Reviews: Bester, Alfred

Before he was a Psi-cop

Starlight: The Great Short Fiction of Alfred Bester — Alfred Bester

The fact I own this book shows that my terrible memory, while often a bother, can sometimes work in my favour. I was aware of Bester as the author of two classic novels The Demolished Man, which I had read, and The Stars My Destination, which I had not read. Until I picked up this collection I had never knowingly read his short fiction. The only reason I bought this collection was because I had a vague memory of having read the title story and liking it. I thought there was a chance I would like the rest of his work just as well.

I soon realized that I was actually thinking of another story entirely, Mark Clifton’s “Star Bright”. (Clifton, author of the Hugo-award-winning novel They’d Rather Be Right, seems likely to be mentioned a lot in the next few days.) Clifton and Bester sold to some of the same markets, but the two authors were as unlike each other as chalk and cheese a cynical, witty drunk sneering at some kid’s bad taste. Of course, in the good old days of the1970s there wasn’t all that much SF being published. We didn’t abandon a book just because it turned out not to be the sort of book we expected. Fans of the 1970s weren’t delicate flowers who had to retreat to their languishing couches whenever confronted with novelty.

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