The Stars My Destination
(Original UK Title: Tiger! Tiger!)
By Alfred Bester
First Published: June 1958
1996 US Edition Illustrated by Jack Gaughan
Review © 2009 by Stephen Roof
Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller
The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester is a novel of revenge often referred to as the science fiction version of The Count of Monte Cristo which happens to be one of my favorite “classic fiction” novels. The comparison is appropriate as the protagonists of both novels are driven by revenge at all costs. In addition, both novels are well written, have lots of exciting action, and make you think about human nature and whether the ends justify the means. While a few of the plot devices are quite similar, you needn’t worry about this science fiction novel being too similar to the Count of Monte Cristo. Bester does a terrific job of creating new surprises throughout.
The Stars My Destination was titled Tiger! Tiger! in the UK, arguably a better title since the US title implies this is a novel about space travel. In fact, most of the action takes place on Earth although it starts out in space. The protagonist, Gully Foyle, begins as an everyman working as a mechanics mate on a cargo spaceship. He is described in his personnel file as “A man of physical strength and intellectual potential, stunted by lack of ambition”. However, this ordinary man finds himself in extraordinary circumstances when he is marooned in space for 6 months under extreme hardship as the only survivor on a severely damaged spaceship. Then, when a potential rescue ship with the clearly visible name of “Vorga” obviously sees his distress signals but turns away to leave him to die, Gully is galvanized into a man with a mission, to seek vengeance.
With his newfound motivation, Gully finds that he can accomplish more than he ever imagined, starting with rescuing himself. When he reaches Earth, he is a crude wrecking machine ill equipped for the subtlety and finesse required to take on the members of high society that are behind the spaceship Vorga. Gully’s initial attempt at revenge is met with utter failure and long incarceration. But his hunger for revenge sustains him and he vows to improve himself and learn patience in order to accomplish his mission. With help from an outlaw woman and discovery of a hidden treasure, Gully finds the means to give him a chance to exact the revenge he so desperately wants. He also finds that revenge can be a double-edged sword.If you have any interest in science fiction at all, this is a must read book! It’s a fast paced barnstormer of a novel. Many other science fiction novels from the 50’s and 60’s have aged badly but this novel is an exception. The psychology, pacing, and writing quality make The Stars My Destination a novel that is not to be missed.