Sunday, 26 August 2007

Review: The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester

Reading "The Demolished Man" got me in the mood, so I reread "The Stars My Destination" on my way back home.

The central conceit of the work is human teleportation, not through technology, but through force of will, and as is a recurring theme in these reviews, a fair amount of the details of the world depicted are everyday concepts rearranged in reaction to the central conceit. What sets "The Stars My Destination" apart is the nuanced interactions, the character growth, and the continued focus on the future not only as a place for new technologies, but as a place for new states of human awareness and development.

Gully Foyle's driven journey to higher and higher levels of awareness is timeless, and his growth is always believably the result of exploration, discipline, instruction, and takes time. Gully Foyle and most of Bester's major characters are imaginative, adaptive, driven, playful, and believably flawed in both subtle and gross ways. Bester also has a fine sense of narrative. The plot does not march in lock step towards a clear ending, but does not wander aimlessly either. Each short term curve reconnects with the larger narrative in a satisfying way, and yet does not feel simplistic or contrived.

As with most rereadings, the key revelations late in the narrative are memorable enough that they color the understanding of earlier portions. Thankfully, I had forgotten enough that the work was enjoyable to revisit.

The edition I picked up (with the orange cover) had a nice introduction by Neil Gaiman, although I wish in retrospect that I had read it after the work itself, as a reasonable interpretation of the work sets up expectations and steers your own synthesis of a work. Here's hoping that the more descriptive reviews presented here aren't giving anyone unwanted preconceptions.

No comments: