Tension, apprehension and dissension have begun

Alfred Bester’s own titles for his novels were always better than the ones they got from the publishers. The Stars My Destination (1957) was originally known as Tiger! Tiger!, from Blake’s poem, which sets the tone for both Bester’s writing style and the main character. Bester’s title for The Demolished Man (1953, no relation to the Stallone movie) was Demolition! Apparently you can’t have exclamation points in novel titles. I guess it would be tiresome if everyone did it, but if anyone deserved the privilege it would be Alfred Bester. Bester used words in the same playful and violent manner that a thug wields a baseball bat. His novels just skip along, brimming with energy, jumping erratically in new directions on every other page. The Demolished Man (no, Demolition!, with a greedy glint in your eye, as in: power!, ambition!, wealth!) was Bester’s first novel, and not as good as his masterpiece The Stars My Destination, but its treatment of telepathy was solid enough to be stolen in its entirety (along with the author’s name) by Joe Straczynski for Babylon 5. It won the first Hugo Award, and was among the first of the great modern science fiction novels. The Freudianism feels dated, but – Jesus – look at the way he writes.

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