Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Stars My Destination

"Tiger! Tiger! burning bright
In the forests of the night
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?"
      William Blake

Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination, has been touted to be the best science fiction novel ever. Whether it actually is or not needs to be determined by others more versed in science fiction.

Neil Gaiman, who wrote the introduction for the version I read, called this book a "perfect cyberpunk novel, including protocyber elements, such as multinational corporate intrigue, a dangerous and mysterious hyperscientific McGuffin (PyrE), an amoral hero, and a supercool Thief Woman."

Set in the year 2436, all across galaxies, Gully Foyle is a grunt pursuing revenge. Through his adventures and mis-adventures, he becomes moral. Bester crafts Foyle's transformation well.

While I'm sure I didn't fully appreciate all of the science in this science fiction novel, I did love seeing Bester's imaginings of the future, where tattoo-ing is a dead art (hard to imagine now, perhaps it was easier to imagine in the 1950's) and space travel is accomplished by "jaunting".

I loved how Bester used Gully's tattoo in the story. In the beginning Foyle has a horrific tattoo of a tiger on his face. The tattoo gets removed and how that affects Foyle's emotions is brilliant.

The book was originally titled "Tiger, Tiger", which seems a more apt title to me (and several others who have read the book).

Alfred Bester first worked for DC Comics in the 1940's and 50's, moving into short stories and then novels. This, his second novel, was published in 1956. According to the author's bio in the book, in his will he left his estate to his bartender, which I thought was great.

There is no link to a new copy of this book, as it is no longer in print. You may be able to find it at a good used bookstore (like Powell's in Portland, Oregon), or elsewhere online.

Note: You can email me, Bibliophile, at 2of3RsATgmailDOTcom. I'd love to hear from you!

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