The Stars My Destination

j d worthington

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I’m basically in Ian’s camp on this one. I liked Stars a lot and was disappointed in The Demolished Man. Extro/The Computer Connection sounds interesting.
It is interesting, and has some very good stuff to it; but, like all of Bester's later novels, it doesn't hold up well as a whole, and falls apart toward the end.....
 

Razorback

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That's too bad. I'll still keep an eye out for it in the second-hand shops, but finding it will not be a priority.


 

j d worthington

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That's too bad. I'll still keep an eye out for it in the second-hand shops, but finding it will not be a priority.
Yes, it starts well; in fact, the first two-thirds of the book are really quite good. Then toward the end, he just seemed to completely falter. Much the same happened with Golem100 -- some absolutely brilliant work in there, but the ending is... not so much bad, as extremely weak, after such a superb performance in other ways. The Deceivers had some wonderful ideas, but just never seemed to get off the ground -- for me, at any rate.

Don't know if you've read his short work, but the collections of his short stories are full of fascinating material, including some of the best and most original sf of the time; they really do stand up quite well even now; some of them have not dimished in power one iota in the intervening 40-50 years....
 

Razorback

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As always j.d., thanks for the feedback. Besides Stars and The Demolished Man, The Deceivers is the only other one of his that I’ve read. That one also fell flat in my view. I don’t read short stories very often, but I’ll keep an eye out for his. I don’t dislike short stories per se; I know I’m missing a lot of good material. I just prefer novels. If I ever get through the bulk of the novels in my TBR pile, which won’t be anytime soon, I’ll probably read more short stories.


 

Quokka

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Spoilers

I just finished this and thought it was simply brilliant, so much gets packed into such a short novel that, like Gully, you never really seem to pause for a breath.

I'm not sure if I'm a fan of the graphics/text used during the altered states part but it did make the reading more disorientating/disjointed which I suppose was the intent and it was all worth it for Robin's directions later and I thought ending it where it did, moments before Gully woke up was pretty much perfect.
 

Connavar

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I just finished this and thought it was simply brilliant, so much gets packed into such a short novel that, like Gully, you never really seem to pause for a breath.

I'm not sure if I'm a fan of the graphics/text used during the altered states part but it did make the reading more disorientating/disjointed which I suppose was the intent and it was all worth it for Robin's directions later and I thought ending it where it did, moments before Gully woke up was pretty much perfect.
I thought it was brilliant too, it was such a ride. I liked Gully so much that i couldnt help but root for the guy even when he did some really questionable things.

I think only hope Bester did several other smart,interesting sf worlds with characters as interesting as Gully.
 

gully_foyle

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Spoilers

I'm not sure if I'm a fan of the graphics/text used during the altered states part but it did make the reading more disorientating/disjointed which I suppose was the intent and it was all worth it for Robin's directions later and I thought ending it where it did, moments before Gully woke up was pretty much perfect.
Bester loved doing this sort of stuff with text and graphics. In Golem 100 he over did it. I wouldn't recommend that book.
 

j d worthington

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Bester loved doing this sort of stuff with text and graphics. In Golem 100 he over did it. I wouldn't recommend that book.
I don't know that I'd agree that he overdid it there... rather that the final portion of the novel was simply so nebulous that what should have been an integral part of the storytelling became all there was... up to that point, it worked quite well, I thought....

Unfortunately, Bester's best novels were his earlier ones, The Stars My Destination and The Demolished Man (though there are many who dislike the latter these days). All his later novels are less tightly written, more prone to getting out of control, and simply lacking coherency as a novel (or a story, for that matter), especially toward the end. They peter out into a vague nothingness, whereas his earlier novels had strong endings which brought both plotlines and underlying themes together....

He did, however, write a fair number of rather good (and some very good) short stories, as well....
 

dask

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There is little I can add to this thread, and nothing meaningful, but even though I never read The Stars My Destination, I did read The Demolished Man about thirty years ago, thoroughly enjoyed it, and don't understand why it seems to be held with such low regard lately. :confused:
 

Vladimir

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I have just done re-reading "Tiger, Tiger" (I'm with those who think that "The Stars My Destination" is a lame title). I've also read it about 20 years ago and the only things that stuck in my memory were the rape and slo-mo.

I still can't live with the rape. I can't root for a rapist. I'm not sure if that was intentional on behalf of the author, or that rape was not *such* a taboo as it is today back in the 50ies. I mean, it is portrayed as an evil act, but for me it's more than that, it's an immediate cross on the character. Everything else (and it is incredibly, kind of Peckinpah-violent, book) pales in comparison.

Well, maybe except for the ending. As much as I hated Folly as an animal, I hated him even more as an intellectual. Throwing the most powerful explosive substance in the universe all around the world to "give common people the responsibility" is a supreme idiocy.

My last problem is with the whole Olivia Presteign arc. I simply didn't buy it. She did not convince me at any moment. People do hideous things in real life, and Folly is a very convincing character in his monstrosity, but she belongs to comic-book villain league.

Now, it may seem that I ddin't enjoy the book, but I actually did. It is very hard to put down from the first page: Folly stranded in space is one of the best scenes ever written. The rest of his journey is very claustrophobic (considering the whole teleportation background, I find it very ironic). And it doesn't leave you indifferent... it's angry, dark, disgusting, powerful, desperate, moody... the lasting impression is that you've been hit repeatedly in the head with a blunt object.
 

Connavar

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You are not suppose to root for Gully, he was a terrible man looking for revenge. The rape was not suppose to be lived with, it was another way to show how he was the bad guy of his own story.

I barely remember the rape because he did so many other terrible things. They just melted each other in the his fierce look, character.
 

D_Davis

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Gully may be the most human of all genre characters, or at least he is the most flawed (he is most definitely my favorite literary character).

And that he represents a fresh start for a new era of human prosperity is a bold and powerful move on Bester's part.

He is not a "hero," nor is an a simple "anti-hero." He is just a man driven by his own powerful desire, and that is part of why the book is an unparalleled masterpiece.
 

Connavar

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Gully may be the most human of all genre characters, or at least he is the most flawed (he is most definitely my favorite literary character).

And that he represents a fresh start for a new era of human prosperity is a bold and powerful move on Bester's part.

He is not a "hero," nor is an a simple "anti-hero." He is just a man driven by his own powerful desire, and that is part of why the book is an unparalleled masterpiece.

Hehe big Gully fan are we :p

I like reading about Gully because flawed characters who do terrible things like he did fascinate me. You could understand him despite his actions.

Characters like him are called No-Hero, a noir term for flawed,sociopathic characters.
 

Vladimir

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At the risk of looking like a Jehovah Witness, I have to say that:

There's a difference between a flawed character and a vile character. For me, the rape puts Gullly in the latter category.

I do not see any relation between the rape he commits and Gully's all-encompassing obsession with the revenge. He does a lot of terrible things to get his revenge, some of them are understandible, some are less so, but they are consistent with his obsession. The rape doesn't fit there, it's an isolated crime committed just for the sake of committing it - he had already scared and blackmailed Robin - if anything, by forcing himself on her, Folly is making a detour from his revenge.

Let me put it this way... if Folly had smacked a random baby against the wall on his way to Vorga, would you consider that to be a fascinating feature of a flawed character or simply a gratuitous scene aimed to shock the reader?
 

D_Davis

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The rape doesn't fit there, it's an isolated crime committed just for the sake of committing it - he had already scared and blackmailed Robin - if anything, by forcing himself on her, Folly is making a detour from his revenge.
Thus solidifying his humanity, warts and all. His "quest" is all about desire, in all of its beautiful and ugly masks. Which also makes the redemption that much more powerful.
 

Vladimir

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Sorry, although you put in a very poetic way, I just can't take rape for "solidifying humanity". Besides, how can you argue that Folly redeems himself? Is this because Robin seems to have forgiven him (which I don't buy, either), because he realizes that he is a bad person (to put it mildly) or because he ends up throwing PyRE all around?
 

j d worthington

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I don't see the rape (or, for that matter, various other actions) as directly connected to his search for revenge, but rather the result of Gully Foyle being, essentially, a human animal (in the pejorative sense of that term); almost sub-human. The thing is, Gully becomes human; he evolves (almost in spite of himself) until what he was in the beginning ... and for some time thereafter ... is almost another creature entirely. He goes from a completely selfish, sociopathic monster to someone who develops a strong empathy for and faith in his fellow human beings. In some ways, he is thus related to Ben Reich of The Demolished Man, in that Reich, too, is a completely self-focused (albeit more polished and educated) individual; so much so that his own mind is blindered into misreading something, leading him to murder... a particularly vile murder, given the circumstances. In the end, like Gully, he is "demolished", deconstructed, disassembled as a personality, allowing him to begin the long climb into what he was potentially all along.

Gully is, really, both a very real, human character (complete with the sort of horrendous flaws which even very good human beings have been known to exhibit from time to time... and yes, that includes rape and murder), but also a symbolic character exemplifying the slow, gradual, and painful evolution from the animalistic to, in the end, something approaching godhood. I don't think it is any coincidence that Gully, like so many such figures, at the end of the story goes into a long sleep... to awaken at some future time as... what? It is in this growth from such a stunted creature to something holding much of what is noblest in humanity that Gully, as a character, "redeems" himself, in my view.
 

J-WO

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I'm still absolutely in awe of Bester choosing to have Foyle give the secret of PyRE to, well, everyone. It has to count as amongst the most radical and anarchic of endings in (what should be, at least) the most radical and anarchic of genres. Idiotic in real life, maybe, but by around this point TSMD has said goodbye to the memtic entirely and become wholly figurative. Poetically so.
 

gully_foyle

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Gully may be the most human of all genre characters, or at least he is the most flawed (he is most definitely my favorite literary character).
I agree!:D

I understand the sentiments about how repulsive the rape is, but I also agree that the act was an illustration of how base a creature Gully was, and that whilst I don't feel he redeemed himself, he certainly clawed his way back from this low point. I think it was an important and powerful part of his story, and keeps you from liking or forgiving him.
 
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