on 20 April 2000
This is the greatest science fiction novel ever written, and in my humble opinion one of the greatest novels of the 20th Century. Strangely, it has long been known to me as "Tiger Tiger" and I have never got used to this, its original title.
Underneath the superb and imaginative futuristic setting is the story of a man transformed from a Dave Lister-style space bum into a raging, semi-literate savage intent on killing the spaceship Vorga that left him stranded. Through his weird and often violent trials and tribulations he is transformed into a powerful, intelligent and finally great man on whom the future of civilization rests. The story he uncovers and the "driven" people at the centre of the immense power struggle in which he finds himself, are remarkable and yet terrifying.
This is a superb futuristic novel which at its heart is an acute and insightful reflection on the present day world. It seems to offer something new every time I read it, and I never tire of re-visiting this wonderful story.
This is a breathtaking, pulse racing, thoughful and magnificent work of fiction, with a million great ideas tightly woven into one excellent, coherent story. It is a great achievement in itself, and also the reason why we have William Gibson and cyberpunk.
Buy it now. There is no excuse not to.
on 5 July 2003
This is certainly not a perfect book. There is a lot in it that turns me off; that doesn't sit right with me (The descriptions of Presteign and his contemporaries' lifestyles, the circus bufoonery and some of Bester's future vision for women) - These elements do not seem to fit with the rest of the book, and chapters which do not focus on the main character, Gully Foyle, are just nowhere near as interesting as the rest of the book.
But oh, the rest of the book - The other 70% - That's the reason why I'm giving this the full five stars, and why I do consider it, though not perfect, still one of the finest and most unique books I've ever read. First of all, the pace: This book reads faster than anything else I've come across. Without wanting to sound cliched, Bester's prose burns off the page at a speed somewhat faster than lightning. He moves effortlessly across continents and planets, from action scene to action scene, all in the space of a typical chapter. The action is blinding (Bester wrote a lot of comics, earlier in his career, and it really shows), often violent and visceral in a way that I just didn't believe '50s novels could be, and Foyle is a madman, more than a man, a towering anti-hero. Yes, Foyle: One of the best characters ever created. Perhaps 'anti-hero' wasn't fair - He defies description. You just have to read about him. He changes so much during his adventures, and all in a totally believable way. Lastly, I want to mention the actual technology, the sci-fi: It has not, on the whole, dated badly. Most of it still seems wonderful and far-flung, though believable, today. And better than that, it's cool! In one of the best chapters of the novel, Bester introduces nano-augmentation and proceeds through a blistering set of action scenes that easily out-Matrix 'The Matrix.' This is hot, hot stuff! And, of course, there is the central idea of a wild new breakthrough in travel that changes the whole of human civilization - 'Jaunting.' Perhaps I am not well-read enough; Perhaps Bester was not the first to come up with an idea like this, but I've certainly never read anything like it. It's wonderful, and the newfound human ability of transporting oneself a thousand miles in a couple of seconds just adds to the frenetic, driving pace of Bester's stripped-bare, hi-frequency narrative.
'The Stars My Destination' dazzles, delights and addicts. Not just one of the best SF novels ever, but one of the best novels ever. I've just finished reading it for the first time, and I don't think I'll ever forget it.
on 31 January 2014
This is one of my 2 favorite scifi books of all time (other one is Dune).
Alfred Bester was not consistently amazing, like some other great writers, but at his best he was truly astonishing and surpassed them all. And this book is his very best. The power, catharsis, pace, and meaningful transformation in this story is awesome to read.
The protagonist is definitely an anti-hero....but he does have a valid gripe, to say the least. Its hard to say much about this story without spoiling it. But the feel of much of the story is very Gibson like....moving around the world in a cyberpunk way...but this was well before that genre ever started. Its a cyberpunk feel without being cyberpunk. And there are things like tickertape machines that you will have to accept as part of its time, but that is easy for me to get by.
The flow of the story, the power of his vengeance, is written superbly. It sends chills up my spine reading it.
The ending ..is incredible. It would not work for some authors or some stories, but it fits perfectly in this sort of story and the way it is written. If your mind is open to it, it will never leave you.
This story is a gem. Everything went right in its creation. Behold the masterpiece.
on 30 November 2006
I can't praise this book highly enough. It's part social critique, part re-write of the Count of Monte Cristo, part play, part novel, part re-telling of the "Hero" monomyth, and through all its rough and ready ugliness and glory shines a firm belief in humanity and our ability to redeem ourselves if we'll only stand still long enough to listen.
I can think of few other novels which make me want to laugh, cry and dance with joy just for the remembrance of them.
A wonderful book that no sci-fi fan should be without - 10/10
on 27 May 2016
Gully Foyle, one of the greatest fictional characters ever created. Awesome story with memorable characters and dialogue with a somewhat dystopian future, I like how it goes into detail about the personal teleportation or jaunting and the effects it has on business and the day to day running of life and so forth, that was neat. My favorite quote from the book..
“You pigs, you. You rut like pigs, is all. You got the most in you, and you use the least. You hear me, you? Got a million in you and spend pennies. Got a genius in you and think crazies. Got a heart in you and feel empties. All a you. Every you..."
on 16 March 2016
I had heard so much about this book and the claim that it may be the best sci fi novel of all time that I suppose I was bound to be disappointed. However, I really struggled to like it at all. It starts ok, some reasonably interesting set up, relatively fast moving plot etc. About half way through I got bored. There are no likeable characters in the book, though having said that, the fact that the main character is unrelenting horrible is one of the most unusual and interesting things about it. The basic plot is ok, not great, a simple revenge story taken to the nth degree. The universe created is not very believable or that interesting. Most of the characters are one dimensional. I didn't really care about anyone so why should I care what happens? I hate not finishing a book, and I may go back and try to finish it later, but having got 86% of the way through, and no longer enjoying reading, I am giving up for now. I have persisted this far because I keep thinking so many people can't be wrong, but I am not going to say this is good just because of its reputation. If I had not heard that reputation and had just picked it up and read, I would have assumed it to be a bog standard fairly poorly written piece of pulp. But you may have a different experience.
on 1 July 2016
Is this the best sci-fi book ever written? Well, not in my opinion. That said it was enjoyable and I galloped through it in a couple of days, I found some aspects of the story to be more engaging than others. The protagonist is not likeable however which resulted in me feeling indifferent to his peril - which made it less perilous. There are certain areas which seem intended to make the book more mysterious and convey a sense of the author's intelligence rather than to achieve anything for the reader's benefit. Well, not intelligence exactly, but maybe cleverness. And in one or two areas the author seems too clever by half and left me wishing he would spend less time strutting up and down winking at the reader and more time story-telling.
It certainly isn't a bad book though. The story is a fast paced and enjoyable McGuffin of a romp through time and space. The characters exist to serve a purpose rather than to engage the reader and while the roller-coaster clattered onwards at high speed the experience felt somewhat cold and clinical. I'm glad I read it, but I'm also glad it wasn't longer.
I read the Kindle version and the formatting towards the end was a little messed up. Words are printed in different sizes to convey a sense of.. - actually I've no idea why this was done - but the point is this may look great in print but doesn't sit well on a Kindle.
Having just typed all this and re-read what I've written I feel I probably missed the point of this book. Oh well. As Alfred Bester probably wouldn't say "What can do, you?"
on 28 June 2016
Also know as Tiger Tiger, this is arguably the best 20th century science fiction novel ever written and could well be up there as the sci fi ever. Well crafted, engaging characters and an exciting story line. I'm in two mind as to whether I'd like to see it filmed; could be great or could be ruined. Read it and make up your own mind!
on 4 January 2004
The plot is quite simple, but the momentum it builds is so well balanced it sees you through the quirkier aspects of the storyline. I would say there are not many instances where you are made overly aware that this book was written about 50 or so years ago, some people say the attitudes to women are the most obvious, but I don't really agree in this respect.
Not so keen on the concrete poetry bit, but parts like the prison break more than make up for it. Stars... is so dynamic it would make a great film, but Hollywood is unlikely to make a film where the hero is SO antihero it would be impossible to reconcile without ruining the whole story.
This is a really great book to read when you've been wronged by someone. Foyle's quest for revenge is cathartic and absolute in it's single mindedness.
on 7 December 2015
Some of these SF Masterworks are hailed for their influence on the later works you have read and films you have seen. Bester's TSMD certainly has influence: feudal skulduggery in space, plus mental telepathy as a mode of travel could perhaps be an influence on Herbert's lengthier more expansive Dune; the urban vibe of some scenes and the outer space sleaze on display in others surely points to the 'used future' of Alien and Outland and the eighties cyberpunk movement. But forget influences: this book has that quality of the sublime, of monumental catastrophe and great events sweeping up the characters into a storm of conflict. At times there are simply too many characters for a 240 page book and in the early going it is easy to get a little bit lost amid the machinations, but when it all comes together in the last third with a hail of fire, wow. There is also in the second half of the book - as we count down to the finale - a moment of what I would call ultra gore. Speaking as someone who dislikes gore or grue in fiction, it left me queasy and sickened so beware but it builds the character of Gully Foyle as someone almost inhuman in their quest for revenge, their thirst for retribution, later softened by love. Give it a try.