Author: Alfred Bester
Publication Date: 1956
Blurb(GR): In this pulse-quickening novel, Alfred Bester imagines a future in which people "jaunte" a thousand miles with a single thought, where the rich barricade themselves in labyrinths and protect themselves with radioactive hit men - and where an inarticulate outcast is the most valuable and dangerous man alive. The Stars My Destination is a classic of technological prophecy and timeless narrative enchantment by an acknowledged master of science fiction.
I think that this book pretty much just blew my mind. I mean, am I crazy, or is this one of the most profound things ever written?
"You pigs, you. You goof 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….”
Alright, you probably have to read the book to appreciate that, and you should! Can I entice you further by saying that an android delivers the meaning of life in a radiation fueled moment of lucidity, before collapsing, about five pages before that speech? How about the fact that this book contains an evil millionaire, an albino with abnormal perception, a gorgeous telepath, a radioactive courier, a slick super spy, a cold-hearted, red-headed jailbird, and a bionic psychopath bent on revenge? Okay, I am pulling out my very last card. Wait for it…
The Count of Monte Cristo…in space. That’s right! Except in this version, he finds enlightenment and awakens humanity in the end.
I could see the comparison between these two masterpieces right away, but at first everything seemed to be happening much too fast. How could he cram the years and years of slowly simmering vengeance of Edmund Dantes into a paltry two hundred pages? But then I started thinking. This is the future: where teleportation makes
travel instantaneous; where the body and mind can be upgraded with hypno-learning and a little re-wiring; where information can be gained with the latest psychological coercion techniques. In short, this is a world where patience is no longer required for revenge. Like Dantes, Gully is a simple man awakened to all of his great potential by a fiery need for vengeance. But Gully is ten times more impulsive and rash than Dantes ever was; he kills indiscriminately and without conscience. And when he begins to awaken, he wakes up completely.
This book contains one of the most colorful, interesting casts of characters that I have ever come across. I can definitely see that Alfred Bester had a history in comics; many of these characters seem like comic book heroes in the making. I can also see that this was written in the 1950’s. It’s nice that he could envision women fighting against their oppression, but I am a little sad that he saw the double standard placed on women continuing for
hundreds of years. Also, I can almost see him delighting in his own progressiveness when he repeatedly describes Robin Wednesbury as a gorgeous “negro girl,” more times than he describes the race of anyone else in the book
(stick it in your eye, racist pigs!). But it comes across as a bit glaring to someone raised in the Sesame Street, avoid mentioning race at all costs generation. Some of the technological advances that he envisioned are quite a hoot as well. For example, he imagined that teleportation would end the need for communications systems:
”In an age when communication systems were virtually extinct – when it was far easier to jaunte directly to a
man’s office for a discussion than to telephone or telegraph – “
I think that he severely underestimated the lengths that people will go to to avoid speaking face to face.
Perfect Musical Pairing
Tool – Lateralus
I’ve seen these guys twice in concert, and I love them for their sweeping, dynamic, ten minute long songs. They put on quite a show – with crazy mind-bending imagery and clothes (or lack thereof). Their shows always make me feel like I would probably be getting more out of them if I were on mind altering drugs of some sort, which isn’t really a
good thing for me (huge fan of reality and lifelong abstainer). The ending of this book makes me feel almost the same way – it’s just a little bit too “out there” for me to fully appreciate, but I still found it incredibly moving. This
song is all about transcending our basic, human selves.