The Stars My Destination – Book Review

A tale with more rip roaring revenge than anything dreamt up by Tarantino.

The Stars My Destination, written by Alfred Bester, was first published in the UK under the title ‘Tiger! Tiger!’ after the poem by William Blake. As that poem was Blake asking whether there was a divine hand at play in the creation of the perfect hunter you can guess at one of the main themes of this novel.

Stars My Destination Summary

Gully Foyle - The Stars My Destination Review

We start with the primal, unskilled, unthinking bear of a man Gully Foyle stranded in deep space. He is the last of the crew alive and his chances of survival are looking slimmer than a supermodel after a bad case of diarrhoea. Then another spaceship, The Vorga, turns up. Sadly for Gully, the Vorga leaves him to rot rather than save him. The anger this sparks in Gully leads him to engineer his own escape with the sole purpose of extracting brutal and violent revenge on the Vorga. Gully’s escape and revenge triggers one of the crazier rides in modern literature, with each chapter giving a new snapshot into this strange proto-cyberpunk universe of Bester’s creation.

The Stars My Destination Review

The rage of Gully Foyle

I have read many others describe Gully Foyle as an anti-hero. I don’t even believe he qualifies as this, being instead simply a villain protagonist. Any sympathy we feel for the character is burnt away through unforgivable act followed by unforgivable act. Many times the reader is tempted into trying to find humanity in this monster, only for Gully to plumb new depths of depravity in his hunt for revenge.

Throughout this the reader is asked to ponder both the nature of Gully Foyle as the perfect hunter and what his development says about humanity as a whole. At the core of this novel is a serious meditation over what causes humanity to make the next leap forward both in terms of technological advancement and philosophical understanding. That Bester uses a character as violent and irredeemable as Gully Foyle gives you some idea about how this question is answered.

The influence of The Stars My Destination

The universe The Stars My Destination takes place in has clearly left its mark on literature. Few other novels sear such a diverse range of places and characters into your brain and other greats such as Snow Crash and Neuromancer clearly owe it a debt. Just recalling all the places and characters the reader comes across during The Stars My Destination is dizzying. There are radioactive men, telepaths, space cargo cults and people who put themselves into a state of living death.

The Stars My Destination is regularly cited as being one of the greatest works in Science Fiction and I’m not going to disagree. It was also a precurser to the whole Cyberpunk movement, and without this novel it’s doubtful we’d ever have got  Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson or  Neuromancer by Gibson.

I’ll leave you with the iconic verse from The Stars My Destination:

Gully Foyle is my name

And Terra is my nation

Deep space is my dwelling place

The stars my destination

Once you’ve read the Stars My Destination you’ll find that simple little verse takes on a whole new meaning.

Characters of The Stars My Destination

Gulliver Foyle

Violent, filthy and motived by rage and lust. Gully Foyle is not a sympathetic character. His only development comes from pain and a thirst for revenge. While certainly not the nicest character in literature, he’s one of the most striking.

The Presteign

The ultimate capitalist, The Presteign is head of a large and very wealthy clan. His focus is on the accumulation of money and power. While more refined than Gully, his motives are no less base.

Robin Wednesbury

A telesend, she can project her thoughts but not receive others, Robin Wednesbury is one of the more tragic characters in the novel. Used and then manipulated by Gully, through her we see how kind people can be trampled by those like Gully.

Jisbella McQueen

A criminal who comes to despise Gully. Although she does not have a large part to play she actually has a parallel arc to Gully. Like him, she developes throughout the novel. But, unlike him, she does so out of positive motivations.

Saul Dagenham

The radioactive man. An accident has left poor Saul unable to spend any time in the presence of others, lest they are contaminated by his radioactivity.

Olivia Presteign

Presteign’s daughter and the only character who can match Gully for anger. Like Jisbella, she refuses to play the role society wants her to play as a woman. Olivia Presteign is a character who has looked at the world and wants to watch it burn.

If you enjoy cyberpunk, take a look at our top ten cyberpunk novels.

Stars My Destination Review
  • Must read Cyberpunk Classic
5

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