Review of The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester

Part of the Worlds Without End Grand Masters Reading Challenge

An afternote:  Whew – this book definitely set my teeth on edge.  I feel more mellow about it years later, but obviously not when I first read it!

Seriously, the stars his destination? My arse his destination.

One should only read this book whilst very very stoned, or at gunpoint. This is the scifi novel Kerouac might have written, if Kerouac had no soul. I can think of no character in this novel that I cared about whatsoever, in a good or bad way. I wanted to jaunte into the center of the sun rather than slog my way through one more page of Gully Foyle’s obnoxious exploits. If you’re going to tell a revenge tale, at least make me care about the revenge. I am glad Vorga passed him by!! Vorga should have laser cannoned Foyle’s ass and saved me the torment of reading about him. “The damnable frustration of revenge.” Uhh, no… the damnable frustration of slogging through this story.

I want to thank the Worlds Without End GMRC for helping me finish this book. Otherwise, noooooooo. I’ll throw out a bone here, and say that at least, given the time period it was written (1956), this novel isn’t the usual pulp fiction with cheap bad prose; it sports some decent vocab and it’s wildly creative in creating new jargon and cool slang. It throws out ideas that are revolutionary and it feels recent. But that’s really it. And it isn’t enough – must have character development! I can see how jaunting might be disruptive and perhaps that’s why navigating the story structure felt like rocketing through a debris field in space. Big wow. Still bored.

I haven’t even mentioned what everybody else who even mildly enjoyed this novel loves to mention: rape! Oh, why mention it, it’s just an afterthought in the book anyway.

And finally, limp ending. I felt nothing for Gully (and I fail to see how any of the female characters would either) or his transformation from brute into… what was he supposed to be? Humanitarian ultra-jaunter?

I’d rather eat the pages of this book than think about their content ever again.

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