The Stars My Destination

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Vintage Books, 1996 - Fiction - 258 pages
In this pulse-quickening novel, Alfred Bester imagines a future in which people "jaunte" a thousand miles with a single thought, where the rich barricade themselves in labyrinths and protect themselves with radioactive hit men - and where an inarticulate outcast is the most valuable and dangerous man alive. "The Stars My Destination" is a classic of technological prophecy and timeless narrative enchantment by an acknowledged master of science fiction.

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In his introduction to the book, Neil Gaiman notes that most science fiction, while being about the future, is a product of the times in which it was written. Therefore, most science fiction can be easily dated within the first two pages. Books from the 80s read like Neuromancer, with their despairing cyber-topiae, books from the 50s all sound like Arthur C. Clarke, and books from the 70s have entirely too much sexual subtext.
The Stars My Destination was originally published in 1956, but damned if it feels that way. Probably because so much 50s sci-fi predicted the shiny-jumpsuit future where the biggest problem we face is robot Armageddon. This book, on the other hand, deals realistically with the problems of the future. One of which is the realistic implications of "jaunting," the will-driven teleportation that any normal person should be able to achieve, albeit to different magnitudes. The ability to move yourself up to 1,000 miles with a thought creates a terrible economic and social upheaval, reordering the way that humans have lived ever since we figured out how to fit wheel to axle.
The other element that I likesd was that of the corporate ruling class that runs thoroughout the book. While there is no explicitly shown "lower class," the overarching power of the corporate clans tacitly demands the existance of an impoverished working class, full of ignorant laborers who will just work for their day's pay.
Such is Gully Foyle. He's presented to us in the beginning as a near-animal brute, thinking of only one thing - survival alone in deep space. As it turns out, he's very good at that, and eventually manages to signal a passing spaceship to pick him up. But, when the ship passes him by, his thoughts turn to a new white-hot focus: revenge. And with revenge in mind, it turns out, you can accomplish damn near anything.
The path that Foyle takes is long and complicated, driving him from the highest of high society to the depths of the earth, and at each stage of his quest, he becomes more than he was. Gully Foyle goes from animal to man, and then on to something more....
I tore through this book in a couple of days, and enjoyed most of it very much. Most of it. The ending fell flat for me, though. For the majority of the book, Bester was trying to get us to cheer for this revenge-driven brute, this animal in human flesh who, no matter how well he learns to speak or dress, is still driven by his burning flame of vengeance. In the beginning, in fact, he reminded me a lot of Marv from Sin City - The Hard Goodbye. As we get to the end, though, it seems like Bester felt compelled to throw in some social commentary about the inherent goodness of the masses of humanity and our limitless potential or some other such nonsense. I didn't buy it. Foyle's switch from selfish individual to quasi-messianic superhero seemed really forced. I would have been happier if he'd just killed the people who needed killing and then went off to explore the universe.
Other than that, it was a great book.

Review: The Stars My Destination

User Review  - Bart - Goodreads

This book was published in 1956 – a time when traveling to the moon would still be science fiction for quite a few years. Many of its ideas were astonishing then and its plot of blind revenge ... Read full review



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About the author (1996)

ALFRED BESTER was born in 1913. His fiction career included writing for the pulp magazines, comics, radio, and television. His extraordinary book, The Demolished Man, was the first winner of the Hugo Award for Best Novel and was followed by the brilliant novels The Stars My Destination, The Computer Connection, Golem100, and The Deceivers, and numerous short stories. Bester was honored by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America with a Grandmaster Award. He died in 1987.

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