The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester science fiction book reviewsThe Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsMuch has been written about Alfred Bester’s classic 1956 SF novel The Stars My Destination (Tiger! Tiger! in the United Kingdom). According to Wikipedia, it is considered one of the best SF books of all time by many authors such as Neil Gaiman, Joe Haldeman, Samuel. R. Delany, Robert Silverberg, and William Gibson.

Predating cyberpunk by almost three decades (if you count from Gibson’s Neuromancer in 1984), it features a fully-realized world of ruthless multinational corporations, cybernetic enhancements, and most importantly, the concept of “jaunting,” the ability to teleport instantly between two places if the jaunter knows the precise coordinates and has personally seen them before. This skill is available to almost everyone in society.

As you might expect, jaunting created dramatic upheaval in global society and has completely transformed economies, transportation, and social behavior. For instance, due to the ability of people to jaunt into any known location, wealthy families create impenetrable labyrinths to protect themselves and women are confined to such places in many cases, giving rise to a Neo-Victorian society.

The Stars My Destination begins in very cinematic fashion with a lone crewman named Gully Foyle, who wakes up to find himself the sole survivor of an attack on a merchant spaceship called Nomad. He initially finds ways to survive but is not pushed into action until a passing ship, the Vorga, ignores the distress signals he has been sending out. This fuels an intense rage in him that will possess and transform him utterly into a single-minded beast driven by the desire for revenge on whomever controlled the Vorga.

As it turns out, the Vorga is owned by the same ultra-wealthy and decadent Presteign clan that owns the Nomad. The further Gully pursues each link in the mystery behind the Vorga’s actions, the more convoluted the plot becomes, as he encounters a plethora of very unusual and intriguing characters.

Along the way, he himself changes in dramatic ways and we also get a very detailed tour of this future world where teleportation dominates. There are even some telepaths (echoes of Bester’s previous novel The Demolished Man, which won the inaugural Hugo Award) in the story, a mysterious super-powerful substance called PyrE, a “jaunt-proof” high security prison, a primitive space-bound cargo cult, various assassins and secret societies, and a struggle between the Inner Planets and Outer Colonies, which is a theme that has been explored in the science fiction genre many times since, including most recently James S.A. Corey’s THE EXPANSE series.

Perhaps the biggest question for modern readers is, does this classic still hold up today, almost 60 years after initial publication? The answer is ABSOLUTELY!

The Stars My Destination is fierce, cynical, lightning-paced, complex, philosophical, darkly humorous, and frankly doesn’t feel dated at all. It’s more exciting as cyberpunk than William Gibson, not as self-congratulatory as Iain M. BanksCULTURE novels, and takes a far more skeptical of the future than Robert Heinlein’s SF novels.

Stylistically, it runs circles around the pedestrian prose of contemporaries like Arthur C. Clarke (who I like) or Isaac Asimov (who I don’t). Considering how much impact Bester has had on the genre with only two major books, The Demolished Man and The Stars My Destination, I think every serious SF fan owes it to themself to give this book a try.The Stars My Destination Audible Logo Audible Audiobook – Unabridged Alfred Bester (Author), Gerard Doyle (Narrator), Tantor Audio (Publisher)

~Stuart Starosta

The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester science fiction book reviewsThe Stars My Destination surprised me in so many ways! As Stuart says, it absolutely holds up today.

Tantor Audio’s edition is fabulous. Narrator Gerard Doyle makes a great Gully Foyle.

~Kat Hooper

Published in 1956. Marooned in outer space after an attack on his ship, Nomad, Gulliver Foyle lives to obsessively pursue the crew of a rescue vessel that had intended to leave him to die. When it comes to pop culture, Alfred Bester (1913-1987) is something of an unsung hero. He wrote radio scripts, screenplays, and comic books (in which capacity he created the original Green Lantern Oath). But Bester is best known for his science fiction novels, and The Stars My Destination may be his finest creation. With its sly potshotting at corporate skullduggery, The Stars My Destination seems utterly contemporary, and has maintained its status as an underground classic for over 50 years.