Friday, October 10, 2008

Book Review: The Demolished Man and Fahrenheit 451

The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester
1953 Hugo Award Winner for Best Novel

The very first Hugo winner, The Demolished Man is a clever and exciting book with a somewhat disappointing ending.

Alfred Bester truly manages to create an interesting and elaborate world in which some humans have developed psychic abilities. While many of his ideas might might seem cliché to those familiar with science fiction (particularly fans of Babylon 5) this is the story that was the genesis of many of these ideas (as is acknowledged by the character in Babylon 5 named Alfred Bester).

Aside from being a good science fiction novel, Bester's work is also a powerful crime story that will keep the reader glued to the pages.

Ultimately, the only plot problems are the overly optimistic ending and the questionable and outdated Freudian psychology. The ending, while typical of the times, is rather a let down and the psychology sadly dates the story.

A must read for any science fiction fan, and if I say so myself is a tale just begging to be made into a film (with perhaps some updates to the psychology).

As far as writing goes, not much stood out as either particularly good or particularly bad. There are a few places where Bester uses editing tricks to show the powerful difference that psychic abilities would make in the very structure of the way telepaths think in his world. This is an interesting idea, and it basically works within the structure of his story, but I think in the end it would prove to me annoying if used too much.
Rating: 7 out of 10

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
1954 Hugo Award Winner for Best Novel, Retro
The Hugo awards began in 1953, but failed to give out any award in '54. In 2004, in correction of this, a "Retro Hugo" was given to Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. This is a choice I entirely approve of.
Of all the dystopian fiction I have read (the others being 1984 and A Brave New Work), Fahrenheit 451 is by far my favorite. Bradbury writes with a magnificent prose that ellegently portrays a chilling vision of the future. This is not only my favorite of the dystopias I have read, but is also the best of the award winners so far.

Bradbury masterfully, and almost prophetically, portrays a world in which the desire to avoid offending anyone leads to a horrific dark age.

Fahrenheit 451 is fantastically crafted story that is firmly grounded in mature prose. Everyone should read this one.

Rating: 10 out of 10