Jason Sizemore’s favorite Alfred Bester novels
Posted January 19, 2014on:
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
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.
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.