The Stars My Destination (1956) by Alfred Bester

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The Stars My Destination is a brutal tale of vengeance and retribution carried out at the hands of Gulliver Foyle. An interesting re imagining of the Alexandre Dumas novel ‘The Count of Monte Christo’, where the protagonist is instead trapped in space and betters himself with the aid of science and physical upgrades. Foyle is vengeance incarnate and Bester does a wonderful job of making the hate filled character both pitiable and fearsome, without detracting from either feeling.

The book tells of Gully Foyle’s stranding on a ship for one hundred and seventy days dying but not dead before a ship passes and Foyle manages to fire all of his flares and beacons in hope of flagging the vessel down. The ship passes him and leaves him for dead. It is at this point that Foyle saves himself and begins his quest of vengeance, trying to track down and kill the man who gave the order to leave him to his fate.

It is the 25th century and humanity has gained the ability to teleport (jaunt) at will, by only the power of the mind. This capability has upset all social and cultural norms, with rich areas of the world now available to anyone who can jaunt. Bank vaults, prisons, government facilities, these are just a few of the secure areas that are suddenly threatened. The entire solar system is thrown into upheaval and a war between the inner planets and the outer satellites commences with no end in sight.

Meanwhile Gully Foyle manages the first ever ‘space jaunt’ to free himself from the wreck and begins his journey to restitution. Foyle is a bitter character, but he plays many roles wearing masks as he moves through society to track his prey. In a particularly haunting scene Foyle cuts a man’s heart out so he can interrogate him. Fun stuff…

Bester manages to foreshadow many of the common themes found in the cyberpunk movement of the ’80s and ’90s with corporations owning governments and electronic upgrades to the human body. The imagery is stark in places and beautiful in others, showing many facets of Bester’s world. The vast differences between the rich and the poor haven’t changed, rather becoming bigger and more insurmountable. Industries have risen and fallen based on the jaunt and there are many people who are new rich or new poor.

The Stars My Destination is a poetic and prophetic book. Read it.

4 Stars

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