For all the usual sci-fi hater's reasons, I’ve never been attracted to the genre: It’s silly. It’s far-fetched. It takes itself way too seriously. But I’d read good things about Alfred Bester, who wrote some classics in the field in the 1950s. I figured that if William Gibson thought he was cool, the man might be worth a look.
Neil Gaiman’s introduction to Bester’s 1956 novel The Stars My Destination (also published as Tiger! Tiger!) says Bester “was one of the only—perhaps the only—SF writers to be revered by the old timers (`First SF’), by the radical `New Wave’ of the 1960s and early 1970s, and, in the 1980s, by the `cyberpunks.’”
That’s good. So is this:
“When he died in 1987, three years into the flowering of cyberpunk, it was apparent that the 1980s genre owed an enormous debt to Bester—and to this book in particular. ... But what makes The Stars My Destination more interesting—and ten years on, less dated—than most cyberpunk, is watching Gully Foyle become a moral creature.”So, how does the novel look so far? It's got a hell of a lot more humor than I expected, and that counts for much:
"A researcher named Jaunte set fire to his bench and himself (accidentally) and let out a yell for help with particular reference to a fire extinguisher. Who so surprised as Jaunte and his colleagues when he found himself standing alongside said extinguisher, seventy feet removed from his lab bench."He exercises that humor in paragraphs full of absurd situations, comically open-ended tales, and words that tumble over themselves in the verbal equivalent of a long, cackling tenor saxophone solo:
"Despite all efforts, no man had ever jaunted across the voids of space, although many experts and fools had tried. Helmut Grant, for one, who spent a month memorizing the co-ordinates of a jaunte stage on the moon and visualized every mile of the two hundred and forty thousand-mile trajectory from Times Square to Kepler City. Grant jaunted and disappeared. They never found him. They never found Enzio Dandridge, a Los Angeles revivalist looking for Heaven; Jacob Maria Freundlich, a paraphysicist who should have known better than to jaunte into deep space searching for metadimensions; Shipwreck Cogan, a professional seeker after notoriety; and hundreds of others, lunatic-fringers, neurotics, escapists, and suicides."I don't know if I'll finish the novel; the above is just from the prologue, after all. But I love that paragraph.
© Peter Rozovsky 2012