(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

This book was published between two other superb Bester novels, The Demolished Man (1953) and The Computer Connection (1975). It reflects a postwar world concerned with concentration camps, hydrogen bombs, and material wealth. It is one of the most remarkable, joyous, and brilliant books in American science fiction. Bester’s sheer energy, pyrotechnics, and inspired zaniness make for fast reading. He crams in styles and ideas, switching tone and tempo with each line. The writing shows his love for romantic (especially Byronic) poetry and heroes, for Whitmanesque wonder, and for the lean plotting of the television and radio pulps for which he wrote and that he loved. His use of cultures of excess, particularly the robber barons’ world of late nineteenth century America, makes The Stars My Destination a mosaic.

At heart a Walt Whitman democrat, Bester subscribes to the belief that all humans are uncommon, that they simply need the right events (often life-threatening crises) to make their miraculous promise flower. Crisis teaches humanity to teleport short distances, and teaches Foyle to teleport himself across space and time. Gulliver Foyle is, like his namesake, a traveler to strange, revealing places. Bester constructs those spaces beautifully: He imagines a world built socially, culturally, linguistically, and economically around teleportation. A self-declared Freudian, Bester has Dagenham use psychology to unravel the...

(The entire section is 439 words.)