“The Spurs Hurt. They Hurt Like Hell!”
Book Review of
'The Stars My Destination'
by Alfred Bester
FOYLE, GULLIVER – AS 128/127:006
This is a sci fi novel that I have heard used as the subject for dub music, jazz-rock fusion, stoner rock, 60's garage rock and others...Only a book that is a trip from start to finish could do so...and that's just what this is!
This is a book I was turned onto by a dude I used to work with called Cozzie, a fellow music and comic head, the two subjects around which our conversation invariably revolved. If it wasn't music it was film and if it wasn't film it was comics but one day in mid 2010 the cycle deviated a little to this 50's sci fi novel I had not previously heard of. 'The Stars My Destination' Cozzie maintained was the best sci fi story he had ever read. This development led to a few unscheduled minutes away from maintenance of the shopping centre to go to the book shop and find a copy of this hyped piece of work.
Later that day I went home about €12 poorer but had myself that copy of Alfred Bester's science fiction take on The Count of Monte Cristo!
Key to the entire story is the fictional phenomenon called 'Jaunting'. Without reciting the whole first chapter, suffice it to say jaunting is named after a scientist named Jaunte who discovers during an accident in which he was almost burned alive that man is capable of willing himself to teleportation. Jaunte is trapped behind glass and the area is aflame, he looks through the glass to the other side and wants nothing more than to be there instead of where he is now, then suddenly he is! Having disappeared and reappeared some 15 feet from where he was. His fellow scientists extinguish the fire and immediately set to work to discover how this happened, the resulting realisation that this is not an isolated event and can be achieved again gives rise to the term 'Jaunting'.
The whole universe created in this book pivots on jaunting being a reality. Because humans can now transport themselves 1,000 miles at will, people are no longer bound to any one place. Jobs no longer depend on a proximity to your home. Homeless people now spend their time jaunting to disaster areas to loot and avoid the law, referred to as 'Jack-jaunters'. Those who cannot do it are the bottom rung of society and those in a job out of which they cannot jaunt are considered the least fortunate.
This is good old fashioned hard sci fi, stuff that demands a lot of your imagination but is the more rewarding because of it!
The book opens with Gully Foyle adrift in the remains of a wrecked spaceship on which he was simply a labourer. After several weeks of just barely surviving, living in a sealed closet in a spacesuit slowly running out of oxygen, a ship passes by. Foyle uses all his remaining strength to signal this ship yet it ignores him and continues on it's way. Foyle in the most brutal rage imaginable, memorizes the name of the ship; “Vorga”, and vows to find it and destroy those who gave the order to leave him to die, should he survive at all.
At about one third of the way through the book we see Foyle in imprisoned in a place built in a deep system of caves known as “Gouffre Martel” (yes yes, he survives the spaceship, its not much of a spoiler, believe me!) Here he meets a companion, Jiz McQueen by way of their voices travelling naturally through the very rock to each other's cells, a prison myth that turns out to be a reality. Jiz is pivotal; she teaches Gully Foyle proper English and how to survive the prison. Here also is introduced the 'Blue Jaunte', a method of suicide where one jauntes into already occupied space, in this case the rock of the caves. A distinctive and terrible sound, like the sudden pop of a vacuum of air accompanies a blue jaunte. An interpretation featured at the end of my edition of this book offered the idea that the prison is the second of several wombs that gradually change Gully Foyle during our time with him, the first of these of course was the broken spaceship.
An old title for the book was 'Tyger Tyger', referring to a strange incident that results in Gully Foyle's face being tattooed with tiger stripes and the name Nomad on his forehead. This makes Foyle easy to identify, and given that he is being pursued by Saul Dagenham, this is of course problematic.
To give away any more characters or events would be to lessen the experience for you yourself so I will duly shut my qwerty trap and leave you to enjoy The Stars My Destination, learn to love and hate Gully Foyle in equal measures, and take an absolute trip throughout the entire closing chapter!!! An absolute trip!!!
“Gully Foyle is my name
And Terra is my nation
Deep space is my dwelling place
The stars my destination “
Edward Gerard Brophy