The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester


Science Fiction

The demolished man The Demolished ManAlfred Bester; Vintage Books 1996WorldCatBen Reich runs a large corporation on Earth in the 24th century. He is trying to produce a merger with D’Courtney’s company. When D’Courtney refuses, Reich decides to murder his adversary. There is a problem. With a good portion of the population telepathic, murder is not possible. Those thoughts cannot be hidden from the “peepers.”

Linc Powell is a telepathic policeman. He is high up in the Esper organization as well because he has level one mental skills. When D’Courtney is murdered, he knows that another esper had to have helped Reich. Powell is certain from his “peeping” that Reich committed the murder, but needs the physical proof. Somehow Reich was able to foil the telepaths around him.

This is the story of Powell and Reich pitting their abilities against each other. Telepaths are not supposed to be corrupted, yet Reich knows the right buttons to push to get his way. Powell is always a step behind, trying to discover the evidence that he needs to convince the master computer that Reich is guilty. At the same time, Powell has to deal with the politics of the esper organization and try to protect the daughter of the man who was killed.

This is well done, a story that holds up fifty years after it was written. Humans are evolving into telepaths. Only a portion of the population has achieved that at the time of this novel, so humanity is in flux. Reich is a believable, maniacal character. It shows why Bester is one of the geniuses of early science fiction. He reminds us that no matter how technologically progresses or evolved we get, humans stay the same.

There is one other comment I have to make. I watched the television show Bablyon 5 from the beginning episode. Like most fans, I have a love/hate relationship with the chief Psy Cop, Bester. While I knew J. Michael Stravinsky had named the character Alfred Bester after the author, it took reading this book to understand the humor involved. This book is about psy cops. So what better name for the character?

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