Wow! How far we've come. Well, at least polio is pretty much a thing of the past. Iron lungs - ugh.


Oleksandr Zholud | 732 comments The last part of the novel - about ultimate threat - it sounded very fantasy like for me, what do you think?


Cheryl (cherylllr) plz use spoiler tags when you answer... my copy is not avl yet!


message 19: by Leo (new) - rated it 3 stars

Leo | 547 comments I was not impressed with the end of the novel, it felt to me like parts of the Nul-A series by Van Vogt: all kind of things happening but not very logical.
I'm glad I read Bester's other famous novel now. I liked the jaunting better than the peeping. Nevertheless, there are a lot of great ideas in it and I can see why it was praised in it's time.


Oleksandr Zholud | 732 comments Leo wrote: " all kind of things happening but not very logical. "

It can be intentional if you assume that the novel is a parody. For example (view spoiler)


RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) | 610 comments I get a strong Philip K Dick vibe from this book. I'm about halfway through and should finish in about a week.


message 22: by Ed (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ed Erwin | 1826 comments Mod
In the Galaxy magazine version, with the illustrations, there is one image of a woman with very strangely large hips. When I saw it I thought: that isn't anatomically correct. But a little later it is explained that she has pneumatically augmented hips, so OK!


message 23: by Jim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 3970 comments Mod
I finished this yesterday. Haven't written a review yet, but I thought it was a 3 star read. He went a little overboard on some things. (view spoiler)


message 24: by Leo (new) - rated it 3 stars

Leo | 547 comments Ed wrote: ".... a woman with very strangely large hips. ..."
Right, now I had to check out that Galaxy Magazine...
Beside these hips there was something else I noticed there. The part I of the text in Galaxy Magazine is missing in the E-book I read. That starts with part II. And I'm pretty sure the translated paper edition I have doesn't contain part I too. Why should that be?


message 25: by Ed (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ed Erwin | 1826 comments Mod
Jim wrote: "... I liked the way the names are spelled such as @kins."

@kins is clearly Atkins. T8 is Tate. But what is "$$on" supposed to be?


message 26: by Ed (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ed Erwin | 1826 comments Mod
Leo wrote: "The part I of the text in Galaxy Magazine is missing in the E-book I read... Why should that be?"

I can't answer that.

So, you are reading it in Dutch? How are the strange names like "@kins" written? Are they translated into Dutch names?

I'm also curious how that looks in other languages.

Wikipedia answered my question about "$$son":
in the initial serialized publication, Esper police lieutenant Jackson was referred to as "$$son": dollar signs represented money, and a slang term for money was "jack"; however, Bester subsequently decided that this was too obscure (and, indeed, when Randall Garrett retold Demolished in verse, he thought that Bester had meant the name to be "Dollarson", and thus rhymed "$$" with "collar") and referred to the character simply as "Jackson".


What they mean about Randall Garret "retold" the story in verse, basically he wrote a review in verse. It starts this way:
In the far & distant future—you can pick the d8 2 suit your-
Self, the author, Mr. Bester, doesn’t specify the year—
There’s a fellow named Ben Reich, a rich investor who’s no piker,
Who has dreams about a Faceless Man in nightmares odd & queer.

Craye D-Courtney is his rival. Says Ben Reich: "While he’s alive, I’ll
Never rest, so I must rub him out the best way th@ I can"
But, according 2 report, neither Ben Reich nor old D’Courtney
Knows the other well enough 4 Ben 2 h8 the older man.


More trivia!
In 1959, novelist Thomas Pynchon applied for a Ford Foundation Fellowship to work with an opera company, proposing to write, among other possibilities, an adaptation of The Demolished Man. The application was turned down.



message 27: by Jim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 3970 comments Mod
I did not come up with Jackson. I pronounced it Buckson, the closest reasonable thing I could think of.


message 28: by Leo (new) - rated it 3 stars

Leo | 547 comments Ed wrote: "So, you are reading it in Dutch? How are the strange names like "@kins" written? Are they translated into Dutch names?..."
The names are not translated, they're the English names. I do have @kins, Jo 1/4main and Duffy Wyg&.
Only T8 is just Tate with me and it's Jackson instead of $$on.
I guess it's better to keep the English names, translated in Dutch they sound very silly.


message 29: by Ed (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ed Erwin | 1826 comments Mod
I've continued reading in the next issue of Galaxy, from Feb 1952. It is a bit unpleasant to read from a PDF file, but it is fun to see what this old magazine was like.

Though SF is not (usually) about making predictions, this issue starts with an essay by L. Sprague de Camp about which predictions were right or wrong from earlier SF. Most of it was quite wrong. Then comes an essay by Robert A. Heinlein with his predictions about what life will be like in the year 2000. He was convinced that old people would choose to retire on the moon, for the lower gravity. On Earth, our homes will be so clean and warm we won't bother with clothes. Don't worry, we'll be super attractive due to plastic surgery, and the hygiene problem of nudity is solved with disposable sheets on the furniture.

De Camp closes with "It will be interesting, to put it calmly, to see what some citizens of 2000 A. D. will say in reviewing the stories in Galaxy Science Fiction. I'd rather like to be one of them." He got his wish, since he did live to 2000. Heinlein didn't make it to see his predictions mostly fail. He did at least predict that we would be able to carry a phone in our handbag.

The magazine continues to need more editing. One page of "Demolished Man" has left and right columns swapped. The textual on page 19 of the Heinlein essay is even more jumbled and hard to follow.

I'll discuss more of the "Demolished Man" later.


RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) | 610 comments Finished! I thought it was terrific although the ending was a bit pat, with Powell and the sex kitten winding up together, saving Powell from a loveless marriage to Mary (her name - har!). Demolition wasn't quite what I thought it was going to be though. It wasn't quite as good as The Stars My Destination but pretty good for a first novel. Good enough to win the first Hugo Award for Best Novel anyway.


Cheryl (cherylllr) Ok. My print copy, 3rd printing of 1953 Signet edition, has Tate and Jackson spelled out.

It also has a very much abbreviated prologue, that bit about timelessness and nothing new or unique. And it skips all those bits of set up, but goes right to "Explosion! Concussion! The vault doors burst open...."

Iow, the story in the magazine was rewritten for novelization, which happened a lot back then.

I'd say, for the sake of the group, try to get a copy of the novel. (It is avl. on Open Library with a waiting list.) If one is truly interested, refer to the magazine edition.


Cheryl (cherylllr) I don't think it is a parody. And I do think that the ending makes sense in an idealistic, hopeful way. I didn't much like the book, though, as it is about politics, intrigue, etc. which bores me, and is not really all that well-written. But it does have some interesting ideas.


message 33: by Ed (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ed Erwin | 1826 comments Mod
That Chooka Frood sure is groovy, man!


Cheryl (cherylllr) Ha!


Oleksandr Zholud | 732 comments Cheryl wrote: "I don't think it is a parody. And I do think that the ending makes sense in an idealistic, hopeful way. "

I definitely isn't an overt parody, but there are elements, like take the ending you mentioned (view spoiler)


Cheryl (cherylllr) I understand and respect what you're saying, but I still disagree, from my perspective and interpretation. And your point 2. was not brought out only at the end, but had been mentioned earlier.


Oleksandr Zholud | 732 comments Cheryl wrote: "I understand and respect what you're saying, but I still disagree."

Sorry if I inadvertently offended you. I don't state I'm right and all others are wrong, only that it is one of interpretations, which doesn't make other incorrect :)


Cheryl (cherylllr) Not at all. My interpretation is just one of many, too.


RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) | 610 comments Ed wrote: "That Chooka Frood sure is groovy, man!"

Reminds me of the names in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.


message 40: by Ed (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ed Erwin | 1826 comments Mod
You are right. I should have called her "a real hoopy frood".


message 41: by Ed (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ed Erwin | 1826 comments Mod
Serious question: Someone in this story uses a gun where the bullets have been altered so that they don't contain slugs, just the casing. Did I understand that right? What would be the point?


message 42: by Jim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 3970 comments Mod
The point is that there is no slug to recover plus it made it far less likely that it would be figured out. If I understood the explanation correctly at the end, just the force of primer going off with a gelatin capsule in it was enough to kill so long as the end of the barrel was in the correct position.


Oleksandr Zholud | 732 comments It contains a slug, just not a metal one. It is similar to ice stiletto/ice bullet in howtheydidit


message 44: by Phil (new) - rated it 4 stars

Phil Jensen | 99 comments Jim wrote: "Seems to me causing the demolition should have been much easier given how fragmented he already was."

In theory, they were stripping out the malignant layers of his psyche and keeping the exceptional parts. That would be tricky, if it were possible.

Of course, it's a very compartmentalized view of the human mind- the idea that you can just swap traits out like rebuilding a PC.


message 45: by Phil (new) - rated it 4 stars

Phil Jensen | 99 comments Leo wrote: "I was not impressed with the end of the novel, it felt to me like parts of the Nul-A series by Van Vogt: all kind of things happening but not very logical."

I thought it was pretty logical, but not very effective. I saw most of it coming from a long way away. I probably called the Faceless Man twist back around Chapter 1.

Linc was a little too much of a babyface for me. I think my favorite part of the book was the opening chapters written from Reich's perspective.


Cheryl (cherylllr) Any more readers working on this? This thread will remain open, of course, but the month of this primary discussion is almost over!


Cheryl (cherylllr) Remember, when this era comes around again, you may want to re-nominate one of the runners-up:

1984 - Orwell
The Death of Grass - Christopher
The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag - Heinlein
Sirius: A Fantasy of Love and Discord - Stapledon


message 48: by Zoltan (last edited Dec 31, 2018 01:37PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Zoltan Demeter | 5 comments I have just finished it. I also felt a bit somehow in the dark rainy noir mood. For my taste it was a bit too much of a detective story but this is the smaller issue and quite subjective.

The story from time to time got quite boring. For example the whole Barbara storyline together with Barbara herself was not interesting at all - seemed to me that it is existing only to have the obligatory romance. Reich's and Powell's characters were nicely detailed and well built (even though Powell's was quite bland for me, but again this is subjective). Unfortunately most of the others were quite weak. Maybe a bit less but more memorable ones would have been useful. My favorite minor character was Quizzard, would have been good to get to know him more.

The writing style was difficult to get used to but I am just getting familiar with classic SF so that might be at least one of the reasons.

The SF ideas were entertaining me, especially the one in the spoiler paragraph below, but also the global oligopoly, the transportation methods, weapons (or more the lack of them). Nothing extraordinary here, but fun and worth to read.

I don't think the end was too long - I would say rather average length. Could have been punchier but we have seen way longer endings as well - so can't really agree with this argument, even though I can understand if somebody found it a bit stretched.

Some spoilers here: (view spoiler)

As I was born in the 80's it was interesting to read some of the macho-style paragraphs from the 50's, which would probably be unacceptable for the pretty equal society of today.

Finally a trivia as well from my side:
There was a line which I thought might be connected to Star Trek, but a quick google search proved me wrong.
Quote: "I have resolved to be a trustworthy son to all women until Vulcan assumes its rightful place in the Community of Planets."
The most probable answer from my search result: "There are actually old science books from the 19th Century that thought there was a planet between Mercury and the Sun. It was called Vulcan as well..."
But please contribute if you have any other theories. I am interested to read them.

[3,5/5]


Cheryl (cherylllr) Interesting thoughts. Though I have nothing to add, I'm grateful that you shared your reactions and questions.


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