Books Read- 203 Books to Read-282 Percent Complete- 41.86%

Just Finished (For the third time) - 'Mirror Dance' by Lois McMaster Bujold

Thursday, December 13, 2012

1953 Hugo Winner- 'The Demolished Man' by Alfred Bester

Demolished ManI read 'The Demolished Man' when I was a teenager, and it has held up pretty well.  The novel uses the basic mystery structure to add suspense and I always love it when an author blends his genres.  The interesting part of the structure as pertains to the mystery aspect is that not only is the reader given the information of who committed the murder, but so is the protagonist.  At no point is there any mystery about who committed the crimes, the reader watches it happen and the hero knows it immediately, the suspense arises from our hero trying to prove that the man has committed the murder.

When I first read it the book opened my eyes up to what science fiction could be, and when I re-read it now it stands alone as an entertaining and gripping adventure tale.  Bester has always had a pretty light tone in his writing and the novel moves along at a good clip, pretty standard for writing in this time period.  It feels a lot like the early Heinlein novel 'Have Space Suit, Will Travel', or Harrison's 'Deathworld,' those sort of novels that maintain that light and quick tone even when dealing with serious elements.  Fairly common to a lot of work in the fifties and early sixties it seems.

An interesting aspect of Demolished Man is that it saves the sort of moral judgement or social commentary often associated with sci-fi for the very end of the novel.  You aren't given any indication what is about to happen when, following the finale of the novel, when the villain has been deposed and humiliated we are treated to another scene in which, instead of going to prison, the antagonist is being treated for his violent tendencies with plans to re-release him into society.  It's a very forward thinking view, and the main character even laughs at the idea of a prison in their modern age.

It is an interesting subversion of expectation by taking away the readers idea of punishment and altering it into one of redemption.  The entire novel follows the classic structure of good versus evil, but in the end Bester nulls any concept of good triumphant and mocks any idea that there is such a concept as evil.  In Bester's world there are only people, and those that do bad things need our help, and any that could subvert justice successfully have already shown that they have the talent to alter society, they only need to apply it in the right fashion.  There is no punishment, only assistance given to the weak for the betterment of society.  Like I said, a very forward look for 1953, though if this was actually the authors intent with the novel he certainly took the long way around.

In the end though, any talk of 'The Demolished Man' has to mention that this was the very first Hugo award for best novel, and also that no award was given to the much better and certainly more groundbreaking novel 'The Stars my Destination' published in 1956, also by Alfred Bester. 

No comments:

Post a Comment