Monday, 16 May 2011

The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester

Gully Foyle is my name
And Terra is my nation
Deep space is my dwelling place
And death's my destination.

This is one bad-ass and mesmerizing science-fiction novel with a no-holds barred attitude that is irreverently entertaining as much as it is thought-provoking. At this current junction it is difficult to offer any sort of constructive literary criticism other than insubstantial assertions such as "amazing", "mind-blowing", "holy shit man this novel rocked my socks off!", "wow, just wow" and the like. Nevertheless, I might as well try and get some thoughts down even though they are haphazard.

I still can't believe this novel was written in 1956 since it contains some fairly risque subject matter including sexuality, intense violence and profanity that Bester gets away with that surely must have been controversial for its time. I'm still trying to sort out my mishmash of jumbled thoughts but suffice it to say, very few novels have floored me like this one. It's exhilarating from start to finish but it also leaves plenty to think about and raises interesting questions about human evolution and morality. The whole concept of teleportation referred to as "jaunting" is pretty damn cool and the way Bester plays with time is brilliant. There were so many unexpected surprises and even when I thought I knew where the story was heading, Bester pulls a fast one and the narrative shifts rapidly in unpredictably exciting ways. Oh yes, Gully Folly is definitely one of the most memorable characters I have ever come across; a fascinating anti-hero if there ever was one.

What separates this novel from the majority of others that I have read in the genre is that Bester can actually knows how to write a damn good story with delectable prose with plenty of intriguing subtext and scientific/philosophical thematic concerns. I much prefer a well-told and meaningful story with interesting characters and ideas rather than something with great ideas but does not have engaging writing to back it up. Bester is able to simultaneously balance both elements with adept skill and creative imagination. A sci-fi classic.

Read from April 16 to 18, 2011

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