The Stars My Destination, by Alfred Bester

I decided to just relax and do some reading for enjoyment — after all the editing and other busy-work I’ve been doing for over a week now, I needed that. So anyway, I just finished reading this book today, and very much enjoyed it. As I posted over at AllConsuming moments ago, I would be all too happy to recommend it to friends, as my friend Charlie recommended it to me long ago:

There’s a good reason this novel is on so many SF top-lists. It’s an excellent novel, because it immerses you in a world, and then propels you along the trajectory of an adventure, and it actually says something about the world too.

The science part of this SF novel isn’t very deepl-explored at all… there’s no real explanation for the newfound ability to “jaunte” (like teleportation, but with limits). Likewise, PyrE isn’t anything more than a kind of super-energetic compound, something that makes nuclear weapons look like kiddies’ toys.

But Bester explores the implications of teleportation and PyrE with great finesse, intelligence, and imagination. Yes, some of the characters are a little caricatured, but the caricatures are well-drawn. Yes, it’s not really believable in a literal sense, the way some SF I love is. But as a creative work, as a criticism of social structures, as a kind of myth of what the future could hold, and as a kind of allegory about humanity waking to find itself in the early space age, ever so slightly on this side of the beginning of the scientific era, it’s a marvelous piece of writing. For those reasons, I recommend it.

The one thing I wasn’t crazy about was the wacky concrete art used to convey Foyle’s synaesthesia. I’ve seen better concrete poetry, and this is amateurish. But I could overlook that stuff since the rest of the book was so, ahem, stellar.

2 thoughts on “The Stars My Destination, by Alfred Bester

  1. Agreed, this is one of my favourite novels. If Babylon 5 did one thing right, it was drawing attention to Bester’s work.

  2. I never saw much of B5, actually, so I only know by hearsay that a character was named after Bester or one of Bester’s characters, right?

    I can’t believe it took me this long to get around to it.

    Meanwhile, you may be amused to know I just wrote 750-odd words of a rewrite of a story set in the far northern reaches of Canada. There’s a crusty Quebecois Coast Guard captain, even. :)

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