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Review: The Stars My Destination

June 19, 2011

Title: The Stars My Destination
Author: Alfred Bester
Genre: SF
Published: 1956
Pages: 258

Synopsis:

EDUCATION: none.

SKILLS: none. MERITS: none.

RECOMMENDATIONS: none.

That is the official verdict of Gully Foyle, unskilled space crewman. But Gully has managed to survive for 170 days in the airless purgatory of deep space after the wreck of his ship, and has escaped to Earth carrying a murderous grudge and a secret that could change the course of history.

Review:

The Stars My Destination, at times, is pure unadulterated entertainment; nothing more, nothing less. While it doesn’t have much in the way of characterisation, and the writing can be clumsy the plot streams along, adding more and more action-orientated set pieces that you forgive it for all its sins.

Like most pulp, the characters are presented in broad strokes and there is little introspection; mostly the characters want something or need something but the book offers little in the way of believable motivations.

He was Gulliver Foyle, Mechanic’s Mate 3rd Class, thirty years old, big boned and rough…and one hundred and seventy days adrift in space. He was Gully Foyle, the oiler, wiper, bunkerman; too easy for trouble, too slow for fun, too empty for friendship, too lazy for love. p. 16

Its influence can be seen in cyberpunk with its multinational corporations, drugs and its loner, marginalised characters plus cyberpunk has always been somewhat pulpy with its high-octane plots and shadowy characters filtered through a neo-noir world.

The stand-out part of the novel is when Bester tries to describe the effects of synaesthesia through a compelling use of fonts and pictograms; it’s a nice example of ergodic writing.

I think if you expect to be greeted with strong, believable characters and well-written prose you’ll end up disappointed. This is fast, hard, punch-in-the-gut pulp and it whizzes by in no time at all.

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