After recently finished Alfred Bester’s THE DEMOLISHED MAN, I wanted another taste of the man’s greatness, so I purchased a used copy of THE STARS MY DESTINATION that was part of the tale’s re-issue as one in the Millennium SF Masterworks imprint. Having just finished it last night, I wanted to get down a few thoughts while they were fresh in my mind.
THE STARS is, indeed, an irrefutable epic, though it’s not without some creative blemishes (in my humble opinion). The story involves one angry nomad named Gulliver ‘Gully’ Foyle who – after being marooned aboard a dying spacecraft in the vacuum of space – believes he’s about to be rescued by a ship known as the Vorga. However, once he sees that the crew of the Vorga knowingly pass him up and go about whatever their space business is, Foyle commits himself to one singular agenda: if it takes him the measure of his life, he will get out of this wreck, he will find them, and he will have them suffer his wrath for abandoning him to die.
With as much that has already been written about this novel, I certainly don’t feel I have anything definitive to add. What I can say is that the book has a prologue – one that establishes the time, place, and particulars of what’s to follow – that has to be one of the most brilliant chapters I’ve ever read; it flows with the calculated ease of pure genius, setting the epic stage for the protagonist the way only a literary scholar like author Bester could. Foyle’s race to uncover the identities of those who damned him to that space grave plays out like a loose detective procedural, as do his ongoing attempts to get close to them, drawing the reader further and further into the man’s personal nightmare with great effect. Lastly … the big finish? (I won’t spoil it.) I would imagine some found it more than a bit experimental for its time in literature – I’ve seen it tried elsewhere since it was possibly first done here. In some ways, it felt a bit ‘forced’ to me only in that I thought it went on a bit longer than it needed … but that certainly doesn’t make it any less groundbreaking.
What have I learned from all of this?
HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION POSSIBLE. There are lesser elements with Alfred Bester’s THE STARS MY DESTINATION which debatably appear a bit dated, but the overall arch of the story and the characters easily establishes the novel as a revelation in science fiction storytelling. Some might dismiss some of Bester’s prose as being more than a bit pulpy in nature, but all should agree that the ideas captured within certainly make this one to read if not one for the ages.