Monday, July 16, 2018

Review: The Stars My Destination

The Stars My Destination The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You ever have a novel that you know is considered a classic of its genre yet you know absolutely nothing about it other than the title? This is one of those for me. I knew nothing about it other than the vague notion that it was an important sci-fi novel, but when it popped up as a deal on Audible I took a chance on it and went in cold.

How’d it work out? Pretty well.

A couple of centuries from now humanity has developed the ability to teleport themselves using only their minds in a practice called jaunting. While it has revolutionized society in many ways it’s limited to just a few hundred miles at most so spacecraft are still needed to ferry people and goods around the solar system. Because people are always gonna be assholes there’s a war raging among the Inner Planets and Outer Satellites.

Gully Foyle is just a working class grunt with little education and even less ambition who had the bad luck to be on a ship that got blowed up real good as part of that war. For six months he survives by staying in a small storage lock and scavenging supplies in the wreckage using a damaged space suit. Deliverance seems at hand when he sees another ship named Vorga passing close by, but even though Gully sends out plenty of distress signals that couldn’t be missed the other ship simply passes him by. Enraged at being abandoned, Gully begins to show more gumption than he ever has as he first manages to save his own life and then embarks a campaign to find and kill the people who left him to die. When he finds himself caught in much larger schemes of powerful people his obsessive need for revenge puts him beyond any attempts to bribe or bully him.

There’s a lot of interesting stuff here that gets into some really big trippy sci-fi concepts that seem way ahead of their time in many ways plus there’s a kind of Count of Monte Cristo style story embedded in it too. It’s easy to see why this is so highly regarded and is considered a forerunner to cyberpunk.

Gully Foyle is also an interesting bastard of a character. He starts out as this crude and violent man fully capable of crimes like murder and rape, and his journey eventually turns him into something much more than that. Yet because it’s his unswerving desire for simple revenge driving him he’s always got that primitive core just below the surface.

Despite being published over 60 years ago it doesn’t come across as that dated either. Alfred Bester did a lot of well thought out world building as to what this space faring society that has also mental powers like telepathy and the ability to teleport would be like. Some of the stuff he did here like a conflict between factions fighting for the resources of our solar system are still used today in sci-fi like The Expanse series, and the idea of powerful corporations being as much a force as government has been used countless times as well. The ending also seems like a leap forward to a kind of sci-fi that something like 2001 would do a decade later.

It’s a bold and ambitious story that seems ahead of its time in many ways, and I’m glad that I took the opportunity to fill in a gap in my sci-fi reading.

View all my reviews

No comments:

Post a Comment