Demolished Man, The
5/10 (Clunky writing, superficial)
This was an intriguing story that couldn’t quite get out from under the clunky writing. Overall it was a well-done futuristic cat-and-mouse noir, but the writing was too cold and the narration too disjointed to really draw me in. Then the ending just sorta launches off into what-the-hell territory, corroborating my already-firm impression that Bester did excellent Philip K. Dick stories before Dick himself. In that sense, I was glad to read this because I’m always interested in adding to my sci-fi fluency, and it seems that this guy could have been pretty influential.
There were some interesting ethical and socio-political insights strewn throughout (the jab at the end on how neutralizing criminals resulted in a nation of sheep was brilliant), but they were few and far between. Mostly it was just a dressed-up mystery.
I’m not super excited about reading another of Bester’s works since this book, supposedly one of his best, turned out to be more of an intellectual brainteaser than an overly compelling narrative. But since I have The Stars My Destination on my list I suppose I’ll still get around to it eventually. At this point I would place him behind Dick, Kurt Vonnegut, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Ray Bradbury in the sci-fi pantheon, and probably on par with Isaac Asimov (more enjoyable but less impressive/influential) and Orson Scott Card (less enjoyable, but more impressive/influential).