The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester

Dear me!

🤬

In a far future, some human beings have developed the ability to “jaunte” – to travel long distances by the power of their mind. This has led to major changes in how society operates, as rich men have to find ever more elaborate ways of securing their properties against jaunting invaders, and of keeping their womenfolk safe from potential rapists jaunting into their rooms at night. For some reason (I have no idea why – maybe he told me, maybe he didn’t – I don’t care) this has all led to interplanetary war between the inner and outer settlements in the solar system. In the midst of all this, Gully Foyle is trapped all alone on a wrecked ship in the middle of space and when another ship passes by and refuses to rescue him, he swears revenge.

This has very high ratings on Goodreads and lots of people claiming it’s the best book ever written in the history of this galaxy or any other. I guess they must all like following a bunch of despicable people doing despicable things for no logical reason. Some SF novels suggest that humanity will improve as we continue to evolve – others, and this is one of them, suggest that humanity has no redeeming features whatsoever and will gradually revert to a sort of savagery. For some reason, the latter seem to be respected more than the former, in the era of modern SF anyway. This, I now remember, is why I hate most SF from the late 50s, 60s, and 70s. Bad taste pulp.

Book 83 of 90

Gully rapes the first woman to put in an appearance in the book. This is pretty much a signal for the casual misogyny that runs throughout. All the women are possessions and sex toys, rising or falling in the social order by virtue of whose daughters they are, who they sleep with, or who they are raped by. They are not all victims though – they are just as vile and vicious as the men on the whole. Torture and murder are the norm in this society, not to mention genocide. How can any reader possibly care about the outcome for any of these characters? Beats me. I certainly felt that they would all be improved by death.

Alfred Bester

Trying to see what all the 5-starrers (mostly men) saw in this that I didn’t, it appears that in fact they love all the things I hated. They love that Gully is disgusting – it seems to enthral them that he is viciously violent without compassion or regret. Some of them suggest that he becomes good in the end – hmm, depends on your definition of good. They buy into the collapse of society brought about by jaunting, as if it’s to be expected that if we could break into other people’s houses and rape their daughters, we would. They seem to understand why jaunting has led to interplanetary war – odd, since the point of jaunting is that no one has found a way to jaunte through space. They claim it’s an SF version of The Count of Monte Cristo – I haven’t read it, so I’ll take that as a warning not to.

Clearly I’m not on the right wavelength for this one, and I can’t tell you how happy that makes me. If you want to read about a vile man doing vile things in a vile society, highly recommended!

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47 thoughts on “The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester

    • Ha, I must say I’m delighted to have finished the SF section of my Classics Club list and there are very few of them on my second list! I’m afraid it’s just not a genre I can get properly into – not after about 1950 anyway…

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’d forgotten why I stopped reading SF many years ago, but including a few on my CC list has really reminded me! Anything after about 1950 is quite likely to have this effect on me, with very few exceptions. Hopefully the one you have will work better for you than this did for me! 😀

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  1. Oh, my, FictionFan! Just……..Yikes! I’m sorry to hear you were so disappointed in this one, but honestly, I can see why! I’m no expert (at all!) in SF, but this one just does sound terrible. Thanks for cherry-picking.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ugh! These modern SFs that I included on my Classics Club list have reminded me why I stopped reading SF years ago! There are some notable exceptions, but on the whole it just doesn’t work for me as a genre. Too male-orientated, apart from anything else!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This does sound horrible! It’s not a book I would have thought about reading anyway, but now I’ll be sure to continue avoiding it. However, The Count of Monte Cristo is one of my favourite books and now I’m curious to know what the similarities are, as this doesn’t sound anything remotely like it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you’re defending The Count – I was hoping people would persuade me out of my ban! I don’t know much about it except the broad outline of the plot, and to be honest I couldn’t understand the comparison either. It left me feeling the Count must have been horrible though, if they’re comparing him to Gully in this one!

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  3. This sounds like it appeals to the same people who tell others it’s their own responsibility to lock their doors at night to be safe. Basically, they are revealing that the only thing that keeps them from raping and stealing is that locked door, not any sort of internal morality or compassion for others. I’ve never heard of this book but I’ll be happy to avoid it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha, yes, exactly! I’d like to think most of us wouldn’t break into other people’s houses even if we could! But sadly in this society no one seemed to have any kind of morality whatsoever – ugh!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This sounds horrible! I’m a little worried since I do have some 50s/60s sci-fi in my TBR, but at least it’s mostly well-known stuff. Who knows, this might be well-known, too, but not to me. It certainly won’t go on my list.

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    • There is some SF from that era that I enjoy but it’s usually from people who started much earlier and were still writing – the newcomers seemed to be setting out to shock. I’ve just popped over to look at your list – I haven’t read all the SF entries but you’ll be safe with CL Lewis, Wyndham, Asimov, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Philip K Dick and Clifford D Simak (I think, though I’ve only read one of his books, so who knows)! You might or might not enjoy them, but none of them are disgusting! 😀

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      • I think you’re right with that reasoning. The Lewis books will be a re-read for me, so I’m looking forward to a more “mature” take on them. 😉 At least I know to avoid The Stars My Destination!!

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            • Maybe it was the religious stuff then, though usually I either don’t notice it or don’t mind it, so ling as it’s not too preachy. I’ll be interested to hear what you think of them this time round, when you get to them!

              Liked by 1 person

  5. Dear oh dear, this sounds terrible, and definitely not something I am remotely tempted to try. Interesting and a bit worrying though that most of the 5 star reviews have come from male readers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You know, it often worries me when I look at book reviews just how divided they are by gender. I often read books that are on the “male” end of the spectrum – always have – but somehow with SF the divide is too great even for me, and I don’t like what it says about society that we still go off into our separate corners so much, if you know what I mean…

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  6. When I saw your one angry-face rating, I knew I was in for a treat, FF, and you didn’t disappoint me! Oh, dear, is right. This sounds like a hot mess! I’m surprised you braved your way through it without punting it against a wall. Perhaps you were fooled by those who claimed to love it, so you decided to see if it would redeem itself at the end. Nope!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, I was determined to finish it so I wouldn’t have to pick yet another one to complete my Classics Club list! I won’t be sorry to see the back of modern SF though – I tried! Still, it’s always fun writing a ranting review… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad of that – I was hoping some of you might leap the The Count’s defence since I’ve always meant to read it! Knowing the vague outline of the story I must admit I couldn’t see what comparison there was myself…

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so pleased to hear that! I was hoping some of you might leap to The Count’s defence since it’s one I’ve always meant to read one day. Knowing the vague outline of the story I must admit I couldn’t see how the two books compare at all!

      Liked by 1 person

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