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Publisher's Summary

In a world policed by telepaths, Ben Reich plans to commit a crime that hasn't been heard of in 70 years: murder. That's the only option left for Reich, whose company is losing a 10-year death struggle with rival D'Courtney Enterprises.

Terrorized in his dreams by The Man with No Face and driven to the edge after D'Courtney refuses a merger offer, Reich murders his rival and bribes a high-ranking telepath to help him cover his tracks. But while police prefect Lincoln Powell knows Reich is guilty, his telepath's knowledge is a far cry from admissible evidence.

©1951 Galaxy Publishing Corporation; copyright 1953 by Alfred Bester; copyright renewed 1979 by Alfred Bester; Introduction copyright 1996 by Harry Harrison (P)2017 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"Bester's two superb books have stood the test of time. For nearly 60 years they've held their place on everybody's list of the 10 greatest SF novels" (Robert Silverberg, author)

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What listeners say about The Demolished Man

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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It needed the visuals of the paper book.

There is no denying that Bester has written a top notch SF mystery. I read it many years ago in book form. While the audio is excellent, there were visuals that needed to be seen to understand some of the story. The conversational patterns just got lost without that visual. BUT...since I had read it before, I could follow along with those. The overall thrust of the story remained intact; I just missed those little things.

7 people found this helpful

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Demolishing the perfect murder

The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester is a far future tale of a perfectly planned murder in the context of a society where a portion of humanity possesses mind reading powers. A rich business tycoon plans the perfect murder of a rival, but things go awry when a witness shows up. The tycoon battles a determined police investigator with the highest esp levels. At the same time, the tycoon is battling a personal demon that haunts his dreams that is partly to blame for his paranoid behaviors.

The main sci-fi element is the development of latent "esper" power of the human mind that only some individuals possess to varying degree ("peeping" the conscious, the unconscious, or the subconscious). This effectively precludes someone from lying or hiding information. Major portions of the solar system have been settled, although life in many respects is pretty typical of mid 20th century (the tale is set at the dawn of the 24th century). The use of logic computer for assessing adequacy of a criminal case for prosecution was an intriguing application for its time. Finally, mental illness and criminal punishment is treated by "demolition" whereby the subject's mental construct is broken down and permitted to re-establish itself through an accelerated childhood that recapitulates normal growth.

The narration is well done with excellent character distinction of both genders. Pacing and tone are well aligned to the story, especially given the multiple scenes of nightmares and other related mental instabilities.

7 people found this helpful

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Dated but a piece of history

Expected all the reveals. The unflagging paternalistic quality of the story is cringe-worthy at this point in history and just makes it difficult to feel like the people are real humans and not just caricatures. Sure it was realistic for the times, but times have changed and this inability of misogyny and to stand the test of time is just demonstrative of its drawbacks. Not saying it's not worth reading. It's a piece of history. The telepathic world that's built is somewhat impressive, even if shudderingly patriarchal. Just keep in mind, it's dated and it shows not only with its misogyny but also with its outmoded psychological concepts.

1 person found this helpful

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Listen and read

I recommend listening while reading the book because typography plays an important role in the storytelling. Excellent book and well-narrated.

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Profoundly dated, yet inventive sf

If like me you arrived here on the strength of Bester’s far superior second novel ‘The Stars My Destination’ here are a few words of warning.

The story of the so-called perfect murder is well told, and moves along at a quick pace. And Gerard Doyle’s read is lively. The future New York setting is largely sketched in lacking much of the detail of the author’s later works, focusing instead on the ESP abilities of the Espers. So far so good.

Unfortunately the story is profoundly dated, the deeply ingrained sexism and misogynistic attitudes marring an otherwise inventively told tale. Doyle’s read compounds the book’s problems by giving all the female characters an obsequious tone that ups the pulp quality of the dialogue beyond the point most could tolerate, even giving some allowance for the era it was written in.

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It’s okay

A lot of the time I really liked it. It was a bit much by the end. I don’t know if it would have seemed more original in the 50s or not.

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Worth the time

I didn't like it as much as The Stars My Destination however the story is still very entertaining and way ahead of it's time.

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Visionary and remarkably timeless

The winner of the very first Hugo, but it could have been written today.

I didn't expect a sci fi novel from 1952 to hold up as well as this one does, and while there are the odd tells with regard to assumptions about future technology, and one or two romantic interactions that might warrant a sidelong glance, the story is wildly innovative, and the writing superb. Anyone who has seen Babylon 5 knows it pays homage to Alfred Bester, but it's remarkable just how directly it and nearly any other book about telepaths is templated on this book in particular. A worthwhile read on its own merits as well as its place on the history of the genre.

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A magnificent and ever relevant book

it was excellently narrated and despite being written more then 60 years ago is ever relevant in our day and age of corporations and complex and ambiguous motivations behind the behaviors of "world shakers" it shows great insight into the hearts and mind of man that would occupy such positions and the possible outcomes of their being left to their own devices. The worldbuilding is convincing and meticoulsly crafted . While some parts (such as female roles and women characters in general ) aren't quite up to date the compelling narrative and positive humanistic massage make this a very rewarding and affecting book

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Profile Image for Nick Stoker
  • Nick Stoker
  • 11-24-20

amazing book

truly gripping and origional. hard to believe it was written in the 1950s. well read by the narrator as well.

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Profile Image for MR LEWIS-GEORGE NASH
  • MR LEWIS-GEORGE NASH
  • 06-09-20

Classic fast paced sci-fi adventure

Alfred Bester tells stories with such ease. The plots are brilliant and the uncanny ideas he seemingly come up with at will and discards at equal speed is incredible. His stories have everything you want in such a tale. It is easy to see why he is hailed a master storyteller. A breeze and pleasure to read or listen to. The narrator was adequate. Nothing special added by his narration.