Friday, December 29, 2006

Alfred Bester, The Demolished Man

Taking a much-needed break from novels that exceed three-hundred pages and require thought, on Christmas morning I returned to one of my guilty pleasures: science fiction.

This Hugo Award-winning novel takes place in 24th-Century New York City, where mind-reading Espers ("peepers") mix with "normals" and help to regulate law enforcement. Consequently, crime has become virtually non-existent. Enter Ben Reich, one of the wealthiest New Yorkers and one who is willing to do anything -- even commit the first premeditated murder in eighty years -- to acquire the wealth of his business rival, D'Courtney. Enlisting the help of a couple of peeper acquaintances, Reich gets his hands on an ancient weapon -- a gun -- and locates D'Courtney in the midst of an elaborate parlor game at one of Maria Beaumont's elegant parties, only to find himself subsequently pursued by Esper cop Lincoln Powell in the party's aftermath.

Part detective novel, part Dostoyevskean meditation on crime and guilt, part Law and Order, and lots of paranoia a la Philip K. Dick with a Freudian undercurrent, The Demolished Man is a fun and fast-paced book that'll satisfy your old school sci-fi jonesin'.

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