Alfred Bester

Although he had worked as a writer for comic books and radio and his novel The Demolished Man won the first Hugo Award in 1953, Alfred Bester was never really what you'd call a household name. Bester published two critically praised science-fiction/noir thrillers in the fifties and then dropped the genre entirely to work for the travel magazine Holiday. He picked up the sci-fi bug again in the mid-seventies, but the quality of his later output was uneven. By the time the early nineties rolled around, all of his books were out of print.

Bester's two best-known novels, The Demolished Man and The Stars My Destination (published in Britain as Tiger! Tiger!), are both sci-fi stories and psychological thrillers. They are emotional, violent books, with pulp-fiction plots about men and high society--albeit a high society defined by ruggedly individualistic heroes and anti-heroes. The novels' futuristic settings are not merely explorations of a mid-century author's academic theories, but are instead evocations of the era's sense of futurism and rapid change. However, where other fifties sci-fi novels picture bright, clean futures, Bester's worlds are darker--full of injustice and powerful, corrupt corporations. It is tempting to claim these gritty settings as foreshadowing cyberpunk, but Bester seems far more interested in character interaction, preferring to simply sketch his worlds at the edges of his novels.

Thanks to the efforts of a group of baby boomer fans who arranged for them to be reprinted and a hype-boosting article in Newsweek, shiny new editions of Alfred Bester's long-lost science fiction classics are now widely available.



Other Recommendations:
Anything by Raymond Chandler

Anything by Dashiell Hammett

Anything by Phillip K. Dick
Posted by: kganey


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