the Little Red Reviewer

Jason Sizemore’s favorite Alfred Bester novels

Posted on: January 19, 2014

Remember I said Lesley Connor was someone to thank for the upcoming Book of Apex blog tour in February?  Jason Sizemore is the other person to thank.  Apex Magazine is quite literally his baby.  By the way, as you are reading this, Jason and I are hanging out at ConFusion.

The Demolished Man and The Stars My Destination, by Jason Sizemore

Jason Sizemore is the two time Hugo Award-nominated owner and editor of Apex Publications. You can find more information about him and Apex at http://www.apexbookcompany.com

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The-Demolished-Man-cover

I had a late matriculation into science fiction. It wasn’t until my college years did I begin to read hard genre fiction. But what I did read had a profound effect on my future reading tastes and choices.

The first science fiction novel I remember reading is Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man (our first Hugo Award-winner back in 1953). Its plot features a powerful telepath (Powell) waging a battle against a damaged and powerful businessman (Reich). The book reads as a futuristic sort of police procedural. It’s an insightful examination of human nature, showing us that things haven’t changed all that much from the 50s.

The Demolished Man is my go to book when readers ask me for a good science fiction book to ease them into the genre. The hard SF aspects of the novel are core to the plot and the world Bester creates feels sufficiently futuristic even 60 years later.

But Alfred Bester wrote a second classic that affected me and influenced me even more, and it was the second science fiction novel I read: The Stars My Destination. This is the story of Gully Foyle, a man abandoned alone in a ship for six months after it was attacked. Gully eventually fixes the ship and paints his face with some wicked tattoos and goes after the megacorporations who he feels produced and prolonged his six month predicament.

224px-TheStarsMyDestination Galaxy cover

Despite being released in 1956, it contains the seeds of many common contemporary plot devices: mega-corps owning the world, teleporting, the unstoppable revenge killer, psionics. You walk down any bookstore genre aisle and a good percentage of the books you see will contain ideas from this 1956 novel.

While neither novel is considered overtly dark, they did imprint me with a preference for science fiction with an edge. And The Demolished Man and The Stars My Destination are two of the edgiest books I’ve read.

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8 Responses to "Jason Sizemore’s favorite Alfred Bester novels"

Both of these were books that made a strong impression on me as a teenager. The Stars My Destination I believe to be the better of the two and holds up well after numerous rereads. Also recommend Virtual Unrealities-a collection of his short fiction with such great stories as The Men Who Murdered Mohammed, The Pi Man and Fondly Fahrenheit.

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Both are amazing novels. I didn’t read either of these until I was in my 30’s, approx a decade ago, and I was blown away by both of them. I’ve read The Stars My Destination at least three times and often find myself wanting to re-read both books again. There are a few dated elements in each book, but by and large they make for exciting reading today and Bester is one of those classic authors I enjoy recommending to others.

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I am a huge fan of Alfred Bester. I agree with Carl, I could reread these books over and over again.

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I read Stars Are My Destination, and I feel like I should re-read it. I have never read The Demolished Man, but it’s definitely on my list. Plot-wise, it seems that I would enjoy The Demolished Man more, so maybe this year I’ll have Alfred Bester novel face off. :)

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I didn’t get into hard SF until I was in college either. I’ve never heard of these books before, but I’ll add them to my to-read list. Also, I love Apex Magazine! I can’t remember which short story I read in one of their issues, but it freaked me out! (in a good way).

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The Stars My Destination is one of my favourite novels, ever. I’m always glad to hear someone else enjoyed it.

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[…] Want some more vintage sci-fi goodness? Jason and I both had the opportunity to talk about it on The Little Red Reviewer. I discussed the powerful emotional response I have to Flowers for Algernon and Jason talked about how Albert Bester helped form his tastes and views on science fiction. You can read my post here. Jason’s here. […]

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Oh, man. I read both of these in high school (in a big 2-volume anthology by __… well, that was 50 years ago, and the name escapes me, but I damn well have the anthology packed away), and I still reread them.

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