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The Stars My Destination, by Alfred Bester

Second paragraph of third chapter:
"Half and half, ma'am."
Weirdly, I had never actually read this (though thought I had). I got an electronic copy as part of a humble bundle in February, and then found I had a paper copy on the shelf, with a business-class boarding pass for a plane flight from Zagreb to Frankfurt on October 30 of an unspecified year stuck in the back cover. I was a bit puzzled - I have flown business-class seldom enough that I can still remember almost every occasion that it's happened - and checking back through my records I realised that it must have been when I was guest speaker at an OSCE conference in Zagreb on 29-30 October 2003; I dimly recall a late night with old friends at the hotel bar, wondering fuzzily why we couldn't see the towering Intercontinental from the top floor of our hotel (embarrassingly, this turned out to be because we were actually staying in the Intercontinental which had meantime changed names to the Opera; it's now the Westin) and a sleepy journey home in the course of which I must have had the book on my lap unopened save for tucking the boarding pass into it. In that case, it must have been literally the last book I acquired before I started book-blogging on Livejournal in November 2003.

It's far ahead of its time (which was 1957). Bester is sometimes described as the fore-runner of cyberpunk; but he also reaches back to The Count of Monte Cristo, and to various other tropes. Gully Foyle's story is a compelling push for revenge, in a society where the availability of instant transportation to everyone has actually reinforced the control of resources and society by the rich and powerful. The prose is effervescent and intestinal. It's a great piece of writing, but Gully Foyle is a deeply unpleasant protagonist and a rapist - that last point being probably the single element that has dated most badly. Still, I'm glad I finally got around to reading it.

This turned out to be the most popular unread book I had acquired so far this year, and also the most popular unread sf book. Next on those lists respectively are The Dinner, by Herman Koch (recommended by Lisa from work), and Earthlight, by Arthur C. Clarke.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Gregory Hullender
Jul. 24th, 2016 05:21 pm (UTC)
Earthlight was one of my favorite Arthur C. Clarke stories as a kid. I reread it within the past year and was pleased to find it just as enjoyable 40 some years later.
Jul. 24th, 2016 06:15 pm (UTC)
The Stars My Destination is one of my favorite old SF books, and is close to unique in having such an unlikeable person as the protagonist (although he grows a hell of a lot by the end of the book) and still making me enjoy reading it more than once.
Jul. 24th, 2016 07:43 pm (UTC)
The ending of the TV version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (not counting the comics continuation) strongly reminded me of this.
Jul. 25th, 2016 11:28 pm (UTC)
I both love and loath Stars, for mostly the reasons you give. It's both weirdly prescient and feels a lot more modern than it's actual publication date, but also with horrific gender politics and a weird view of how people and women would react to the teleport ability.

I got one of the Gollancz Masterworks editions[1], a really nice print, but I can never bring myself to reread it because I know I'll concentrate more on the problems than the brilliance.

And I probably ought to get around to reading the Count of Monte Cristo at some point just so I can spot all the references or nods towards it people seem to make…

[1] Weirdly, the two I bought together were this and Cities In Flight, which James reviewed this week as well by random happenstance.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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