Hugo: The Demolished Man (1953)

1 minute

The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester
Read September 24, 2009

Premise: In the future these telepathic people work in all sorts of jobs like police, business consultants, etc. This dude kills someone and is then hunted by the “Espers”—telepathic people who he is determined in his sheer brilliance to avoid.

Verdict: Eh.

This book has the honor of being the first ever Hugo Award winner. The telepath stuff was actually pretty neat and very well done. Some parts really stood out to me (all the Esper parties etc where they “think” in patterns—very cool) and some were just utterly ridiculous (the constant replaying of the naked woman who was present at her father’s death, the same woman who then regresses into an infantile state and must be “brought back” by the virile manly man). The murderer guy is basically a Dostoevsky ubermensch. It’s like a science fiction retelling of Crime and Punishment. Only putrescently optimistic in the end. I believe my father said it best: “It was the 1950s—what do you want?” Not sure what else to say about it. It’s short and in the vain of Dashiell Hammett and co. but with telepaths as detectives. As a sidenote: I never realized there was so much damn telepathy in science fiction. So odd. Keep in mind I read this months ago and have probably forgotten half of it. Also: while the ending is “optimistic” it is also startlingly frightening. At least to me. *shudder*

Read if you like old weird sci-fi.