Originally posted at slangards.multiply.com on Feb 26, '09
"Why? Why reach out to the stars and galaxies? What for?
"Because you're alive, sir."
- Gully Foyle in The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
Despite being a sci-fi nut since grade school, I'd never heard of Alfred Bester until I spotted this book in the bargain bin at National Bookstore, Morayta. At only P30.00, it was a steal (especially since I saw the same book in Megamall for P395.00). It's a nice paperback edition from Gollancz SF, an imprint of Orion Books in the UK, and part of the Masterworks of Science Fiction series; 10 titles by authors like Pohl, Dick, and Vonnegut. The three I found look great on my shelf...
The book stayed on my shelf for a few weeks before I finally decided to read it, but When I started, I couldn't put it down. From the book's opening lines; "This was a future of fortune and theft, pillage and rapine, culture and vice... but nobody admitted it," to the end the book speeds along at a frightening pace. The raw charisma of unambitious everyman Gully Foyle sweeps you into the story from the moment he's introduced as a nobody, a man not worth noticing, until his transcendental end.
In today's age of planned obsolescence, science fiction can become real in a matter of months. unlike most books from the 50's though, The Stars My Destination doesn't feel dated. Bester's prose encompasses many topics that go beyond gimmicky tech. His future's economic collapse due to the introduction of "jaunting" (teleportation through the power of the mind) for example, is just as plausible today as it was 60 years ago. The collapse, not the teleporting. The amorality that pervades Foyles world is also familiar; corruption and greed are universal. I feel Bester's lines are insightful and pertinent in any decade.
The Stars My Destination reads like a film noir. I can't imagine why the studios took so long to optioned it (though last I heard it was still in pre-prod for a 2012 release). Instead of Jumper (actually influenced by Bester's idea of teleportation) last year, they could have done an adaptation of this book and killed. I can just imagine the opening scene of Foyle curled up in his coffin aboard the Nomad, or the Burning Man blinking through time. Plus you could play up the revenge angle to get a great noir flick where you're rooting for the bad guy all the way home. Forget Watchmen. I want to see this on screen!