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The Stars My Destination Paperback – July 2, 1996
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When it comes to pop culture, Alfred Bester (1913-1987) is something of an unsung hero. He wrote radio scripts, screenplays, and comic books (in which capacity he created the original Green Lantern Oath). But Bester is best known for his science-fiction novels, and The Stars My Destination may be his finest creation. First published in 1956 (as Tiger! Tiger!), the novel revolves around a hero named Gulliver Foyle, who teleports himself out of a tight spot and creates a great deal of consternation in the process. With its sly potshotting at corporate skullduggery, The Stars My Destination seems utterly contemporary, and has maintained its status as an underground classic for forty years. (Bester fans should also note that Vintage has reprinted The Demolished Man, which won the very first Hugo Award in 1953.)
About the Author
Alfred Bester's passionate novels of worldly adventure, high intellect, and tremendous verve, The Stars My Destination and the Hugo Award-winning The Demolished Man, established Bester as a science fiction grandmaster, a reputation that was ratified by the Science Fiction Writers of America. He died in 1987.
Gerard Doyle records everything from adult, young adult, and children's books to literary fiction, mysteries, humor, adventure, and fantasy. He has won countless AudioFile Earphones Awards and was named a Best Voice in Young Adult Fiction in 2008. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
The novel is in two distinct parts: the first is the isolation and creation of the monster Foyle, who becomes consumed with the need to revenge himself on a ship that abandoned him when he gave out a distress beacon. As with the age-old maritime custom, a ship passing a marooned voyager must offer assistance. Foyle was left to drift in a derelict spaceship. He does survive and like The Count of Monte Cristo, all of his subsequent actions are to revenge himself against the ship that left him to die. Later, there is a prison reminiscent of The Chateau D'If (totally dark--and the guards use infrared goggles to see. The prisoners are left blind. Amazing.) It's this combination of the classic elements of literature and the twists of science fiction technology that make this such a great book.
The second half of the book is a transformed Foyle, so transformed that it is amazing, yet the thread of revenge is there. However the plot is deeper, much deeper.
I loved the science fiction technology of this book--"jaunting" which is teleportation based on genetic ability and training and telepathy, which in some cases can be unidirectional (you broadcast your thoughts, but you can't receive them.) Bester's modern society is also interesting; the elite shun technology and flaunt their wealth by avoiding the technological mode of travel and using the most antique such as horse and carriage or bicycle to demonstrate their independent wealth. That was clever--and visually stunning.
I can't believe I waited all these years of loving classic science fiction to find Alfred Bester, who was a Science Fiction Grand Master. His work is beloved of other great science fiction authors, who borrowed from his work. Robert Silverberg pays homage to him in "Sailing to Byzantium" by using a minor character Y'Ang Yeovil in one scene, and so does Stephen King.
Gully Foyle is a dark figure, at best. Abandoned on the Nomad, a wrecked spaceship drifting in the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars, Foyle's personal quest is to find and punish the responsible party aboard a ship that passed by him, received his desperate signal, and left him to die. That story of revenge gives Bester the chance to take us through a narrative of interplanetary politics, selfish pursuits, and dark endings.
Foyle is no hero. He's narrow in his perspective, and he's uninihibited by conventional morality. His character is what makes the book unusual for its time. Bester surrounds Foyle with other interesting, and complicated characters as well, to make the story unpredictable and provocative.
He also introduces two story props -- "jaunting" and "PyrE" -- that are transformative. Jaunting allows anyone of normal cognitive abilities to transport themselves instantly across locations. Bester doesn't develop the consequences as fullly as he might -- this is not a technocentric story -- but he does begin to spin out how the world could change as the result of such an ability. Physical boundaries mean nothing. Distance is irrelevant.
PyrE provides the root of a counter-story to Foyle's pursuit of revenge. Some amount of the substance, a kind of cosmological explosive, was hidden aboard the Nomad when it and Bester were lost. Powerful parties are trying to locate and retrieve the PyrE just as Foyle tries to find and exact revenge against whoever left him, and the PyrE, drifting in space.
Much of science fiction from the 1950s is good reading just for its nostalgia or historical value -- this one stands on its own as just a good story. If you like the dark turn given to science fiction by William Gibson, you'll like this. Gibson wasn't the first noirish science fiction writer. And I don't think Bester is the only ancestor of that turn -- Philip Dick certainly belongs in that club -- but this book is one of the best. I think it stands up to anything Gibson or other more recent writers have turned out.
I also have to mention something I found surprising in the story. PyrE's explosive power is unleashed by mind, in particular by "Will and Idea" -- it's hard not to connect PyrE's nature as both explosive and creative force with Schopenhauer's metaphysics of "will and representation". "Representation" and "Idea" are very distinct concepts for Schopenhauer, but nevertheless it seems odd to suppose that Bester used such an unusual phrase completely out of the blue. I have no idea if the connection is coincidence, or if Bester meant to echo Schopenhauer's metaphysics in his conception of PyrE. "World and Idea" are no more than hints in the story at the nature of PyrE.
Despite being a futuristic tale written half a century ago, there is still a lot in this book that will speak to current-day readers. It remains a hugely compelling story about humankind, it's role in the universe and its most basic truths. It's about what drives us.
I was taken in by the story right away. A man adrift in a wreck in space, reduced to the merest human realities. Barely clinging to life, this man gets reawakened by a burning need for vengeance. It is his rage that saves him, his revenge that goads him into molding himself into a better person. This itself makes for a very interesting read that was hard to put down, but in the end he transcends even that version of himself and glimpses he truth about what matters for our future.
I felt a tiny bit like I would have liked more closure at the end, but otherwise I enjoyed this book very much!
Most recent customer reviews
This specific version of it is awful, tough.Read more