2012 Sci-Fi Challenge 4 of 7: The Stars My Destination

@ GoodReads
The Stars My Destination
by Alfred Bester
First published in 1956 as “Tiger! Tiger!”

EDUCATION: none
SKILLS: none
MERITS: none
RECOMMENDATIONS: none

That’s the official verdict on Gully Foyle, unskilled space crewman.

But right now he is the only survivor on his drifting, wrecked spaceship, and when another space vessel, the Vorga, ignores his distress flares and sails by, Gully becomes obsessed with revenge. He endures 170 days alone in deep space before finding refuge on the Sargasso Asteroid and returning to Earth to track down the crew and owners of the Vorga. But, as he works out his murderous grudge, Gully Foyle also uncovers a secret of momentous proportions . . .

My fourth sci-fi challenge read, The Stars My Destination, tells the story of a man obsessed with revenge. The book takes place in a world where teleportation, aka “jaunting”, is possible through the capabilities of the human brain alone (no technological assistance required). So, people working in Greenland can just pop by to eat lunch in New York. The setting is very interesting, and jaunting is a nifty idea.

The story takes some of its main elements from Alexandre Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo, a book I love. Now, imagine if Edmond Dantès wasn’t a clever, revenge-obsessed gentleman, but a dumb, brawn over brains, revenge-obsessed rapist. Meet Gully Foyle, the protagonist of The Stars My Destination.

I do sort of get how people could love this book. The way that jaunting affects society, working life, racial characteristics etc, is interesting to read about. Too bad that the main character is so repulsive, it made reading this book feel like wading through a river of slime. As Neil Gaiman says in the introduction, Gully Foyle’s a true antihero. He’s not a cool “doesn’t care about the rules” type of antihero; he’s an antihero in the way that he’s a complete no-good violent douchebag psychopath.

Early on in the book Gully rapes Robin, a woman whom the author repeatedly addresses as a “Negro girl”. It is the repetition that left me wondering if it was Besters intention that we would feel less for the woman because she wasn’t white. Eugh. Gully’s latter dealings with women left much to hope for, as well. Having sex after fighting, beginning sex ”almost angrily”, thinking that he’s in love because he wants to conquer and break someone.

The reason why I went on to read this book was mainly because I was interested in how the story tackles the Monte Cristo plot. As I read on, I just wanted to see Gully fail. Among his other characteristics, he is pretty simple. During the course of the book he tries to educate himself and become more intellectual, but he does stupid mistakes and constantly needs the help of others to appear cultured.

Now if only I would have created a bond to any character in the book, but no. The book is very strongly told from Gully’s point of view. I could find no interest or excitement in following the adventurous personal vendetta of such a repulsive character. I know that if a reader can look past the main character, the book is meaningful and well-written. I just couldn’t do that, not this time. Call it too character-focused a reading style.

I give The Stars my Destination 2 stars out of 5. I can appreciate the fact that this book was important to the development of science fiction literature and especially cyberpunk. The idea of jaunting and how it affected the society was genious, but I didn’t want to follow the main character. So, 1 star in general + 1 star from jaunting. Perhaps other people can read this as a rollicking adventure novel, but I’d just much rather re-read The Count of Monte Cristo.

Favorite character: None. None whatsoever.

Next up: Perhaps The War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells – I feel like tackling this short classic in an attempt to catch up with the challenge.

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