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The Stars My Destination Paperback – July 2, 1996
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Top Customer Reviews
Review: Alfred Bester is generally recognized as one of the greatest writers of SF, especially on the strength of his plots and prose style. He made his reputation on short stories, but is best remembered for two novels: The Demolished Man and The Stars My Destination (sometimes known as "Tiger! Tiger!" in the UK). First published in 1956, The Stars My Destination anticipated many of the staples of the later cyberpunk movement -- the megacorporations as powerful as the governments, body and mind redesign to specs, the dark overall nature of the world, even the cybernetic enhancement of the body. To this it added the standard "one wierd idea" of SF -- that human beings could learn to teleport, or "jaunte" from point to point, with various personal limitations but one overall absolute limit: no one could bridge the gap between a planet and anywhere in outer space. On the surface of a planet, the jaunte ruled supreme; off of it, mankind was still restricted to machinery. In this future world -- extrapolated with convincing and sometimes frightening accuracy by Bester -- we are introduced to the protagonist, Gulliver ("Gully") Foyle: "He was one hundred and seventy days dying and not yet dead..." Foyle is a former nobody, a man who had lots of potential but never had to use it, completely lazy, doing the minimum he could to get by, who is suddenly marooned in space with no escape. Even this isn't enough to motivate him beyond trying to find air and food on the wreck; he hasn't learned enough to know it's possible to FIND a way out of his situation.Read more ›
We start by finding our man Foyle near-death in a starship that has been cast adrift in space. As this not-too-bright crewman struggles to survive, a ship approaches that could help him. However, it doesn't. Instead, it flies away. The rest of the book consists of Foyle's angry, obsessed quest to get revenge upon that ship and the people who own it. We encounter telepathy and "jaunting" (instantaneous travel through the power of the mind--a mixture of telepathy with a Star Trek transporter). We find robber barons, three-ring circuses, violence. Bester does not apologize for the violence in his story (unlike some fiction today), he is writing a straight adventure story, with all the pitfalls and danger and violence that come with it. This is "guys' sci-fi" writ large. If the ending had been resolved a little more realistically, it would have been perfect. That said, buy it anyway.
This author perfected the concept of world building before the phrase was coined. Bester visualized a future three hundred years from now that will be demolished and reconstructed by humanity's discovery of a talent for teleportation (jaunting). His insights into how this one factor has affected every level of our society are so fresh and well thought out that my preconceived notions about early sci fi writers being quaint and naiive have been permanently obliterated.
If, like me, you also expect the characters and dialog to reflect a '50's cliche, you will be shamed. Our so-called hero is every bit the foul-mouthed, amoral neanderthal from the beginning, when he is pushed to stretch his mental powers in order to survive abandonment in deep space. From there on, he uses everything and everyone in his quest for vengeance, which necessitates his surface transformation into an educated, civilized man -- indeed, only his language really cleans up. The other characters are also revealed one by one to be ruthless and driven, once they have been crossed or betrayed by Gully Foyle. Bester draws a chilling, fascinating portrait of human nature that is sharpened by dystopia.
For all these admittedly dark and depressing themes, this novel avoids melancholy or bleakness. The pervading feeling is strangely light and hopeful, the people oddly likeable. At the last fifty pages or so, we find plot twists that cause us to question and reevaluate our assumptions once again.
In all, The Stars My Destination was so well conceived that I can only marvel at the distinct lack of copycat authors in ensuing decades. Perhaps Bester is in such a class of his own that the rest of the sci fi genre intuitively shys away from mimicry. Bravo, well done.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Okay, first - this isn't science fiction, there's zero science in it. The premise is that if a human is threatened by death, we can instinctively teleport. Read morePublished 11 days ago by E. Smith
This was a re-read after a long time lapse. This is one of the BEST Bester books ever...Published 17 days ago by Harry Crowe
This book branded itself in me forty years ago. For the second time in a week I'm faced with important pieces that have shaped my whole Iife. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Mike Meyer
Not only a brilliantly imagined work, but exceptionally well written, too. I'm so glad I stumbled onto this book and author!Published 1 month ago by Abe
Bester has given us an unbelievably well crafted with a timeless message. This is a must read for the world.Published 2 months ago by Bruce Barton