THE STARS MY DESTINATION by Alfred Bester
A fast paced almost frantic story, Gully Foyle’s transformation from a worthless nobody and only survivor on board the ship Nomad into a savior of humanity is a tragic story but at the same time one that enthralls almost from the first word on the page.
I have read The Stars My Destination many times over the years and each time I find something else to enjoy and learn from this book. I think a classic is one that has this hold and continues to teach while at the same time allowing you to enjoy the story and lose yourself in its elements.
Trapped and marooned on the spaceship Nomad, Gully Foyle has survived for over 170 days on the stores left on the ship and by himself is slowly going mad. When his sister ship Vorga seems to pass him by after he releases flares to call her attention, he completely goes off the deep end and his new ambition is to obtain revenge on those who left him to die.
Cobbling together a means of moving the damaged Nomad, Foyle is “rescued” by the inhabitants of the Asteroid Belt. Here he is tattooed by the people who have degenerated with a mask and the name Nomad emblazoned over his face.
Escaping from these people, he is able to make his way to the Inner Planets – Earth – where he is sent to a hospital to recover from his injuries. As they are unable to do anything about the tattooing of his face, his “mask” is left intact and in the early part of the book no one knows him without this horrible disfigurement.
In the Universe of Gully Foyle – Humanity has learned how to teleport themselves – with people having varying and differing skills in this ability (the maximum distance being 1000 miles at a time), women are once again kept segregated and secure “for their own protection”.
This ability – called Jaunting – after its discoverer has other implications also and the structure of of society as a whole has changed entirely. Property is handled differently and with anyone able to “port” from place to place simply by knowing their arrival and destination locations security has had to be radically altered in many different ways also. Not least of these is the way in which prisons are structured as the only way to keep prisoners confined is by keeping them in the dark without any access to to the outside world at all.
The only restriction right now on Jaunting is that it is restricted to the surface of the Planet. Any attempts to Jaunt from one planet to another have always met with failure and death.
Gully Foyle in hospital discovers his ability to Jaunt and starts his investigation into the owners of theVorga – the ship that left him stranded all alone when it could have rescued him.
Eventually staging a daring raid on the ship itself he is captured and sent to Gouffre Martel, a complex of underground caves in the Pyrenees. These are used as a prison, where the inmates live in total darkness, unable to form a picture of their location in order to jaunte.
Managing to escape from Gouffre Martel, Foyle realizes that he has to return toNomad to obtain the treasure that is contained on that ship and with this treasure finally complete his revenge on the Vorga and its true masters.
One of the all time classics of the genre, The Stars My Destination is an excellent read and one that I would urge you to explore and enjoy. It will keep you interested from page one if you’re like me, up till late at night to see how it finishes!