Golden Age Sci-Fi 75 (28)
July 31, 2016
One in a series of 75 posts about the best science fiction novels published during the genre’s so-called Golden Age (from 1934–63, according to HILOBROW’s Josh Glenn’s periodization schema). For the complete Golden Age Sci-Fi 75 list, click here.
Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man (serialized 1952; as a book, 1953).
A cartoonish but far-out police procedural — one in which we immediately learn who the murderer is. In the year 2301, telepathic police operatives (“Espers,” or “peepers”) have made premeditated murder impossible; there hasn’t been one in decades… until Ben Reich, a megalomaniac industrialist, decides to murder his business rival, D’Courtney. He enlists the support of a renegade Esper, who not only assists with the plotting and execution of the murder, but teaches Reich a maddening jingle — an earworm — that will prevent anyone from prying into his mind. Enter Lincoln Powell, Esper and police prefect, who uses his network of peepers to help him obtain evidence, while racing to find D’Courtney’s daughter, an eyewitness to the murder, before Reich does. There’s plenty of action and high-tech gadgetry — including flash grenades that destroy the retinas of on-lookers, and “harmonic” guns. If Reich is caught, he’ll be subject to “demolition,” in which the offender’s personality and memories are extracted….
Fun fact: Winner of the first Hugo Award. In 1959, Thomas Pynchon applied for a Ford Foundation Fellowship, proposing to adapt The Demolished Man as an opera. His application was denied.
GOLDEN AGE SCIENCE FICTION at HILOBROW: Golden Age Sci-Fi: 75 Best Novels of 1934–1963 | Robert Heinlein | Karel Capek | William Burroughs | E.E. “Doc” Smith | Clifford D. Simak | H.P. Lovecraft | Olaf Stapledon | Philip K. Dick | Jack Williamson | George Orwell | Boris Vian | Bernard Wolfe | J.G. Ballard | Jorge Luis Borges |Poul Anderson | Walter M. Miller, Jr. | Murray Leinster | Kurt Vonnegut | Stanislaw Lem | Alfred Bester | Isaac Asimov | Ray Bradbury | Madeleine L’Engle | Arthur C. Clarke | PLUS: Jack Kirby’s Golden Age and New Wave science fiction comics.
JOSH GLENN’S *BEST ADVENTURES* LISTS: BEST 250 ADVENTURES OF THE 20TH CENTURY | 100 BEST OUGHTS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST RADIUM AGE (PROTO-)SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TEENS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TWENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST THIRTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST GOLDEN AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FORTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FIFTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SIXTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST NEW WAVE SCI FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SEVENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST EIGHTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST DIAMOND AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST NINETIES ADVENTURES (in progress) | 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | NOTES ON 21st-CENTURY ADVENTURES.