This one for instance was a Signet book, marked at 35 cents with a “Business Reply Card” still in the binding offering three more books from the Science Fiction Club for only one dollar. Priceless.
The story is priceless in its own way: a pulp action adventure about psychics intermixed in society with “normals,” and in particular a natty police prefect named Lincoln Powell. Admittedly, it does not delve deep into social commentary or introspection or explores its many scientific musings to any depth. But, to be honest, it would have been hard to do without detracting from the action-adventure tone of this story. And this was a highly enjoyable and gleeful story, even if the resolution is forced. Bester lets the story rollick through fascinating, over-the-top characters and backdrops. For example: Maria Beaumont, socialite, who had taken advantage of plastic surgery to turn herself into an Indian Shiva. A Venusian garden where the weeds are indistinguishable from the locals. And what do great characters in wild settings give you? In The Demolished Man, it’s droll and fun dialogue.
This book has the distinction of being the winner of the first Hugo. This book also had the distinction of having my favorite, single line so far: “You can’t kill a man in a hunting accident unless you go hunting.”
Bester was a film writer, and it really shows in this story. Are these techniques that lend themselves to every story? No, or course not. But appealing characters and settings, especially when compared against Wild Seed, are a must.
The lessons for a writer are not strongly drawn here, but they are there. Character, gimmick or not, as well as setting needs to draw in the reader. And if you don’t have strong science or a deep point to make in a particular instance, go for splash and fun!