More Alfred Bester.
More Adventures in Reader Reactions.
Your contrasting perspective on this is From Couch to Moon.
Raw Feed (1990): The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester, 1952.
I enjoyed this book the second time around but for different reasons. The narrative drive and excitement were still there, an even stronger reminder of Bester’s baroque touches.
What I especially noticed this time was the nastiness, compulsion, fury, drive, and charm of Ben Reich; Bester’s humor and wit (including only giving the punchline to a joke: “I’m only a tourist here.”) and skill here in rhythm, plot pacing, and suspense. I liked Reich and Lincoln Powell carrying on not only an overt struggle as policeman and suspect but also a titanic, covert struggle as esper and industrialist. If there is a weak point in the plot, it’s the underdeveloped concept of Reich as “world-shaker”.
And, of course, there is the brilliance of the esper’s typographed conversations and the concept of Demolition. This book has Bester’s quick dashes of color and concise characterization (especially in Jerry Church, pawnbroker and ostracized esper). It’s interesting to see how Bester hints at sleaze in passing. I didn’t find the end as pyrotechnic this time when the Esper Guild tricks Reich into thinking he’s the sole being in the universe. I found it a trifle confusing but certainly in keeping with the novel’s Freudian tones. I think it was just luck that the first time I read this novel I guessed the victim, Carye D’Courtney, was Reich’s father. The mystery didn’t seem so clear, oddly, on the second reading. I was amazed this time how hopeful the ending is with Powell the esper saying there is “nothing in man but love and faith, courage and kindness, generosity and sacrifice”. How uplifting. And, in keeping with the Freudian view, man is kept from this inner good by a veil of blindness caused by neurosis. Reich, charming Reich, can not kill his half-sister to save himself, destroys himself by killing his father. But his good can be retrieved in Demolition.
Like The Stars My Destination, this is a fast, hopeful tale of compulsion and redemption.