21 December 2007

Not memorable; read his early novels instead

Virtual Unrealities: The Short Fiction of Alfred Bester
Alfred Bester
Vintage, 1997

Skewed, yet cliched, best describes the visions Bester unveils in these collected short stories. His characters inhabit worlds that are subtly perverse variants of the "Father Knows Best" 1950s mythology, and his tales typically end with a final sentence straight out of the Twilight Zone. In fact, as I read the stories I was constantly reminded of Twilight Zone writer Charles Beaumont and his (better) collected short stories, "The Howling Man." Bester's prose, laced with irony and sardonic humor, is often very fresh and almost contemporary, yet many of his themes are of the time in which they were written. Most unfortunately, the stories simply are not memorable. They make a light impression on the mind, engender a few chuckles or a furrowed brow, and then fade away.

My advice--read The Demolished Man, twice, and then read The Stars My Destination, twice. That's all the Bester you need.

(This review was originally written on August 6, 2006.)

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