The Demolished Man

Alfred Bester
The Demolished Man Cover

The Demolished Man


Ben Reich is a man troubled by dreams, living in a world of telepaths. Much as in Minority Report, crime is difficult to commit and easy to punish, and murder is all but impossible. The future sees humanity expanding to other planets, but still crippled by its faults and flaws. Bester does a magnificent job creating the world of 2301, and his prowess as world-builder is even better here than in his celebrated The Stars My Destination. Unfortunately, his skills as a crime-drama writer are not as good.

It’s not much of a spoiler say that Reich commits murder, because he does so very early in the novel. While there is some suspense in the first part of the book, that largely disappears once the murder is done. There is a long cat-and-mouse chase between Reich and the police, but frankly the reader spends most of his time waiting for the police to laboriously put together all the pieces he already knows, and then has to wait even longer to see if the unlikeable Reich ever gets caught and punished for his crime. The only suspense in the book concerns the identity of The Man With No Face, a dream image that haunts Reich’s dreams, but it’s not a very interesting mystery.

The Demolished Man is worth reading if only for some very intriguing prose interpretations of what a telepath conversation might be like, but not for the murder mystery which is at its core.