Alfred Bester (1913-1987) was the author of two of science fiction's seminal works, The Demolished Man
and The Stars My Destination
. He also wrote some fast-moving, sizzling short stories that were very highly regarded; many of them are included in the 17 stories showcased in Virtual Realities
; two were never before published. Highlights include "Disappearing Act," in which shell-shocked soldiers vanish from their hospital ward; "Hobson's Choice," in which a statistician uncovers a disturbing population trend in post-nuclear Kansas; "Time Is the Traitor," wherein powerful business people manipulate their most valuable consultant; and "The Devil Without Glasses," a conspiracy tale with an X-Files
feel. The science fiction and literary classic "Fondly Fahrenheit" stars wealthy Vandaleur and his mad android who has an unfortunate habit of turning murderous when the temperature gets too hot... All reet!
Bester's use of the word girl and the occasional female as manipulating schemer are not in line with current sensibilities and may give readers pause, especially those accustomed to feminist improvements in modern SF. Nevertheless, these stories are a frenetic and delightful confection of SF from the mid-20th century. --Bonnie Bouman
From 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A major retrospective, comprising 15 tales from 194179 (mostly from the '50s and '60s), together with two previously unpublished pieces, though readers should note that the word ``selected'' has been omitted from the subtitle.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. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.