Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Book Review: The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester

Pros: some interesting world-building/science

Cons: unsympathetic characters

Gulliver Foyle has spent months trapped in a room on a destroyed space ship. When the Vorga passes by and fails to pick him up, he’s filled with rage and determined to survive, if only to find and punish the Vorga for what it’s done.

Originally titled Tiger! Tiger!, after the William Blake poem, “The Tyger” this is a science fiction rewrite of Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. There’s some interesting world-building going on, with people becoming able to teleport, or ‘jaunt’, and how that affects humanity. There’s also trouble brewing between the inner and outer planets (tired of being taken advantage of and seeing an economic downturn due to the ability to jaunt, which has reduced the need for the resources they mine).

For the most part I found Gully an unsympathetic and horrifying character. He’s so hell bent on his revenge that he ignores the fact that he’s survived horrors (in part because their ‘betrayal’ galvanized him into saving himself). In many ways he throws away years of his life and several opportunities he’s given to live for the future, in order to get his revenge. There’s no personal enmity towards Gully by the crew of the Vorga, so his quest feels excessive and unreasonable, especially when you learn what happened on the Vorga, and why they didn’t pick him up.

The female characters aren’t the greatest. There’s a bit of variety, though none of them felt particularly fleshed out. They all fall in love (and out of love) quickly and act in somewhat bizarre ways at times. Jisbella’s love/hate relationship with him annoyed me because she waffled so much I was never sure where she stood, and I was horrified by how he manipulates Robin into helping him, considering what he did to her. And for some reason, despite what he does to them, the women forgive him in the end. There’s also an off page rape that factors into the story later on.

I enjoyed the ending in that Gully finally seems to snap out of his mindless revenge kick and actually says a few profound things with regards to the potential war. But aside from his stint in prison (which was for the wrong reasons), he never seems to get any punishment for his actions beyond what he does to punish himself, which seemed unequal to what he did. On the whole I found reading this a bit of a slog, and as it’s not a long book, that’s saying something.

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