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The Computer Connection

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A band of immortals recruit a new member, the brilliant Cherokee physicist Sequoya Guess. Dr. Guess, with the group's help, gains control of Extro, the super-computer that controls all mechanical activity on Earth. They plan to rid Earth of political repression and to further Guess's researches-which may lead to a great leap in human evolution to produce a race of supermen A band of immortals recruit a new member, the brilliant Cherokee physicist Sequoya Guess. Dr. Guess, with the group's help, gains control of Extro, the super-computer that controls all mechanical activity on Earth. They plan to rid Earth of political repression and to further Guess's researches-which may lead to a great leap in human evolution to produce a race of supermen. But Extro takes over Guess instead and turns malevolent. The task of the merry band suddenly becomes a fight in deadly earnest for the future of Earth.


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A band of immortals recruit a new member, the brilliant Cherokee physicist Sequoya Guess. Dr. Guess, with the group's help, gains control of Extro, the super-computer that controls all mechanical activity on Earth. They plan to rid Earth of political repression and to further Guess's researches-which may lead to a great leap in human evolution to produce a race of supermen A band of immortals recruit a new member, the brilliant Cherokee physicist Sequoya Guess. Dr. Guess, with the group's help, gains control of Extro, the super-computer that controls all mechanical activity on Earth. They plan to rid Earth of political repression and to further Guess's researches-which may lead to a great leap in human evolution to produce a race of supermen. But Extro takes over Guess instead and turns malevolent. The task of the merry band suddenly becomes a fight in deadly earnest for the future of Earth.

30 review for The Computer Connection

  1. 5 out of 5

    Megan Baxter

    This is a strange little book, and far from Bester's best. But it was nominated for a Hugo, and so I read it, and it's weird. With some redeeming moments. And a lot of vaguely uncomfortable but yet vaguely progressive gender and racial politics. I don't quite know how to wrap my head around it. I guess that's what this review is here to do. Note: The rest of this review has been withheld due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here. In the m This is a strange little book, and far from Bester's best. But it was nominated for a Hugo, and so I read it, and it's weird. With some redeeming moments. And a lot of vaguely uncomfortable but yet vaguely progressive gender and racial politics. I don't quite know how to wrap my head around it. I guess that's what this review is here to do. Note: The rest of this review has been withheld due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here. In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    Alfred Bester wrote The Stars My Destination and The Demolished Man, two must-reads for any serious fan of science fiction literature. They are classics worthy of study, as well as just good books. Then, he stopped writing novels for many years. Sadly, he returned to writing in order to write this book. Having loved Bester's classic works, I was surprised to stumble across this book in a book sale. I didn't recognize the title or remember the premise, so I figured, "How bad could it be? It's writt Alfred Bester wrote The Stars My Destination and The Demolished Man, two must-reads for any serious fan of science fiction literature. They are classics worthy of study, as well as just good books. Then, he stopped writing novels for many years. Sadly, he returned to writing in order to write this book. Having loved Bester's classic works, I was surprised to stumble across this book in a book sale. I didn't recognize the title or remember the premise, so I figured, "How bad could it be? It's written by Bester." I then spent an hour stumbling through the prose. Written after a long layoff from writing novels, Bester seems to have been trying to write a trendy, New Wave science fiction novel of the kind that Michael Moorcock and his friends were writing at the time. Unfortunately, this style is not well-matched to Bester's, and the result was painful. Supposedly, in a little over 100 years, a frankly insulting blend of Spanish and African American English [which seems to be based on slang and accents from 1940s movies, so it comes out with things like "gemmun" for "gentlemen"] has replaced standard English, and the remaining Caucasian part of the population has inbred to imbecility. No reason, just because. Repeatedly through the story Bester's dates and numbers wander into weirdness. As an example, within the story the Cherokee people apparently have gone through 20 generations in 250 years. You may pause to think about what this means. There's also a very sexualized 13-year-old in the story, who was apparently born in the 5th row of Graumann's Chinese theater and keeps hoping to have sex with every adult male character in the story. That got creepy right away, and stayed creepy, even though they turn her down. Then, there's the actual story. It is based on the idea that a sufficient trauma near death can sometimes scare your body out of ever dying. So, yes, he really went there...that's why and how Jesus came back, along with a weird variety of other characters. There's also time travel and other weirdness, but all in support of this concept and related ones. I very rarely give up on a book without finishing it. I don't think I can finish this one. The time I've already spent has felt like too much of a waste of my time.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Stian

    Stopped around page 120. Officially the first book in my life that I have stopped reading because of its sheer awfulness. What the hell were you thinking, Alfred? This is bad and you should feel bad.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Denis

    Alfred Bester was a very creative writer. In the 1950's, he wrote two classic SF novel: "The Demolished Man" (which won a Hugo) and "Tiger Tiger" aka "The Stars are my Destination" which is considered one of - if not the - best SF novel of the 1950's. He also wrote several excellent short stories throughout his life-time. One can tell a Bester work just from looking at the text. It is common practice these days, but back then (in the fifties), he liked doing odd graphic things with the letters of Alfred Bester was a very creative writer. In the 1950's, he wrote two classic SF novel: "The Demolished Man" (which won a Hugo) and "Tiger Tiger" aka "The Stars are my Destination" which is considered one of - if not the - best SF novel of the 1950's. He also wrote several excellent short stories throughout his life-time. One can tell a Bester work just from looking at the text. It is common practice these days, but back then (in the fifties), he liked doing odd graphic things with the letters of his type ... And he tended to add drawings within the text. I imagine that this was a headache to publishers and typesetters of the day. This visual elements might have something to do with the fact that the majority of his work was in television and comic books. After a quarter of century hiatus of the SF novel writing, in 1974, he published "The Computer Connection" aka "Indian Giver (Uggh!) aka "Extro" in Britain (which is the most apt title). Though this novel has all the elements of a bonafide Bester work - incorporating all of his personal unique touches, unfortunately it has its short comings. Perhaps he tried too hard with this one: the "hip" lingo, the unconventional pros, the odd plotting and so on... it just didn't quite work as a whole. He himself said, during an interview with Charles Platt: "...my first experiment was a disaster... That confounded book. There is something vitally wrong with that book, and I knew it when I finished it, and couldn't patch it then, and to this day (Sept. 1979) I think about it, because there's no point in making a mistake unless you understand the mistake so that you don't make it again. I don't understand it, so I can't profit by it. It's infuriating." Even though Bester seems a little out of touch on this one, I still consider the man a genius.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Erik

    Alfred Bester was one of the grandmaster class of science fiction writers. The Demolished Man and Stars my Destination are widely considered among the best of the genre. In the first one it was peepers and murder in a crimeless society; in the second it was the new human technology of jaunting and a rollicking revenge plot based on the Count of Monte Cristo. In the Computer Connection, Bester tackles a Group of immortals, or molecule men. We meet Guest, a.k.a. the Chief, a.k.a. Sequoia, a native Alfred Bester was one of the grandmaster class of science fiction writers. The Demolished Man and Stars my Destination are widely considered among the best of the genre. In the first one it was peepers and murder in a crimeless society; in the second it was the new human technology of jaunting and a rollicking revenge plot based on the Count of Monte Cristo. In the Computer Connection, Bester tackles a Group of immortals, or molecule men. We meet Guest, a.k.a. the Chief, a.k.a. Sequoia, a native american physicist, who may be prime material to join the Group, if he survives of course, heh heh heh. Enter an evil computer and a possible renegade immortal to the mix as Bester gives the pot one stir after another. This is far from a bad novel even if you can usually "Guess" what's coming. He's still got a few Besterisms up his sleeve and some linguistic trickery and fun. I suppose writers with a few masterpieces under their belts get a little bored of painting you the picture and filling in details and characterization. It becomes more of a sketch for a comic book, where you fill in the panels with your imagination, and don't complain that it's not bulked out with Dickensian description. That stuff is always nice, but in genre novels, it's really beside the point. One knows the premise, the settings and the basic character types, and what we're clamoring for is STORY. The ending sort of piffles out, but he does manage to tie this whole thing into a kind of bow.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tyler

    This book got better as it went on. The first few pages were almost incomprehensible in it's amount of slang that is unexplained. E.g., the first sentence: I tore down the Continental Shelf off the Bogue Bank while the pogo made periscope hops trying to track me. What?? But as I read through the book it actually began to make more and more sense, and by the middle I was actually invested in the characters and story. Something about this book made me want to read it at break-neck speed, I don't have This book got better as it went on. The first few pages were almost incomprehensible in it's amount of slang that is unexplained. E.g., the first sentence: I tore down the Continental Shelf off the Bogue Bank while the pogo made periscope hops trying to track me. What?? But as I read through the book it actually began to make more and more sense, and by the middle I was actually invested in the characters and story. Something about this book made me want to read it at break-neck speed, I don't have the energy to dissect Bester's writing, but it lent itself to speed-reading. 3.5/5 stars, If you got it in the Humble Bundle like I did, feel free to jump in. I wouldn't recommend going out and buying it though.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Walter Underwood

    There was a strain of exuberant writing in the late 1960s and early 1970s and this is solidly in that vein. It ranged from Hunter S. Thompson to Richard Brautigan and beyond. This is solidly in that micro-tradition. Let go and join the flow. Don't try to figure out the science or the slang or any of those things you are used to digging into in an SF novel. This is a wild ride with fireworks at every turn. There was a strain of exuberant writing in the late 1960s and early 1970s and this is solidly in that vein. It ranged from Hunter S. Thompson to Richard Brautigan and beyond. This is solidly in that micro-tradition. Let go and join the flow. Don't try to figure out the science or the slang or any of those things you are used to digging into in an SF novel. This is a wild ride with fireworks at every turn.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Charl

    It's weird, and a little wacko, but actually not that hard to follow. I'm not sure it wasn't excellent, but I'm not sure it was, either. So I'll split the difference. If you like Zelazney, Dick and other surreal authors, try this. It's not like Bester's other works at all, and very out there. It's weird, and a little wacko, but actually not that hard to follow. I'm not sure it wasn't excellent, but I'm not sure it was, either. So I'll split the difference. If you like Zelazney, Dick and other surreal authors, try this. It's not like Bester's other works at all, and very out there.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    Although somewhat dated now, this is still a very good Alfred Bester novel, which means it is a very good story.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    Wow, that is one serious pile of New Wave, thick with the style of the time and almost dizzying to hack through.

  11. 5 out of 5

    James

    Fascinating and incredibly complicated

  12. 4 out of 5

    Philip of Macedon

    It’s been seven years since I last read anything by Alfred Bester. Unsurprisingly, this return to his work was satisfying, superb, somewhat sensational. The Computer Connection was written in 1974 and in many ways feels prophetic, from its slang to its characterization of humanity’s computer-dependence. Neither of these is what the story is about, but they’re important elements. It's not as magnificent as Bester's triumphant masterpiece The Stars My Destination, or as thrilling and complex as hi It’s been seven years since I last read anything by Alfred Bester. Unsurprisingly, this return to his work was satisfying, superb, somewhat sensational. The Computer Connection was written in 1974 and in many ways feels prophetic, from its slang to its characterization of humanity’s computer-dependence. Neither of these is what the story is about, but they’re important elements. It's not as magnificent as Bester's triumphant masterpiece The Stars My Destination, or as thrilling and complex as his outstanding The Demolished Man, but it's every bit as inventive, and very good. This book looks to be underrated, with many reviewers blowing up and getting lost in its relatively tiny shortcomings (like the learning curve associated with the prose) and minimizing its excellent qualities (like its masterful invention and wild concepts and cool story and neat characters -- and after reading for only a few pages it becomes clear that the prose is not a shortcoming but a good quality). It’s a story starring a bunch of people who’ve experienced horrific, traumatic deaths, and who also happen to be epileptic, which seems to be a unifying trait. These traumatic deaths occur in such a way that their cells are shocked from the extreme nerve-firing, and the shock eliminates the cellular secretions responsible for aging. Thus, these people achieve a limited form of immortality, unable to die of natural causes, able to eat, drink, or breathe anything they wish without suffering the consequences, but still able to be killed by old fashioned violent means. Those who have achieved this sort of immortality have banded together over time and become known loosely as the Group. This is just setting the scene. As one might expect from those who cannot die and have lived, in some cases, for centuries or even millennia, most of the Group have mastered certain crafts, excelled at particular disciplines or knowledge or developed their expertises quite far. While there is a sense of loyalty to one another, there is no formal code or base, these people are spread across the planet, across the solar system even. The real story is about how the Group deals with an emerging threat shortly after a physicist becomes the latest member of the collective, caused by an extremely unexpected discovery concerning the occupants of a spacecraft he’s had flying through space for the last few months. I won’t give away the details. The book is dense with incredible and highly developed ideas concerning even the finest details of culture, the mutated borders between nations, states, and cities, the PKD-like computer-controlled transportation, entertainment, communication, and monetary systems, to the more astronomical concepts of space travel, colonies on outer moons, alien life, and the wonderfully outrageous personalities, quirks, abilities, and knowledge of the various members of the Group. All of these come together seamlessly, supporting a quickly evolving plot, with a writing style different from Bester’s past work, in a blend of clear, smooth narration with shorthand and slang that seems weirdly intuitive and immersive, despite never being explained. It looks like a lot of readers had trouble with this book, primarily for the prose. I can understand, but I can’t sympathize with anyone who gave up on it before finishing, because it’s not tricky and it's not long. It's imaginative, substantial, even stylish without feeling forced or tacky, and really enjoyable. It’s like reading William Gibson if William Gibson was better. I had minor trouble for the first few pages, had to reread sentences or paragraphs a couple times to capture the pacing, and the flow felt off, a little jilted. I was worried this was going to read like Neuromancer. But it only took a few more pages before I caught on and could enjoy the prose, pick up on its finely tuned structure and nuances, and followed the fascinating plot as it unraveled into nifty shapes. The prose quickly felt natural. It wasn’t like Neuromancer, which never took off, never leveled out or fell into place, never became interesting, never had tolerable prose. The Computer Connection is an example of an almost Gibson-Thompson-Burroughs-like prose, but done in a good way, with a good story to tell, and a hell of a lot more creativity behind its content. In Neuromancer, even if you get past the glitched and eye-rolling prose, you meet up with an uninteresting story that isn't worth reading. With the Computer Connection, you have a fantastic story that's colored by its writing. Some small, creative aspects of the language transformation Bester uses are surprisingly identical to the way younger generations talk today, almost 50 years later. It also feels original and unique, apart from this eerie similarity, and the further along we go, the more we notice about this manner of speaking, we pick up on its rules and its grammar and syntax as if exposure is all we need to learn it. I like this sort of attention to detail, because it lends the world credibility, a sense of realism that puts you more firmly in the story. At this point it’s amusing to read some of the short-sighted criticisms leveled at Bester for this form of speech, since this aspect of his fiction has literally become reality. The funny thing about speculative fiction is that readers hardly balk at the technological musings of authors, readily accepting that virtually any sort of technological or scientific advancement is plausible or at least acceptable to write about. But as soon as writers start offering additional changes and evolutions in the form of culture, language, ideology, social interaction, then people get weird about it, confused about it, unsure what to make of it. Sometimes it's as though they perceive it as an attack on their model of reality through which they've come to understand things, and they are incapable of viewing this creative element the same way they view other creative elements in fiction. I've noticed a trend in how readers respond to this kind of thing. It's as if they expect these "nonscientific" forms of creativity to align with some familiar perception they already have, and if it does not then it is regarded as absurd or even a problem, but if it does, then it is regarded as heroic and visionary. See the Left Hand of Darkness as an example of the latter, and this book as an example of the former. Except, unlike the Left Hand of Darkness, The Computer Connection had a serious amount of thought and development put into these aspects. I suspect there are interesting psychological reasons for this perception oddity on the part of readers, but we won't get into that speculation here. Ultimately none of this should matter, because predicting the future is not the point of sci-fi. It's speculative, it's imaginative, this is the realm of invention and creation, not the realm of trying-to-make-an-accurate-prediction-of-the-future. Scifi is no more about making accurate predictions about the future than fantasy is about accurately portraying the past. It's just really neat when a scifi author invents something that ends up being startlingly accurate The book starts fast, throwing us immediately into the action, and treats the reader as a peer, a fellow traveler, one who doesn’t need anything explained, unless it’s something fantastic. And there is no shortage of the fantastic. If other reviews are any indication, a large number of readers preferred to have their hands held and are bitter about Alfred overestimating their level of reading comprehension. Predicted also is the modern day enslavement to computers, which itself is not such a radical prediction, but the details and implications of this enslavement are alarmingly accurate. These are just neat side notes against the bigger picture, which is a plot of doom and destruction and mystery that stretches across planets and moons and countries. The characters are great, the writing is complex and exciting, the story is inventive and surprising, it’s got character and atmosphere that continue to expand until the end. Lovely stuff.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jason Bergman

    Alfred Bester is unquestionably one of the greatest sci-fi writers of all time. The Stars My Destination and The Demolished Man are absolute classics. This book is not of the same caliber. It's not entirely without merit - Bester does do some interesting things with language, similar to his other works. And it has some genuinely funny slapstick moments. But for the most part it's just not very good. It moves too quickly, the gags (linguistic or otherwise) don't always work, and it all falls flat. Alfred Bester is unquestionably one of the greatest sci-fi writers of all time. The Stars My Destination and The Demolished Man are absolute classics. This book is not of the same caliber. It's not entirely without merit - Bester does do some interesting things with language, similar to his other works. And it has some genuinely funny slapstick moments. But for the most part it's just not very good. It moves too quickly, the gags (linguistic or otherwise) don't always work, and it all falls flat. I'm glad I read it...but I wouldn't recommend others do the same. Read his celebrated works. Skip this one.

  14. 5 out of 5

    fromcouchtomoon

    D.N.F. If cryology recycles ontogeny, then freeze this piece of crap for 100 days in space and maybe it will do us all a favor and reverse its own existence. Reads like an old-fashioned douche is trying to be hip with the kids by doing EDGY stuff, but all he can do is stir up a lot of anti-PC nonplots because that's so EDGY and funny and not just a big, steaming pile of stale and unoriginal gags that don't even make sense to sane people. BORING AND DUMB. I should have known when I saw (and prompt D.N.F. If cryology recycles ontogeny, then freeze this piece of crap for 100 days in space and maybe it will do us all a favor and reverse its own existence. Reads like an old-fashioned douche is trying to be hip with the kids by doing EDGY stuff, but all he can do is stir up a lot of anti-PC nonplots because that's so EDGY and funny and not just a big, steaming pile of stale and unoriginal gags that don't even make sense to sane people. BORING AND DUMB. I should have known when I saw (and promptly skipped) the Ellison foreword that looked (as usual) defensive and hyperbolic. The only other novel I DNF'd in the past three years was Heinlein's Time Enough for Love so, you know, given all the vintage SF I read, statistics show I'm pretty persistent and forgiving (and probably dead inside).

  15. 4 out of 5

    maryann

    i just re-read this. disclaimer: bester is one of my favorite authors of all time--i think his writing style is just incredible. but this book starts strong and then gets less and less interesting as it continues. the style is almost as neat as in 'the stars my destination' and 'demolished man', but then the plot loses its oOmph and the story doesn't seem very tight and the characters aren't as witty as you want them to be and... blah. suddenly it's over and you're left feeling that something wa i just re-read this. disclaimer: bester is one of my favorite authors of all time--i think his writing style is just incredible. but this book starts strong and then gets less and less interesting as it continues. the style is almost as neat as in 'the stars my destination' and 'demolished man', but then the plot loses its oOmph and the story doesn't seem very tight and the characters aren't as witty as you want them to be and... blah. suddenly it's over and you're left feeling that something was lacking. HOWEVER! the book's jacket, which states that 'the stars my destination' is considered by many to be the greatest science fiction novel of all time, made the re-read worth it :D hooray!

  16. 5 out of 5

    David Mann

    Crazy stuff I loved Demolished Man and Stars My Destination. This book though is just plain nuts. A demented combination of late Heinlein, Phil Farmer, and William S Burroughs, the story is a little difficult to follow. It involves some immortals, an evil computer, and the end of the world, but that doesn't really do it justice. The language, known as XX (for 20th century), takes a while to get used to. Some political incorrectiveness (including every slang term for Native American) as well as ou Crazy stuff I loved Demolished Man and Stars My Destination. This book though is just plain nuts. A demented combination of late Heinlein, Phil Farmer, and William S Burroughs, the story is a little difficult to follow. It involves some immortals, an evil computer, and the end of the world, but that doesn't really do it justice. The language, known as XX (for 20th century), takes a while to get used to. Some political incorrectiveness (including every slang term for Native American) as well as outmoded computer "dialog" has not aged well. Nevertheless both themes of the book (immortality and AI) have relevance today. Not sure the author wasn't on drugs when he wrote this however.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Pickle

    if i could give in 0/5 i would, this was terrible and i finally gave up on page 163 from 216. Its seems to be a story of some kind where and indian man dies and comes back to life merged, in mind only, with the super computer Extro with a massive amount of nonsense filling the rest of the book. i couldnt read anymore and had to give up. Complete rubbish, do not read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Victor Chernov

    It was like a very ugly person - you can't take you eye off him/her, because of the ugliness. The ideas, by themselves, are nice, but the story is weird and quite badly written and executed. But hey, I didn't drop it in the middle. It was like a very ugly person - you can't take you eye off him/her, because of the ugliness. The ideas, by themselves, are nice, but the story is weird and quite badly written and executed. But hey, I didn't drop it in the middle.

  19. 5 out of 5

    David Allen

    Bester's comeback novel after a 19-year layoff was packed with ideas, slang and sly jokes. Perhaps too packed, though. Bester's comeback novel after a 19-year layoff was packed with ideas, slang and sly jokes. Perhaps too packed, though.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Paige

    A couple interesting concepts, but on the whole not an engaging novel. Maybe don't mention this one when recommending people Bester. A couple interesting concepts, but on the whole not an engaging novel. Maybe don't mention this one when recommending people Bester.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Buck

    Like a few others on here, I really liked other Alfred Bester books but this one was all over the place. For Bester completists only.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Wilson

    I'm hard pressed to say if my uncertainties about this book relate to the age of it, or simply to the general style. With 'The Stars My Destination' I didn't have any sense of age, but then that was perhaps a more typical sci-fi story, whereas 'The Computer Connection' is more grounded in modern day Earth, which naturally leads to more things feeling off given the age of the book. But I think the comedic nature of the story might be the bigger issue, and this was something I only really picked u I'm hard pressed to say if my uncertainties about this book relate to the age of it, or simply to the general style. With 'The Stars My Destination' I didn't have any sense of age, but then that was perhaps a more typical sci-fi story, whereas 'The Computer Connection' is more grounded in modern day Earth, which naturally leads to more things feeling off given the age of the book. But I think the comedic nature of the story might be the bigger issue, and this was something I only really picked up on after I finished it and read the foreword. I liked the incidental irreverent humour in 'The Stars My Destination', but over the course of this book I found it more dated and sometimes needlessly insensitive. Attitudes towards women aren't great, and the main character's habit of referring to a Native American as Geronimo, Sitting Bull, Hiawatha and similar rather than just using their name in an allegedly future scenario is rather grating. Overall I found the book a little disjointed, lacking a strong central plot line, and not that compelling. There are some moments of inventiveness and fun, but nothing that really makes you think. I expect anyone who gels with Bester's humour would find it a far more enjoyable read, but it left me fairly cold.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas Whyte

    https://nwhyte.livejournal.com/3287464.html Very much in the shadow of Bester's better-known The Demolished Man (winner of the first Hugo for Best Novel) and The Stars My Destination, this was his first novel for almost 20 years when it came out in 1974. Critical reaction then was disappointed; Bester had perhaps laid the path for the New Wave writers of the intervening period but was now behind the curve. Forty years on, I must say I enjoyed it a lot; the plot concerns a group of immortals in th https://nwhyte.livejournal.com/3287464.html Very much in the shadow of Bester's better-known The Demolished Man (winner of the first Hugo for Best Novel) and The Stars My Destination, this was his first novel for almost 20 years when it came out in 1974. Critical reaction then was disappointed; Bester had perhaps laid the path for the New Wave writers of the intervening period but was now behind the curve. Forty years on, I must say I enjoyed it a lot; the plot concerns a group of immortals in the very near future, who are dealing with a supercomputer that has acquired human intelligence, and the style remains pyrotechnical - and yet I never lost track of what was going on, or why we should care about these characters. Bester's reading of Native American traditions would not really pass muster today, but in fact he uses the perspective of his Cherokee characters to make some statements about American society in general and to an extent also about gender politics. I came away feeling that his has been underrated and might be due a reappraisal.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Chris Harris

    I first read this as a teenager (when it was published in the UK with the title "Extro") because (a) it was Bester and (b) it had been nominated for the Nebula and Hugo awards. I remember being hugely disappointed back then; returning to it after forty years I was hoping for a better experience the second time around. I didn't get it. Oh dear. I get that, given the protagonist's nickname, the style is intended to be a gory, violent puppet show. But even puppet shows can have nuanced plots; this I first read this as a teenager (when it was published in the UK with the title "Extro") because (a) it was Bester and (b) it had been nominated for the Nebula and Hugo awards. I remember being hugely disappointed back then; returning to it after forty years I was hoping for a better experience the second time around. I didn't get it. Oh dear. I get that, given the protagonist's nickname, the style is intended to be a gory, violent puppet show. But even puppet shows can have nuanced plots; this just feels hackneyed. How on Earth did this garner the nominations it did? It comes across as if Bester read John Brunner's "Stand on Zanzibar" and decided he could do better. He couldn't. The stylistic pyrotechnics feel contrived and clumsy, the main character is a skeezy immortal douchebag, and most incidental characters just happen to be famous people from history. It's left my opinion of Bester much diminished, which saddens me.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Felix

    almost DNF, but I persisted to see the shape of the whole thing, and in the end I don't think I'll remember anything about it other than being annoyed by it. I think it's meant to be whimsical, but the POV just reads to me as annoying. "She stripped in two seconds. She was an Indian and there wasn't a hair on her translucent skin. She came at me like a wildcat--no, like the daughter of the most powerful Sachem in the Erie reservation--determined to catch up on ten years of waiting in ten seconds. almost DNF, but I persisted to see the shape of the whole thing, and in the end I don't think I'll remember anything about it other than being annoyed by it. I think it's meant to be whimsical, but the POV just reads to me as annoying. "She stripped in two seconds. She was an Indian and there wasn't a hair on her translucent skin. She came at me like a wildcat--no, like the daughter of the most powerful Sachem in the Erie reservation--determined to catch up on ten years of waiting in ten seconds. She tore my clothes off, shoved me down on my back, threw herself on top of me, and began murmuring in Cherokee. She massaged my face with her custard breasts while her hands explored my crotch. I'm being raped, I thought. She arched and began driving her Prado against me. She was a tough virgin and it was painful for both of us. When we finally made the merger the agony ended it in a few seconds. She laughed and licked my face. Then she produced a linen cloth and dried us off."

  26. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Ricker

    Reading this feels like hallucinating wildly while someone beats you with a 2x4. By the time you finish this frenetic madness, you'll feel like you've been bludgeoned by far, far too much plot and not nearly enough sense. I had quite enjoyed Bester's The Stars My Destination, but I can't say I enjoyed anything about this, other than the limited excitement of wondering what rabbit trail of insanity the story would run down next. Two stars rather than one because Bester's spendthrift, nutty creati Reading this feels like hallucinating wildly while someone beats you with a 2x4. By the time you finish this frenetic madness, you'll feel like you've been bludgeoned by far, far too much plot and not nearly enough sense. I had quite enjoyed Bester's The Stars My Destination, but I can't say I enjoyed anything about this, other than the limited excitement of wondering what rabbit trail of insanity the story would run down next. Two stars rather than one because Bester's spendthrift, nutty creativity does elicit gruding admiration in me, but otherwise a psychedelic disaster.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bob Baker

    This book is not of the same high quality as Bester’s outstanding earlier works from the 1950’s, The Demolished Man and The Stars My Destination. Nevertheless, this is a fun and relatively easy read. Written in 1974, before the advent of the personal computer (not to mention the smartphone), this addresses the potential of a mainframe computer connecting all the computers and machines in the world, albeit a fantasy future world that is not very connected to today’s world. Apparently, Bester did This book is not of the same high quality as Bester’s outstanding earlier works from the 1950’s, The Demolished Man and The Stars My Destination. Nevertheless, this is a fun and relatively easy read. Written in 1974, before the advent of the personal computer (not to mention the smartphone), this addresses the potential of a mainframe computer connecting all the computers and machines in the world, albeit a fantasy future world that is not very connected to today’s world. Apparently, Bester did not read Dick Tracy, and did not anticipate mobile phones.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Steve Coughlan

    I recognize that writing style from my youth. I never really enjoyed it... it gets in the way of the story, IMHO. And now, lo these many many years since it was contemporary, the veiled references, assumed common "hip" knowledge and context are lost to me, and are never even known to the potential younger reader. So it's hard wrrk to read, between not knowing what Bester knew then, and knowing what we know now. Which is not to downplay the good bits... an interesting world to live in! I recognize that writing style from my youth. I never really enjoyed it... it gets in the way of the story, IMHO. And now, lo these many many years since it was contemporary, the veiled references, assumed common "hip" knowledge and context are lost to me, and are never even known to the potential younger reader. So it's hard wrrk to read, between not knowing what Bester knew then, and knowing what we know now. Which is not to downplay the good bits... an interesting world to live in!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Gustavo

    An eclectic group of eccentric immortals with serious memory issues faces an amazing adventure. It's a roller coaster ride, full ofl deux ex machina artifacts that make perfect sense in the context of the story, but makes it kind of hard to read. It took me a lot of time to go through this book, and I put it down and picked it again, sometimes reading it again from the beginning. It's not an easy book. But it's so wonderful it's worth it. An eclectic group of eccentric immortals with serious memory issues faces an amazing adventure. It's a roller coaster ride, full ofl deux ex machina artifacts that make perfect sense in the context of the story, but makes it kind of hard to read. It took me a lot of time to go through this book, and I put it down and picked it again, sometimes reading it again from the beginning. It's not an easy book. But it's so wonderful it's worth it.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Crystal

    This is a wild trippy weird little sci-fi book that will lead you down an interesting, occasionally confusing but thoughtful path. Some of the books quirks are annoying at times but over all I still liked it. It is very unique in concept and implementation. Not a bad little beach read.

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