In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
Gully Folye is unremarkable. His Merchant Marine card tells that world that he has “Education: none. Skills: none. Merits: none. Recommendations: none.” and Gully has no real desire to change that. But then something miraculous happens: Gully manages to survive in the dead of space for 170 days and escape back to Terra with a grudge the size of Jupiter. And while he doesn’t know it, he also processes a secret that could change the world.
Suddenly, Gully Foyle has some very interesting motivations for action and some very important people should be on their guard…
It’s always fun to read a sci-fi book that was written a long time ago: Alfred Bester wrote this one in 1956 and it holds up pretty well. His futuristic ideas aren’t the typical “flying cars and talking computers” variety (although we’re already at the talking computer part… where’s my flying car?!) and are more along the lines of mankind beginning to understand more about the mind and human abilities. But, if you’re looking for hard science, you’ll be disappointed in this one.
This is more the story of drive and revenge and what it makes a person rather than “ooh, look at the shiny gadgets I made up” tale. Bester does a great job of pulling us along for a pretty hectic ride… Gully doesn’t have much down time and either do we. This is a character that you get to watch change pretty dramatically over the course of the novel and I honestly spent part of the book hating him. But then you start to think about his motivation and you begin to put yourself in his shoes and realize that his slight psychosis is probably justified. Probably.
The version that I picked up has an introduction by Neil Gaiman which is pretty good – but read it last because it’s got spoilers. And I really hate that… I think that they should make these afterwards or warn you. On the other hand, I should know better. In all actuality, I think I only picked up one small one before I realized what I was doing and moved on to the real story.
One last note on the Blake poem: the original name of this book was “Tiger! Tiger!” and if you read the book you’ll better understand the reference. I’m leaving it at that because I think this is worth picking up or borrowing if you’re interested in a quick moving story of survival and retribution (with a possible side of salvation?) set amongst a future where low tech protects the high powered and the world has been changed by the power of the human mind.
The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester, 258 pages