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Comment: Condition: Very good condition., Slightly yellowing pages. / Binding: Paperback / Publisher: Vintage Books / Pub. Date: 1997 Attributes: xiii, 366 p. ill. 21 cm. / Stock#: 2039952 (FBA) * * *This item qualifies for FREE SHIPPING and Amazon Prime programs! * * *
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Virtual Unrealities: The Short Fiction of Alfred Bester Paperback – November 11, 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st edition (November 11, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679767835
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679767831
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.1 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #851,134 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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A major retrospective, comprising 15 tales from 194179 (mostly from the '50s and '60s), together with two previously unpublished pieces, though readers should note that the word ``selected'' has been omitted from the subtitle.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.

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Customer Reviews

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Easier than the library, and paperbacks are better for reading in bed.
Maxwell J. Wilcomb
This is a collection of some of the most unorthodox short stories even by the standards of science fiction.
Martin Lebl
The common thread in these stories is Bester's flabbergasting imagination.
Gary Sprandel

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By D. Greenebaum on August 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
The nice thing about this book is that it's pretty much the only way to get a good chunk of Bester's short fiction collected in one place. That said, the book itself suffers from serious problems. It seems that some time after the last copy editor looked it over, someone in the production process changed the book's type font. Since several of Bester's stories involve playful typesetting and/or characters that are outside the (current) normal set of symbols, a great deal of flavor was lost. One-quarter or one-half fractions replaced by square boxes, that type of thing. Too bad, because the publishers were obviously aiming for a product that you'd call nicer than the usual mass-market paperback. The screwy typeface errors mar that considerably.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Gary Sprandel on January 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
Alfred Bester's science fiction spans 40 years, and is always a treat. In this collection, we are treated to some of his early work "Adam and No Eve" (1941), to some of his last "Galatea Galante" (1979), as well as a previously unpublished complete story and an incomplete fragment (with the note :Its much easier to begin a thing than to finish it) found in his papers after his death.
The common thread in these stories is Bester's flabbergasting imagination. His stories are often ironic, taking a wry observation about current society, and projecting it to its logical conclusion into an absurd future, from the quest for poets in an efficient future of "Disappearing act", to the drop of acid that makes a test tube woman intriguing in "Galatea Galante".
As one of the inventors of science fiction, Bester not only lays the ground work for the popular themes of science fiction such as the last couple on earth, time travel, androids and their programming, but adds his own twists: a man needing an agent to sell his soul to the Devil (of the company Beelzebub, Belial, Devil, and Orgy), collectors in the future recreating a 1950's style room, and a chaos compensator.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Michael K. Smith TOP 500 REVIEWER on May 14, 2002
Format: Paperback
Bester is one of those science fiction mainstays whom everyone of a certain age read back in the '50s and '60s, and who is almost totally unknown to younger readers who were raised on the Cyberpunks. But I have to admit that the settings and language and cultural furniture of most of these stories haven't worn very well, unlike the work of Heinlein or Clarke -- or even Bester's own classic novels, _The Demolished Man_ and _The Stars My Destination._ The "messages" in most of these pieces are also pretty trite, but that was never the point of reading Bester anyway. The man was a master of oddball style, eerie description, and droll dialogue, and you can have a really good time chuckling your way through "Will You Wait?" or appreciating the chill of "Fondly Fahrenheit," or picking out all the references in "The Flowered Thundermug."
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Antinomian on February 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
As you may have read, Alfred Bester's novels, The Demolished Man and The Stars My Destination (TSMD) are highly recommended for those that enjoy reading science fiction. If you're wanting to read more by Bester after that, a collection of his short stories is the next good place to go. His short to-the-point prose, storyline twists, and some similarities to the main character in TSMD are in his stories and Virtual Unrealities is a collection of his better shorter SF works. Not meaning to take food off the table of Amazon.com, but Bester's almost similar out-of-print short story collection Starlight is slightly better if you're interested in short 1-2 page backgrounds on each of the stories, plus two relatively brief articles on his writing career and one on Isaac Asimov. Starlight can be purchased used from sellers via Amazon (sometimes for as little as 1 cent excluding shipping!), and I'm sure Amazon gets some profit via the shipping and handling fees.

Table of contents and info for Virtual Unrealities:

Nov '97, 366pp. Collection of 16 stories and one fragment, one story and the fragment previously unpublished. Introduction by Robert Silverberg. ss: short story, nv: novelette.

* ix * Introduction * Robert Silverberg * in

* 3 * Disappearing Act * ss Star Science Fiction Stories #2, ed.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Robert Tanory on May 4, 2001
Format: Paperback
I've read a lot of short stories...from Vonnegut to Kafka, H.G. Wells to Neil Gaiman. But none of those remotely compare to what you'll find in Bester's short stories. His stories are all fast-paced, and he gets his meaning across. He doesn't have to put in a lot of nonsense just to take up space. If his story is three pages long, so be it! He doesn't add another 15 pages just for the sake of having a long story. If he gets his message across, he ends his story. I think a lot of authors nowadays should take note!
But just in terms of science-fiction, it's easy to see why Bester has had so much influence on the sci-fi community. His ideas are so awesome. He was like so many other science-fiction authors: ahead of his time! What I like most about his short stories is how we get a glimpse of characters that appear in Bester's larger works. For instance, some of the characters from "The Stars My Destination" appear in some of these short stories. I just think it adds to the fun.
I can't even say a coherent statement about this book, and I apologize. I'm just still in shock. I think that if you like science-fiction, Alfred Bester in particular, or just like to read, you NEED to read at least one of Bester's short stories. After that, you'll be hooked.
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