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Somehow, a book that manages to tie up its loose ends or come full circle seems contrived when compared to this book. I rather like the idea of a narrative whose body contains multiple episodes that sketch out the characters' realities, developing them with a keen sense of characterization, but whose "narrative bulk" may end up unresolved in some way or at least requires the reader to come to his/her own decision, rather like life. This is what makes Alfred Bester's "Tender Loving Rage" such a compelling read. There is nothing trite about it: it simply sets the scene between the sexes circa '50s New York, and lets the reader come to his or her own conclusions about the nature of Love.
Readers who are hoping for/expecting another of his famous pyroteknic science-fiction masterpieces may very well be disappointed; however, any reader open to a refreshing, incisive perspective on New York in the '50s will relish this novel, especially if they're not familiar with the author. I had to think about whether or not to give this book a '10' for a long time; perhaps I should have.
In any case, I give it an excellent rating, and am glad I aged it 5 years, for it went down like the finest wine.
(Alfred Bester is a writer I am going to miss for the rest of my life.)
Don't let that put you off, however. The Computer Connection packs in more wacky offbeat ideas in a single book than most writers have in a lifetime, and it is all done at a breakneck velocity fast enough to pass the likes of Michael Marshall Smith in the slow lane (and that's no insult to Smith).
The plot revolves around a small and select group of people made immortal through a particularly traumatic death - the narrator was roasted in a volcano, for example. The immortals take identities based on historical figures, which reflect their abilities and interests - there is a Christ, an Indian rajah and so on. Bester's depiction of immortals has only been bettered by Michael Moorcock in 'Dancers at the End of Time'. In seeking to expand their number, they accidently enable a powerful computer, Extro, to take over the candidate, the brilliant Cherokee physicist, Sequoya Guess. Extro then proceeds to use Guess to carry out its plans to rid the world of humans. Not only that, but there appear to be a traitor amongst the immortals themselves.
This review can hardly do any sort of justice to the utterly bizarre world that Bester has created, a world where giant pogo-sticks appear to be a major form of transport. As Ellison says, it's like a classic Hollywood screwball commedy (only forced through a giant psychedelic sieve). The only problem with this kind of commedy is that it is difficult to sustain over novel length, and Bester doesn't quite manage it; the book runs out of steam some time before the end. Still a must-read for any fan of New Wave (or any other) SF.
Brilliant dialogues, thrilling action, unforgettable characters... In short - don't forget to get your hands on that one as soon as possible. I'm sure you won't forget to thank me for that advice...
The novel is fast-paced, full of satirical gems, and funny as all get-out. But at the same time, it manages to support themes about technology, human evolution, and love and loyalty that are handled with as much thought and heft as any "serious" work.
The only gripe I've ever had with this book is that it ends way too soon, and in fact is screaming out for sequels that have never come. Not that the plot isn't fully wrapped up-- it's just that you hate to leave the company of these people who are so funny, profound, and warmly human.
This is a must-have book for any SF reader.
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With very imaginative descriptions of possible future technology, Alfred Bester has set standards for some later developments in cyber-punk and likes. Some of the most fascinating among these are drugs that he describes and that put humans into state of very primitive animals (python, for example), and, of course, jaunting technique and PyrE, the omnidestructive matter.
In these two futuristic concepts lies the real greatness of Bester's idea while writing this book. Although heavily supplied with all sorts of "advanced technologies", he makes a point of making them essentially connected with humans and power of their mind (jaunting being possible only with the power of thinking; PyrE activated only by the wish). With these ideas, Bester is trying to tell us that there is no force bigger than human mind, instinct and emotion.
The idea is personified in Gulliver Foyle, madly driven character who has been left in destroyed spaceship in outer space, to float for years before he was spotted by another vessel, and even then not rescued from his "floating coffin". Managing to find his rescue on a nearby planet (society of which has left an unerasable mark on his face, brought out every time he loses his balance), he finds his way back to Terra (Earth) and pledges revenge on "Vorga", the spaceship that failed to rescue him. Foyle is unstoppable, and he does not choose the means to his end. Eventually, that brings him to be the person upon whom the future of the all humanity lies.
Foyle's character is very well described, in depth and range equally. He is violent, immoral and uncontrollable, like everyone's unconsciousness. However, his unrelentlessness proves to be the driving force of the plot, and a convincing one too.
One star less goes to the superficial treatment of some other, possibly interesting characters (Dagenham, Olivia Presteign), and a bit rushed ending.
Still, it is one of the best SF novels I have ever read, and one of the better novels in general. If you are looking for a start in reading science-fiction, start here.
The story, as such, is "The Count of Monte Cristo in the 25th Century" -- and Bester never claimed otherwise. But it's the fabric of the world he creates to set it in, the sheer mastery of prose, and audacity of his ambition, that sets this book apart from most. It's such a grand ride, like a roller coaster that keeps on going every time you thought there wasn't any more it could do.
A grand display of a first-rate writer at the peak of his form.
Is Demolished Man a better book? I don't think so, but, heck, read them both and decide for yourself.
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A near future world where a small minority has developed their latent ESP, Bester's world is a compelling mix of utopia and dystopia. The mind police have virtually eliminated crime, either by rooting it out beforehand, or by always catching their man after-the-fact. But this safety comes at a dear price, where the unenforcable promise of the ESPers is only guarantee of privacy that most have.
However, Ben Reich, as head of a major corporate powerhouse, feels that he can outsmart the ESPers. Haunted in his dreams by a mysterious man, and driven by uncontrolled passions, Reich decides to eliminate his chief rival, D'Courtney. The murder sets off a brilliant battle of wits between Reich and the head investigator, Powell, which can only end in the "demolition" of Reich, or the total embarrassment of Powell.
Who gets demolished? What IS "demolition"? Why would Reich risk so much to kill D'Courtney? With so many pressing questions, it was amazing to see Bester wrap this book up in such a fulfilling way. A great mystery with a clever ending, set in a compelling near future world - despite its age, "The Demolished Man" remains a standard-bearer of its field.
P.S. Also if you like this novel read The Stars, My Destination. I think, this is the best novel Alfred Bester written.
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Stick to the novels - THE STARS MY DESTINATION and THE DEMOLISHED MAN, Bester's best work.
The common thread in these stories is Bester's flabbergasting imagination. His stories are often ironic, taking a wry observation about current society, and projecting it to its logical conclusion into an absurd future, from the quest for poets in an efficient future of "Disappearing act", to the drop of acid that makes a test tube woman intriguing in "Galatea Galante".
As one of the inventors of science fiction, Bester not only lays the ground work for the popular themes of science fiction such as the last couple on earth, time travel, androids and their programming, but adds his own twists: a man needing an agent to sell his soul to the Devil (of the company Beelzebub, Belial, Devil, and Orgy), collectors in the future recreating a 1950's style room, and a chaos compensator.
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It's almost blesphemy ,but I think the book would have come out better if Bester would be alive to finish it on his own. Not that the late Zelazny ruined it or something ,it's just that opposite to a few other reviewers ,I could tell when Bester stops and Zelazny takes over. It's not a bad change ,bad there's a change. of pace .of style. of plot direction.
As it came out at last ,it's a wonderfully written ,humoristic (not really FUNNY but light-hearted) ,with that Bester quality of PKD chaos ,but not as gloomy ,and zelazny's action ,and a number of sub-plots converging at the last possible point. Overall one of the best half-light reads i've had.(half-light 'cause Bester's style is more heavy ,but not domminant).
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The Science in this science fiction book is psychology, mainly Jungian psychoanalysis. In this book the world of the collective subconcious comes to life.
The world in Golem^100 is the sort of demented corporate-run future described in Bester's earlier work, The Computer Connection. Here it's described in even darker tones.
There's a lot of dark humor in Golem^100, and some of it may not be to everyone's liking - if you're offended by necrophilia jokes don't read this book. If you can stomach some VERY graphic violence (with innards all over the place), twisted humor and a plot that involves mutants, demons and radioactive drugs, read this book. While not a masterwork, it's a very original, inventive, thrilling read.
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THE DECEIVERS was written later in his career, and it's my belief that THE DECEIVERS is one long in-joke, filled with cryptic goodies and extremes which probably only Bester and his closest supporters took any real enjoyment in. My feeling is THE DECEIVERS was much less written for the audience at large, and much more written for an aged author who was trying to keep himself entertained.
On one level, the text seems to be written with great ease and intricacy, but at what expense? It's a campy, oblique love story set in an elaborately expanded solar system, with tricky gibberish and painful future slang tossed in. I feel like Bester must've had an absolute blast writing this book. And in the process, I think he alienated the more casual reader.
I read it. I finished it. I can't say that I enjoyed it. In fact, there were a few moments where I asked myself, "Why am I reading this?" Libraries were invented for books like this one.
THE DECEIVERS is a very deliberate work of fiction, but more valuable as a performed effort of an accomplished afficianado than as accessible entertainment for the masses.