I’ve been really wanting to read more, and I have. I’ve read probably 5-6 books this year alone, which is a fair bit less than I hoped for, it’s still more than I have in recent years.
Being a writer myself, reading is essential to my craft. I can’t hope to get better at what I do if I never experience how others do it.
So in my quest for learning, I wanted to write reviews for the books that I read so that I can attempt to better understand them and apply what makes them work, and what doesn’t, to my own writing.
Last night I finished “The Stars My Destination” (Affiliate Link) by Alfred Besters.
Now I’ll admit upfront, as a self-proclaimed Sci-Fi author, there are many “Classics” such as this that I haven’t read yet (shame shame I know) but the good news is I’ll be going through them and sharing what I think with you along the way!
The Stars My Destination follows Gully (Gulliver) Foyle as on his endless and relentless hunt for those who passed him by and left him stranded after his ship was attacked by outer planetary raiders.
I’ll admit it took me a bit to get into this one. It tends to jump around and introduce a lot of characters in the beginning and it takes it a while to really get to the main story line, but when it does I found it quite enjoyable.
Besters is a master at world building. While this book is rather short (some 230 pages) he’s able to craft a deep and complex world full of characters and interesting technology.
Set in the 24th century, mankind has discovered how to “Jaunte” or instantly teleport. This seems almost trivial to the story at first, providing a quick and easy way for Foyle and others to travel without getting bogged down by logistics, but it does play a deeper and more meaningful role towards the end of the book which I appreciated. It’s always good to see little things come full circle in a story.
To me, the most interesting and compelling thing about the novel is Foyle himself.
We’re given no backstory to him. No flashbacks, nothing besides the here and now of the story and how it molds and get’s molded by his actions. This is a refreshing take for me since slow and interrupting backstory are normally the parts of a book that bog down the most for me so it was nice to have the story keep a steady pace forward.
Foyle goes through a huge transformation throughout the story, starting as a gutter mouth bastard (he does some truly terrible things on his crusade for vengeance) to the most sought after man in the solar system (In good and bad ways). Its actually quite remarkable. Besters takes this empty and terrible man and slowly and carefully transforms him, teaches him, allows him to grow. He gets smarter, better spoken, and genuinely grows as a character while somehow still retaining a ruthless blood lust towards his final goal.
That’s the kicker though, is that while Foyle grows, or appears to grow, his mission is unfaltering. He is a man cursed by revenge and no matter the good, bad, and indifferent he may do, at his core his mission is absolute. This provides a strange yet oddly satisfying dynamic throughout the story. As we see Foyle slowly work towards his goal, we see him take steps forward as well as steps back. He surprises us with his advancements and disappoints us with his degradation.
While Foyle himself is a well realized and interesting character, the ones around him unfortunately are not.
Many of the supporting characters in the story serve as nothing more than plot devices to get Foyle onto the next part of his mission, and while they can be interesting at times, more often than not, we’re left feeling a stark contrast between them and our main character to the point where I gave up trying to remember who was who when this cast of characters finally converge towards the end of the novel since the “who” of who they were didn’t really effect the outcome of the story.
The other gripe I have is a trope I see in books and movies all the time that while compelling, tends to totally rip me out of the story completely.
*Mild Spoilers Ahead*
Towards the last lap of the novel Foyle meets a woman at a gala who is the daughter of a very wealthy and prestigious business man. He is entranced by her and immediately falls in love with her. When a disaster interrupts the gala, Foyle attempts to rescue her and bring her to safety. They chat for a bit before the disaster is over and Foyle must leave.
Slightly later in the story, the two meet again and the beautiful woman is madly in love with Foyle.
I’m all for love interests. I can even believe love at first sight and all that. But when two characters maybe have two pages of dialog between them before confessing their eternal love to each other, it really brings me out of the story.
Small gripes aside I generally enjoyed this book and felt that the final payoff was interesting and one that I honestly didn’t see coming. I enjoyed Foyle’s story and how he grew and changed on his mission and learned a good bit about how to develop drive and motivation in my characters.
The Stars My Destination – 8/10