Alfred Bester – Demolished Man


Alfred Bester - Demolished Man

Alfred Bester’s “The Demolished Man” is a groundbreaking science fiction novel that pushes the boundaries of the genre. First published in 1953, this visionary work explores themes of telepathy, technology, and the human mind.

The story is set in a future where telepathy has become a common ability, and society has been transformed as a result. Bester’s vivid and imaginative world-building creates a captivating backdrop for his complex characters and gripping plot.

The protagonist of the story is Ben Reich, a powerful businessman who is gripped by a desire for power and control. Reich’s obsession leads him to plan a crime of passion, but he soon finds himself up against a formidable adversary – a telepathic detective named Lincoln Powell.

Bester’s narrative is not only a thrilling and suspenseful crime story, but also a thought-provoking exploration of the human psyche and the nature of power. Through the use of telepathy, Bester delves into the inner workings of the characters’ minds, blurring the line between reality and perception.

“The Demolished Man” has been praised for its innovative storytelling techniques and its prescient vision of the future. Bester’s use of nonlinear narrative and stream-of-consciousness writing style was ahead of its time, and his depiction of a society transformed by telepathy foreshadows the rise of technology and its impact on humanity.

With its imaginative world-building, complex characters, and thought-provoking themes, Alfred Bester’s “The Demolished Man” remains a visionary science fiction classic that continues to captivate readers today.

Alfred Bester

Early Life

Alfred Bester was born on December 18, 1913, in New York City. He grew up in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, which would later become the setting for his novel “The Demolished Man”. Bester developed an early interest in writing, and by the age of 17, he had already published several short stories. He attended the University of Pennsylvania and then went on to study at Columbia University.

Writing Career

Bester began his career as a writer in the late 1930s, working for pulp magazines such as Astounding Science Fiction and Amazing Stories. He gained recognition for his innovative storytelling techniques, blending elements of science fiction, mystery, and fantasy. Bester’s work often explored themes of identity, telepathy, and the nature of reality.

In 1953, Bester published his most famous novel, “The Demolished Man”. The book won the first-ever Hugo Award for Best Novel, establishing Bester as a leading figure in the genre. “The Demolished Man” tells the story of a society where telepathy is common and crime can be prevented by reading people’s thoughts. The novel explores themes of power, control, and the limits of the mind.

Later Life and Legacy

Later Life and Legacy

After the success of “The Demolished Man”, Bester continued to write science fiction novels, including “The Stars My Destination” and “The Computer Connection”. However, he found it difficult to match the critical and commercial success of his earlier works.

Bester passed away on September 30, 1987, in Pennsylvania. Despite his later works receiving mixed reviews, his contributions to science fiction were significant. His innovative storytelling and visionary ideas continue to inspire writers and readers to this day.

Demolished Man

Demolished Man is a visionary science fiction classic written by Alfred Bester. It was first published in 1953 and won the inaugural Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1954.

The story is set in a futuristic world where telepathy is common and the government has established a powerful organization called the Esper Guild to regulate and control telepaths. The protagonist, Ben Reich, is a powerful businessman who plans to murder his rival, Craye D’Courtney. However, the presence of telepathy makes traditional crime impossible, so Reich seeks the help of a “peeper” named Powell to erase his murderous thoughts.

The novel explores themes of power, technology, and the nature of crime in a telepathic society. Bester’s writing style is fast-paced and innovative, utilizing techniques such as typography and nonlinear narrative to create a unique reading experience. The novel’s vivid descriptions and complex characters make it a standout work in the science fiction genre.

Plot Summary

The novel opens with Ben Reich, the CEO of Monarch Utilities & Resources, planning to kill D’Courtney, the head of his rival company. Reich consults with a telepath named Jules, who advises him to hire a “peeper” to block telepathic detection. Reich soon discovers that D’Courtney has a telepath of his own, Donald Powell, working for him.

Reich seeks out Powell’s talents, but Powell refuses to assist in murder. In desperation, Reich hires a peeper named D’Courtney’s daughter, Barbara, to help him. Together, they aim to erase Reich’s murderous thoughts and create alibis in the minds of the telepaths.

As the story unfolds, Powell becomes suspicious of Reich’s intentions and begins investigating the murder plot. He discovers evidence of Reich’s involvement and seeks to bring him to justice. The two characters engage in a thrilling cat-and-mouse chase, both utilizing their telepathic abilities to gain an advantage.

Themes and Analysis

Demolished Man explores several themes, including the abuse of power, the impact of technology on society, and the nature of crime. The telepathic society depicted in the novel raises questions about the limits of privacy and individual freedom. The Esper Guild serves as a controlling force, suppressing telepaths’ abilities for the supposed benefit of society.

Bester uses the telepathic abilities of his characters to delve into the psyche and motivations of the individuals involved. The exploration of telepathy allows for a unique examination of crime and morality. Murder becomes challenging in a world with telepathic detection, forcing characters to adapt and find alternative means to achieve their goals.

The novel also touches on the theme of identity, as characters struggle to maintain their sense of self in a world where thoughts can be read. The telepaths themselves face unique challenges, as their abilities often isolate them from society and can be both a blessing and a curse.


Demolished Man is a visionary science fiction classic that explores themes of power, technology, and crime in a telepathic society. Alfred Bester’s innovative writing style and imaginative world-building make it a standout work in the genre. The novel’s thought-provoking themes and complex characters continue to captivate readers to this day.

A Visionary Science Fiction Classic

“Demolished Man” by Alfred Bester is considered a visionary science fiction classic. Published in 1953, it is a groundbreaking novel that combines elements of mystery, dystopia, and psychology.

The novel is set in a future world where telepathy, called “esper”, is common. The story follows protagonist Ben Reich, a ruthless business tycoon who plans to murder his rival, Craye D’Courtney. However, in this world where telepathy is prevalent, committing the perfect crime becomes a challenge. Reich seeks the help of a “synth”, an individual who can block telepathic signals, to carry out his plan.

Bester’s writing style is descriptive, immersive, and fast-paced, making “Demolished Man” a thrilling and engaging read. The novel explores themes of power, corruption, and the consequences of unchecked ambition. It also delves into the ethical implications of technology and the nature of human communication.

The characterization in “Demolished Man” is complex and multifaceted. Ben Reich is a morally ambiguous character, driven by ambition and a desire for power. The other characters in the novel, including the telepaths and synth, add an additional layer of depth to the story.

One of the standout features of “Demolished Man” is its innovative narrative structure. Bester uses a non-linear style, incorporating flashbacks and multiple perspectives, which adds to the suspense and mystery of the story.

Overall, “Demolished Man” is a thought-provoking and visionary science fiction classic. It explores themes that are still relevant today, making it a must-read for fans of the genre.

What is “Demolished Man” about?

“Demolished Man” is a visionary science fiction classic written by Alfred Bester. It is set in a future where telepathic abilities have become quite common. The protagonist, Ben Reich, is a wealthy businessman who plans to commit a murder. However, in this society, crimes are almost impossible to get away with, thanks to telepathic police officers known as “Espers.” The book explores the themes of psychic powers, technology, morality, and the implications of a telepathic society.

Who wrote “Demolished Man”?

“Demolished Man” was written by Alfred Bester.

When was “Demolished Man” published?

“Demolished Man” was published in 1953.

Is “Demolished Man” considered a classic?

Yes, “Demolished Man” is considered a science fiction classic.

What are some of the themes explored in “Demolished Man”?

“Demolished Man” explores themes such as psychic powers, technology, morality, and the implications of a telepathic society.

Who is the protagonist of “Demolished Man”?

The protagonist of “Demolished Man” is Ben Reich, a wealthy businessman who plans to commit a murder.

What makes “Demolished Man” a visionary science fiction classic?

“Demolished Man” is considered a visionary science fiction classic because it predicted and explored the implications of a telepathic society and the ethical dilemmas it presents. It also introduced new narrative techniques and has been highly influential in the genre of science fiction.

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