Alfred Bester’s 1957 classic The Stars My Destination is an influential work. Many science fiction greats credit it as one of the best in the field. William Gibson says that it blew his mind and Neil Gaiman, in his introduction, calls it “the perfect cyberpunk novel.”
Most of the members of my group had not read The Stars My Destination which was originally published with the title, Tiger! Tiger! We talked about the title and then delved into the main character, Gully Foyle, a man hellbent on revenge after a spaceship leaves him stranded on his bombed-out craft.
Gully Foyle is a challenging character–as Gaiman attests, he is a murderer, a rapist, a man filled with violent rage. Many readers made note of the misogyny in the novel, but one reader noted that Foyle is so awful that you aren’t necessarily being asked to accept the misogyny.
All readers, even those who didn’t particularly like the book, made note of the excellent world-building. The Stars My Destination does not feel dated because it incorporates compelling science and concepts.
The book starts with the discovery of humankind’s ability to teleport or, as they call it, “jaunt,” by tapping into their brain’s potential. When we meet Foyle, we learn that jaunting is forgone by the super-rich who instead choose to use outmoded transport such as cars. Bester delves into the economic and political ramifications of teleportation and space travel but the real thrust of the story is a revenge plot that he based on Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo.
The Stars My Destination is still a riveting read, revealing much in an amoral character who does (although this is up for discussion) evolve and morph despite his single-minded, destructive pursuit. Alfred Bester is still provocative after all these years.