Monday, August 22, 2005

The Demolished Man

I finally got around to reading this science fiction classic, so now I know what Tenser, said the Tensor is a quote from.

Synopsis: In the future, when there are thousands of people who have various levels of telepathic ability, serious premeditated crime is generally impossible because of the telepathic police. A non-telepathic business tycoon nevertheless resolves to murder another business tycoon. He carries out the murder and the Prefect of Police must then prove that he did it, using objective evidence, not just telepathy alone.


* Probably the most memorable part of the book is the device of arranging words on the page in interlocking patterns, in order to suggest a telepathic conversation. But I think the edition I read (and maybe earlier editions too?) did a poor job of printing this. I have a suspicion it looked better on Alfred Bester's typewriter and then they screwed it up a bit when moving to a proportional font.

* The Esper Guild has a eugenics program which has the goal of one day bringing psychic abilities to everybody. This program requires that telepaths must marry other telepaths. Umm. This doesn't seem as if it's going to spread the gift around much.

* There are two plot twists at the end. One is a standard murder-mystery device and is okay, if nothing special: it fits with the theme of the book in being a "psychological" twist. The other thing that happens is that the book gets rather mystical about the murderer being a pivotal figure in history; the intent, I guess, being to pump up the stakes for the telepathic Javert. I found that rather weird and unnecessary.


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