SHORT STORY REVIEW – ALFRED BESTER – FONDLY FAHRENHEIT 1954 Spectrum 3 Pan Books.
A quite remarkable short story by the author of The Demolished Man, which serves as a dark, sometimes horrific satire on Isaac Asimov’s famous three laws of robotics.
James Vandaluer has inherited a very valuable android, that he can hire out for work to wealthy patrons across the galaxy. Unfortunately, the android is deeply psychotic and murders people if the temperature gets to warm, hence the poetic title. Vandaluer is making far too much money from the sophisticated android to want to turn it in to the authorities, so he tries to cover up for its crimes, and ultimately starts committing murders of his own, initially from a sense of the necessity of keeping his android from capture. Interestingly, the android refuses to help in murders Vandaluer commits, as it has to obey the rules programming rules set against harming humans. Their respective crimes start to project on to one another’s psyches and they prove to be as criminally insane as each other.
The murders tend to be punctuated by a reference to the Fahrenheit thermometer readings, and the android’s cheery repetitive rhyme-songs.
The murders are brutal, a child killed at the beginning, leading to a dramatic search through the rice paddies leading to her discovery. A woman thrown into a furnace when she develops the projection theory, a blind mathematician killed once he recognizes that the temperature is the source of the android psychosis.
The story has a virtually unique shifting point of view narrative device that adds to the sense of fragmented damaged thinking by the narrator, as the characters try to find peace of mind on a relatively cold world. Their mind state has become virtually one in its descent into criminal insanity.
The story was filmed for a television special in 1959, as Murder & The Android, starring Kevin McCarthy and Telly Savales.
© Copyright. Arthur Chappell
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