The Stars My Destination

D_Davis

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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.
It's one of the great endings.
 

Connavar

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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.
Thats why i dont judge Gully too harshly, he went as you say from human animal to what he was in the begining. The rape or his revenge acts they were maybe not understandable but he wasnt regular human then.

He wasnt simple vile character to me. Its one of those books i must re-read to referesh my memory of a powerful novel, rare character.
 

D_Davis

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And I hope you know, Vladimir, I am not defending the act of rape. I am simply looking at Gully Foyle in literary terms and examining his character. Rape happens in life, and it is sometimes depicted in books and cinema. It is not something to be cheered for, or to be applauded. However, it can shed massive amounts of light onto a character's persona.

I don't think Gully is cool, or edgy because he raped a woman. However, his actions define him. And the way he is written is interesting and unforgettable.

I think this is harder for some to grasp because it is an unusual thing for a protagonist of a genre novel, especially one that bridged the gaps between the golden age and the new wave, to do. We are accustomed to our protagonists to do good things, and Gully spits in the face of that tradition. Bester spat in a lot of faces with his novel, which is why it is so powerful, and why it is often argued that it is the greatest SF novel of all time. Love him or hate him, Gully Foyle is a powerful presence.
 

Vladimir

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D_D, it doesn't cross my head for a second that anyone on this forum is condoning rape, we are obviously discussing a fictional character of a powerful and controversial book.
The very reason I started this discussion is because the book didn't leave me indifferent and I am very curious to the opinion of the people who have read it. This doesn't mean I shouldn't challenge it and to revere the holy cow.

IMHO, just spitting in the face doesn't necessarily make any work a good one - but that's my opinion. Bukowsky or Pasolini, for instance, are revered by many people, just because they gathered a lot of controversy at what they did... which does not mean that their works were any good.
A more recent example, the graphic book "The Walking Dead" uses very elaborate "shocking" scenes - such as one character having sex a zombie of nine-year old - which might be considered very bold by some. I think it's shocking for the sake of shocking and doesn't have any value beyond that (read: gratuitous).
I am yet undecided whether the rape of "Tiger, Tiger" belongs to this category or there's more to it.
 

Vladimir

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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.D., that's a great argument and, I agree, that could have been Bester's intention. It's true, Gully is changing every dozen of pages or so, and he starts as virtually a no-being and ends as a demi-god. There're a twenty pages or so where I can see him as an emphatic human being (starting with his intent of giving in to the justice and endig just before he throws his first bar of PyRE into the crowd)
 

j d worthington

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Thank you for the comments. I'd like to add one other point I should have mentioned in my earlier post: I think that there is a very strong difference between a person redeeming him- or herself, and redeeming a wrong action. Many of Gully's actions are beyond redemption; Gully himself, I feel, was not (though he was amazingly close for such an ultimately optimistic novel). And I think it was very important for him to give PyrE to the people, as it made several points Bester was aiming at.

On the title... I prefer The Stars My Destination because, while Tyger, Tyger is rather more poetic (and it's a great nod to Blake), it fixes Gully's story in the beginning, when that is really what he was. The Stars My Destination, on the other hand, looks forward to what Gully -- and, by extension, all of us -- have the potential to become.
 
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soulsinging

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I can't say I entirely share Ian's jaundiced view of The Demolished Man, which is set in a future where murder has been abolished due to telepathic policing, and features a man who manages to commit the ultimate crime despite this.
Sounds kind of like Minority Report...

Anyway, I loved TSMD but agree the better title is Tiger, Tiger. It was fast-paced in a way too little SFF is anymore and had a fascinating mystery at its heart with an equally intriguing character. Things felt a bit rushed and over the top at the end (shades of 2001 for me in a sense), but I suppose it was necessary for what he was trying to say.

He also reminded me of PKD in the way he can do more with a few imaginative details/ideas (eg. mood machine or the mazes to protect against jaunting) than most writers can do with chapters and chapters describing every minute sight of every scene. In a sense for every castle/coat/meal GRRM describes, most of the details he gives are things we'd immediately forget or ignore in real life and are treated the same way in the books. PKD and Bester give us the things we would notice and treat the rest of their worlds as normal and lived in as their characters would, allowing the reader to fill in the blanks. I find this much more effective.

I will probably check out Demolished Man at some point, if for no other reason than I enjoyed this, I enjoy mysteries (even if the resolutions are farfetched, raymond chandler), and it's short enough to be worth a shot.

Those bothered by the rape scene in this book should never go anywhere near Jim Thompson's Killer Inside Me... holy cow! They may have been contemporaries actually?
 

Anthony G Williams

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I thought I'd posted my blog review of TSMD in this thread, but as I haven't, here it is (from three years ago):

TSMD was first published in parts in 1956/7 and may also be found under the title 'Tiger! Tiger!'. I first read it in the 1960s and it blew me away, becoming established after a couple of re-reads as my favourite SF novel. I hadn't read it for decades, and picked up my much-worn 1965 Panther paperback with some apprehension that it wouldn't live up to my memories. I needn't have worried. This is a dazzling firework display of a story, packed full of original ideas and maintaining a ferocious pace to an unexpected, dramatic and entirely satisfying conclusion.

The author starts with a five-page prologue to set the scene: a 24th Century in which humanity has spread throughout the Solar System, and in which the Outer Satellites are in conflict with the Inner Planets. At the start of the century, a man named Jaunte accidentally discovered teleportation – the ability to transport himself from one place to another by an effort of will – and soon almost everyone was "jaunting". There turned out to be a 1,000-mile limit, though, and no-one could jaunte through space.

Prologues are out of fashion these days, the current orthodoxy being to plunge the reader straight into the action, but I am frankly rather tired of having to read the first few chapters of a story before I can work out what's going on. Bester uses his prologue to outline the kind of society, much altered by jaunting, in which his story takes place, and his book is all the better for it.

We are introduced to the principal character, Gulliver Foyle, as he struggles for survival on board a wrecked spaceship near the Asteroid Belt. An uneducated man of limited ability but great potential, he is only spurred to take the action needed to save himself by the casual spurning of his plight by a passing spaceship. The rest of the story concerns his ferocious battle for revenge against those who abandoned him, a battle which sees him ruthlessly using and abusing all those around him in order to claw his way to the wealth and fame he needs to achieve his aims. In the process, he educates himself, learns to control his rage, acquires a conscience and finally realises his undreamed-of potential.

It has rightly been said that any modern author would spread the ideas scattered liberally through TSMD over a fat trilogy, but Bester packs them all into 195 pages. Jaunting, one-way telepathy, a woman who can only see in the infrared, the interrogation techniques of the Nightmare Theatre and the Megal Mood, a rewired nervous system to provide blinding speed and an automatic "Commando killer" programme, exotic drugs, sympathetic blocks which automatically kill people if they try to reveal secrets, an explosive of almost unimaginable power which can be detonated only by thought, and a vivid account of the confused senses of synaesthesia. The settings include a lost asteroid colony made up of descendents of scientists who regard scientific formulae as religious texts, a prison deep within the Gouffre Berger cave system, an Earth dominated by vast corporations whose hereditary leaders form the nobility, and the Martian base of a Sklotsky sect whose members voluntarily have their nervous systems severed. It's all here, wrapped up in an exhilarating ride of a story. For me, the only jarring note which showed the age of the novel was the inclusion of a character so poisoned by radiation that no-one else could survive near him, while he remained healthy.

Critics may argue that modern novels use their greater length and slower pace to include much better characterisation, but in doing so they lose the relentless, unputdownable drama of TSMD. Science fiction is essentially about new ideas and concepts, about stretching the imagination, and TSMD delivers this better than any other novel I know.

Bester (1913-1987) had previously won a Hugo award for 'The Demolished Man' (1953), a novel about telepathy which, although good by most standards, doesn't really compare with TSMD. However, he didn't write another novel after TSMD for nearly twenty years, and nothing he subsequently wrote achieved the same dramatic impact. This is disappointing, but it can't detract from his achievement in writing what is still, in my opinion (and that of many well-known SF authors), the greatest of the classics of the genre. Anyone with an interest in science fiction should read this book, at least once!
 

Vladimir

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Thanks a lot for all your comments. In no small part thanks to them, I was unable to put the book out of my mind. I willingly admit that my perspective on it has changed greatly during these couple of days. To be continued :)
 

J-WO

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