Alfred Bester

Dark Roasted Blend has a nice review up of Alfred Bester’s The Computer Connection as part of the site’s look at some classic science fiction.

I haven’t read that novel yet, but The Demolished Man and The Stars My Destination (originally called Tiger! Tiger! after the William Blake poem) are among my favourite books. Although they were written in the 50s, they are still fresh and accessible, dealing as they do with justice, freedom and human potential.

His use of technology as aiding punishment in The Demolished Man is excellent and not at all unrealistic: the point is that this is an extreme, but effective, form of chastisement in a possible future. Whether the demolition of a human’s mind is ethical is another point, but it makes you ponder the limits of justice: should we allow science and technology to advance to the point where it can completely dominate the individual, or maintain more traditional forms of punishment. It also throws up a traditional literary motif, which is what can happen if such power can be abused.

The Stars My Destination has a reasonably light beginning regarding teleportation through willpower, but is a profound story on humanity’s potential when it thinks outside the familiar three dimensions. Not at all upbeat yet no less valuable for it, the novel also silently wonders about how society so readily forms into classes and hierarchies.

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