The Stars My Destination

Alfred Bester
The Stars My Destination Cover

Messy but Fun Tale of Vengeance and Growth


Gully Foyle, the antihero of The Stars My Destination, is a devastating force of nature. He constitutes the main attraction of this classic SF novel, despite efforts by the author to transcend the narrative into a Book of Ideas. Still, the ride is fun, if messy and rambling.

The Stars My Destination seems to arise from a time in SF where the main tropes hadn't yet settled down. There's a lot of imagination on display: wild, unkempt, sometimes confusing. Some of it is excellent, some of it is just... weird.

Case in point: even before we meet our protagonist, the novel introduces the fact that people in the future can teleport ("jaunt") at will, using the power of their mind. This is a daring challenge to the literary status quo which, oddly enough, doesn't add much to the story. Mostly, it allows characters to escape with greater ease, and removes the tedium of travel between A and B. But except for a thematic wrap-up in the last part, there is little that really matters about this odd setting choice.

But the main attraction of the novel is watching Gully Foyle smash his way through the story like a murderous beast. He's neither sophisticated nor subtle, and prone to fits of insanity. Foyle even rapes a woman between paragraphs, an act which I wish he ended up paying for, instead of simply being used for color. It's not clear, ultimately, if we're supposed to feel for Foyle, or simply shake our head in wonder at the trail of destruction he leaves behind.

It's frustrating, then, when Foyle's hunger for vengeance somehow gets derailed by the author's desire to use him as a metaphor for the human condition. Foyle, it turns out, is a metaphor for humanity's rise from our savagery, and our enlightenment as we finally reach for the stars. It's an inspiring tale, sure, but it feels as if the novel has two-timed the reader.

Still, the novel is worth it for the legendary madness of Gully Foyle, and the Golden Age madness of ideas that litter his path.