4.0 out of 5 stars The medium contains the message.
Alfred Bester, The Stars My Destination (Vintage, 1956)
Considered by many (or so the book jacket tells us) the single finest science fiction novel ever written, The Stars My Destination (also known as Tiger! Tiger! in some parts of the world) is certainly a hefty train ride with a lot of fine sightseeing along the way. The best? I don't know, I'm not much of a science...
Published on Dec 22 2003 by Robert P. Beveridge
3.0 out of 5 stars The Stars My Degradation - has this tale been told before?
Yup... it's The Count of Monte Cristo. But not a bad facimile - in the same way The Bridges of Maddison County was a copy of Noel Cowards,"Brief Encounter." Readable but unoriginal.
Published on Jan 5 2010 by Some Bloke
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4.0 out of 5 stars The medium contains the message.,
Considered by many (or so the book jacket tells us) the single finest science fiction novel ever written, The Stars My Destination (also known as Tiger! Tiger! in some parts of the world) is certainly a hefty train ride with a lot of fine sightseeing along the way. The best? I don't know, I'm not much of a science fiction fan. But it worked for me.
The Stars My Destination is the story of Gulliver Foyle, mechanic's mate third class on a ship called the Nomad when we come into the story. Or he was one, because the ship is a wreck, Foyle is the only survivor, and he's rapidly running out of air tanks. He sees a vessel going by him, and risks his life to get to the airless bridge and fire off the safety flares; the ship, called the Vorga, ignores him and goes on its merry way. He vows to stay alive long enough to revenge himself upon the Vorga and its crew, and thus we have ourselves a story.
Gully Foyle is, not to put too fine a point on it, an archetype. (If only more like him existed.) The brilliance of The Stars My Destination is that Bester is able to couch Foyle's archetypal qualities in a great story, showing once again that if you let the art speak, the message you have underlying the art will show through just fine. (Overemphasizing the message has turned innumerable potential works of art into innumerable realized crap.) He bounces around from episode to episode on his quest for revenge, acting, reacting, trying to figure out what to do next, and above all being a three-dimensional character, which far too many archetypes in literature are not. He is surrounded by a cast of other three-dimensional characters. And while some of the situations may look all too familiar to readers of cyberpunk (especially the large multinational corporations), don't let that put you off; Bester may have been the single biggest influence on cyberpunk, but he could outwrite the rings of Saturn around most of its practitioners. The multinational corporations in The Stars My Destination are not just big, faceless symbols of evil; the main B.M.C. not only has a name, it also has a face, and its face is one of the novel's main characters. And he's not just some two-dimensional pansy here to advance a knee-jerk anti-establishment position. Thank the lord.
In other words, a whole lot of writers today (if one counts amateurs, I would not hesitate to change that to "most writers today") have a lot to learn about writing from Mr. Bester's fine little novel, not only on constructing characters, but on how to let the art speak the message instead of letting the message crap on the art. (One wishes more artists, especially poets and songwriters, had spent the last half-century learning these lessons.)
Unfortunately, they may also learn that the unbearably stupid typographical tricks Bester resorts to about fifty pages before the end of the novel are okay, too. One wonders what on earth possessed the man to suddenly go from being an intelligent creator of a brilliant novel to being a literate five-year-old with a box of crayons, a few blank walls, and too much time on his hands. But that section of the book only lasts a few pages. You'll get through it quickly.
Must-reading, especially for the artists (including, especially, the writers) in the crowd. ****
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5.0 out of 5 stars ... is filthy death for us,
3.0 out of 5 stars The Stars My Degradation - has this tale been told before?,
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic work of hope and redemption.,
And what a tremendous growth and rebirth he experiences! From ape to cosmic being, the stereotype common man, not recommended for promotion, becomes the newborn man of Clarke's 2001, a dream, a vision of tomorrow.
Pay attention to his epiphany: It isn't necessary to have something to believe in. It's only necessary to believe that somewhere there's something worthy of belief.
An outstanding, enriching addition to life.
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ultimate in SF - It doesn't get any better!!!,
And who could star in this awesome epic as our enigmatic hero???
Bruce Willis of course ;o)
Ahhhhhhhh, Vorga T-1339. I rot you filthy.
5.0 out of 5 stars It doesn't get any better,
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest SF novels ever written.,
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. But he is galvanized to action when an apparent rescue ship deliberately passes him by.
In a sense, The Stars My Destination is simply a SF rewrite of a far older classic, The Count of Monte Cristo. It's the study of a capable, vengeance-driven man who escapes from an apparently impossible situation (twice, in Foyle's case) and returns as an utterly different man to wreak the vengeance that he was denied under his old name. Unlike many other Monte Cristo homages, however, Bester's is written with language fully as evocative as the original's, and with added intricate plot threads that make Gully Foyle's odyssey unique.
I cannot find sufficiently enthusiastic ways to recommend this book. It is one of the best, shining examples of what science fiction can be, in many ways. Read it.
5.0 out of 5 stars Sheer inspiration,
BUT BY ALL MEANS ORDER THIS BOOK NOW!!!
Bester bests the competition. His influence is pretty huge too. On the avant garde side he influenced Moorcock and Delaney both of whom influenced cyberpunk. And on the stodgy old conservative side he influenced Frank Herbert. (Dune can be read as an extension of Bester's ideas in this book.) As for the hard-sf influence, 2001: A Space Odyssey is a direct descendant.
This is the first of the sf double-whammy books. It works on multiple levels. On the surface it's an action story about revenge and its costs. And the action happens at laser speed, blasting out your cranium like solar rays. Peer a little deeper and the novel is about society and the people who make it up. All the characters are archetypes, universally found and recognized. Just a little deeper is the growth of the character Gully Foyle in a manner just like how society has grown over history, from compulsion ("Do it or I'll chop your head off!") to compassion (Welfare states). At its heart, however, this book is about what makes God God and how humans can attain apotheosis. The answer is NOT teleportation. The answer is in the little poem appended to the story by Blake, "Tyger! Tyger!" as an epigram. The hand which created the destructive tiger also created the world. I believe that "message" is not too far from Bakunin. It's not a simple message, because it's paradoxical: to create you must destroy. Which is echoed within the tale with the PyrE superweapon, which creates new universes.
The single flaw of the book is, at 250pp, it reads like it could use a further 100pp to flesh things out in greater detail. However, I'm certain this is no flaw of Bester's as almost no fresh young talent in genre fiction back then got published in books of any greater length. When I look through my local second hand bookstores I find that the pulps usually are quite short. Just be thankful the publishers had enough brains to publish what they did.
5.0 out of 5 stars Vengeance and imagination,
4.0 out of 5 stars Awesome book with multiple messages!!!,
Foyle labeled as a person with absolutely no intelligence is left to die in the middle of space, but revenge and hatred keep him alive. Foyle eventually becomes the most wanted criminal. However, as he approaches his evil objective he gets caught between hatred and love. What a dilemma!?!?
One of my favorite quotes from this book is "There's got to be more to life than just living."
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Stars My Destination (Paperback)
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