The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester was the winner of the first Hugo Award for best novel in 1953. I first discovered this novel when taking David Mamet’s Masterclass so I added it to my list and recently got around to reading it. I read it in a few days. This book is a fairly quick read and is between 200-250 pages depending on the edition you choose. The writing and story entice you to keep reading.
To put it simply, this book is a futuristic crime novel that takes place in the 25th(?) century where humanity has colonized Venus, Mars, and a few moons of Jupiter. Part of the population can read minds which is considered common within the story. The development of reading minds is the reason has been zero acts of murder in over 70 years, but the main character, Ben Reich, plans to commit this crime.
The pacing is excellent. The language reads fairly modern despite the 70 years that have passed since it was written. There were several times where I read some dialogue in the the trope-like way of speaking attributed to that era (“Listen here, see..”), which is likely attributed to the few slang words used. However, this book has held up incredibly well and doesn’t quite have that nostalgia feel you can get from older science fiction stories.
There are a few other elements of the time that I believe impact the story which some readers may find unpopular today. I won’t detail anything here since it could skew your impression of the book and I would hate for that to happen, but I will say that I understand when this book was written so I let a few things slide as part of those times. Just know that the things I’m referring to are not blatant and shouldn’t impact your enjoyment of the story.
I’ll definitely be looking into Bester’s other novels. The Stars My Destination will likely be the next I read. I’m also interested to check out his short stories as well. I may never have discovered Alfred Bester if I hadn’t made a note of it from Mamet’s class. I’m glad I did. I find I often learn of great books from small comments or references like that. Which may be the reason I started recommending books on this blog, so that you may discover some of your favorite stories.