Friday, March 14, 2014

On "The Stars My Destination" by Alfred Bester **

This is supposed to be one of the best science fiction novels of all time. As such, it has, as SNL's Stephan would say, "everything." Unfortunately, I don't mean that in a good way. I felt like the novel was a bit too much of a mix of every plot one could think of.

It starts off well enough. Bester can write a great sentence. But once the lead lines peter out, we're dropped into what seems much more like the pulp world that Bester was writing to.

The world in which Bester writes is one in which people can "jaunt." That is, they can think about where they want to go and end up there. Jaunting is limited to places one knows intimately and usually to small spurts.

Next, after a history on the subject, we find our main character Gully Foyle in a space ship (Nomad) out in some forsaken place. He is a lone survivor, and he sends out a distress signal when another ship comes by, but he is ignored. This sets the events of the novel into orbit, so to speak. Abandoned, he crashes the ship onto an asteroid. The inhabitants of the asteroid tattoo his face and marry him to a local.

He vows revenge for his face--he will punish whoever ran the ship that ignored his distress signal. And so it is that he goes in search of the person running the ship, torturing various crew members he's able to find along the way to get the information he needs.

In the process he runs into a woman with telekinetic powers he hires to speak to him when he's among rich people (since he can only speak lower-class dialect). He becomes a magician of sorts. He recovers a treasure hid on the ship he was abandoned on that he crashed into an asteroid and becomes rich enough to seek who he will get revenge on. A radioactive detective comes chasing after Foyle (radioactive because he was caught in a horrible accident at one time and now can only be in proximity to people for about five minutes before they get sick). Everyone is looking for the riches--and more important for something called PyrE, which is an explosive that can be blown up by mind action (for use in a war).

Foyle eventually finds out who ordered him to be ignored, but in the process he learns also the meaning of forgiveness and redemption. And jaunting across a vast degree of space time.

More happens, of course, in between all this. The whole thing seemed very convoluted, and the only thing missing, it seemed, was a vampire.

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