Review: The Stars My Destination

I think The Stars My Destination may have just become my favorite s.f. novel ever.  The economy of the novel is stunning.  Bester packs as much into the a little paperback as Neal Stephenson does into one of his phonebooks passing for novels.

The background of the story is that the human race learns how to teleport, and almost instantly society collapses.  Transportation dies, then the economy goes, then an interplanetary war breaks out.  That has almost nothing to do with the plot by the way.

The plot focuses on the life of Gully Foyle, a “common man” driven to madness after a rescue ship passes him by while stranded in space.  Through sheer force of will he manages to survive and reinvent himself three time over in his quest for revenge against the ship that left him to die.  Fairly straight forward until he encounters feral scientists, irradiated psychologists, and the perils of high society.

But where Bester really shines is his use of language.  Foyle seemlessly shifts between various high and low dialects throughout his quest, all of which conveys as much about the culture in the novel as any info dump could.  Then there’s the bit where Foyle comes down with synesthesia and Bester just cuts loose with a burst of typographic wizardy that no other author has ever been able to successfuly copy.

The end result is one of the most enjoyable, action packed, and modern novels I’ve ever encountered.  Oh and did I mention it was written in 1956?

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