Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

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.
Tags: bookblog 2016, writer: alfred bester
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