Virtual Unrealities: The Short Fiction of Alfred Bester

Overview

"Dazzlement and enchantment are Bester's methods. His stories never stand still a moment."
—Damon Knight, author of Why Do Birds

Alfred Bester took science fiction into hyperdrive, endowing it with a wit, speed, and narrative inventiveness that have inspired two generations of writers. And nowhere is Bester funnier, speedier, or more audacious than in these seventeen short stories—two of them previously unpublished—that have now been brought together in a single volume for the ...

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Overview

"Dazzlement and enchantment are Bester's methods. His stories never stand still a moment."
—Damon Knight, author of Why Do Birds

Alfred Bester took science fiction into hyperdrive, endowing it with a wit, speed, and narrative inventiveness that have inspired two generations of writers. And nowhere is Bester funnier, speedier, or more audacious than in these seventeen short stories—two of them previously unpublished—that have now been brought together in a single volume for the first time.

Read about the sweet-natured young man whose phenomenal good luck turns out to be disastrous for the rest of humanity. Find out why tourists are flocking to a hellish little town in a post-nuclear Kansas. Meet a warlock who practices on Park Avenue and whose potions comply with the Pure Food and Drug Act. Make a deal with the Devil—but not without calling your agent. Dazzling, effervescent, sexy, and sardonic, Virtual Unrealities is a historic collection from one of science fiction's true pathbreakers.

"Alfred Bester was one of the handful of writers who invented modern science fiction. "
—Harry Harrison

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Before there was cyberpunk, before there was Harlan Ellison, before there was much stylistic experimentation at all in science fiction, there was Alfred Bester. In the 1950s, he produced two of the field's enduring classic novels, The Demolished Man and The Stars My Destination. These 16 stories plus one fragment, introduced by Robert Silverberg, show Bester at his best, and include a remarkably high proportion of classics, such as "Fondly Fahrenheit," one of the most memorable robot stories ever written, and "The Men Who Murdered Mohammed," one of the best time-travel tales ever written. Bester's fiction seems as fresh and original now as it did 40 years ago.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A scientist, aiming to murder his wife, goes back in time and shoots her parents, as well as George Washington, Christopher Columbus and Mohammed, without noticeably affecting either his wife or the world at large. A government statistician must figure out how the nation's population can be increasing during a major war even though far more people are dying than are being born. A general must discover how soldiers suffering from shell shock are escaping from and returning to a locked hospital ward. In such stories as "The Men Who Murdered Mohammed," "Hobson's Choice" and "Disappearing Act," Bester (1913-1987; The Stars My Destination; The Demolished Man) handled wacky, off-center plots, a pyrotechnic writing style and cutting satire better than just about anyone else in SF. Most of the 17 stories here have been out of print for years, so editors Robert Silverberg (who contributes an introduction, Byron Preiss and Keith R.A. Decandido are to be commended for making them once again available. There are also two previously unpublished pieces, "The Devil Without Glasses" and a fragment, "And 31/2 to Go"; both are enjoyable but minor. The reprinted material here is uniformally good, and much of it demonstrates why Bester is often cited as a positive influence on the cyerpunks. (Nov.)
Kirkus Reviews
A major retrospective, comprising 15 tales from 194179 (mostly from the '50s and '60s), together with two previously unpublished pieces, though readers should note that the word "selected" has been omitted from the subtitle. Bester's (191387) reputation derives from two brilliant and influential novels, The Demolished Man (1953), the first Hugo Awardwinner for Best Novel, and The Stars My Destination (1957), plus a handful of classic stories. Among the latter here: "Fondly Fahrenheit," a black farce about an android that turns homicidal when the temperature exceeds 90 degrees Fahrenheit; "The Men Who Murdered Mohammed," in which Bester invented quantum time, a notion recently taken up by John Kessel in Corrupting Dr. Nice; "The Pi Man," a chilling masterpiece whose protagonist is compelled to respond to changes in surrounding patterns that only he can perceive, later expanded into a wretched novel; the last man in the world, "Adam and No Eve"; and "Will You Wait?," a witty deal with the devil. Others, like "Disappearing Act," "Star Light, Star Bright," and "Time is the Traitor," are more style than substance. But then Bester was always a consummate showman.

Noteworthy for his passionate delivery, pyrotechnic prose, and dazzling ideas, Bester wrote cyberpunk 30 years before William Gibson. But when reality finally caught up, he fizzled out.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679767831
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/28/1997
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 366
  • Sales rank: 1,478,975
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.86 (d)

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 10, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    This is a wonderful collection of Bester's short stories. Some o

    This is a wonderful collection of Bester's short stories. Some of them are incredible, some are just really good. It's well worth your time if you like SF, particularly if you like SF short stories.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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