Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Stars My Destination, 1956

The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester, 1956. A classic revenge story set in a distant future (just like The Demolished Man, another Bester classic, is a classic detective story in a future setting). A spaceship mechanic is left for dead by another ship and seeks revenge in a twisting, exciting story. Action galore ensues.

Bester is rightfully credited as the true proto-cyberpunk author, setting the tone for later authors such as William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, and Neal Stephenson, back in the 1950s. His work reads surprisingly up-to-date, written in a fast suspenseful way, and introducing postmodern themes such as global dominating corporations, name abberations (such as @kins and ¼maine for characters calles Atkins and Quartermaine, respectively) and chat-room shorthand (such as &c for etcetera, used by the telepaths in The Demolished Man.)

He was one hundred and seventy days dying and not yet dead. He fought for survival with the passion of a beast in a trap. He was delirious and rotting, but occasionally his primitive mind emerged from the burning nightmare of survival into something resembling sanity. Then he lifted his mute face to Eternity and muttered: "What's a matter, me? Help, you goddamn gods! Help, is all."

Blasphemy came easily to him: it was half his speech, all his life. He had been raised in the gutter school of the twenty-fifth century and spoke nothing but the gutter tongue. Of all brutes in the world he was among the least valuable alive and most likely to survive. So he struggled and prayed in blasphemy; but occasionally his raveling mind leaped backward thirty years to his childhood and remembered a nursery jingle:

   Gully Foyle is my name
   And Terra is my nation.
   Deep space is my dwelling place
   And death's my destination.

He was Gulliver Foyle, Mechanic's Mate 3rd Class, thirty years old, big boned and rough... and one hundred and seventy days adrift in space.

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