Virtual Unrealities (1997)

Like many collections, there are some really outstanding stories and many that are nothing more than standard fare. Bester was mostly an idea writer, his characters needed space to develop. Another problem is that most of his characters were rather obsessive people, something he even acknowledges in his novel “The Stars My Destination”, and because of that they don’t feel really distinctive from story to story. Some of his stories also feel dated, partly because the main ideas have been reused so much in SF that they just aren’t that interesting anymore.

But when his stories work, like in “The Pi Man” or “The Man Who Murdered Mohammed”, a rather cool time travel story, they still feel fresh today. Time travel seems aside from mental powers one of the main themes of Bester.

One of the stories that use it is “Hobson’s Choice”, that ask whether people could really adapt to other times. Apart from the conclusion with which I disagree to a certain extent, the story still works.

Probably the one story I thought was the best of them all, was the variation of the Adam and Eve theme, “Adam and no Eve”, which shows hope in the face of an absolute apocalypse. So, if you liked Besters novels and can oversee the dated feeling of many stories (or you might even perceive them not as dated), and the fact that characterization is limited, you might enjoy this collection.