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Literature / The Stars My Destination

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

The Stars My Destination, aka Tiger! Tiger! note  is a science fiction novel by Alfred Bester.

It is the twenty fifth century. An age when humanity can jaunte across the world, where telepaths are, if not common, then not unheard of. An age where humanity has spread across the solar system— a golden age that no one knows they are living in. An age when conflict between the Inner Planets and the Outer Satellites is about to end the age of the Global Wars by means of the outbreak of the first Solar War.

None of this matters to Gully Foyle—the quintessential everyman, if you are convinced Humans Are Morons. No education, no skills, no ambition, just a Mechanic's Mate Third Class on the freighter Nomad, which lies crippled in the void between the planets. All he has left is a powerful will to survive, and he has, somehow, for six months when the spaceship Vorga encounters the wreck of the Nomad, sees the distress signals— and passes by, leaving him to rot.

Now Gully Foyle has a pressing reason to do more than simply survive, as he had done on Nomad and all his life before hand. Now, he's headed back to Terra, and he will have his revenge, no matter who stands in his way...

The book's gritty Anti-Hero and experimental typography made it a much-imitated prototype for the New Wave Science Fiction movement that sprung up a few years later.

This book contains examples of:

  • The Alcatraz: Foyle spends a long time in a deep underground prison which he spends mostly in solitary confinement, with no sources of stimulation.
  • Anti-Hero: Oh, is Foyle ever one. He verges on being a Villain Protagonist for most of the book.
  • Anti-Villain: Dagenham
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: The Presteigns, one of the new breed of corporate nobility, are quite fond of saying that they love blood and money.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: One possible interpretation of the whole "Burning Man'' episode. A future version of Robin Wednesbury (now Robin Yeovil) seems to telepathically contact Foyle in a bizarre, psychedelic mindscape. It's possible that humanity doesn't end up using the PyrE to destroy themselves and instead ascend.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The reason We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future — this is how the super rich demonstrate their status. While anyone can jaunte, status is shown by taking mundane transportation, on the logic that you're rich enough to spend money on things you don't need and important enough to make people wait for you. Everyone who's anyone has servants who won't jaunte, specifically because they can afford to pay for a butler instead of jaunting over to the pantry to grab what they want and jaunting back. Presteign actually has a servant who does nothing but operate an antique telephone switchboard in his study. One huge gala has a cavalcade of bigwigs arriving in increasingly old fashioned ways, starting with helicopters and cars, and ending with Gully's grand entrance in a steam-powered train — while his employees lay down the tracks in front of him.
  • Blessed with Suck: Robin is a "Telesend", meaning she can't read people's minds, but can broadcast her thoughts, which often has embarrassing results. The only positive side is that she is capable of controlling the ability enough that she can select who hears the thoughts, allowing a degree of telepathic communication which she finds useful in her job as a teacher.
  • Bullet Time: Foyle's cybernetic enhancements let him beat up some "Jack-Jaunters" at such speed that, from his perspective, they were falling in slow motion as he struck them down and light seemed to redshift.
  • Byronic Hero: Foyle
  • Cargo Cult: The Scientific People, who are a Cargo Cult IN SPACE!
  • Character Development: Gully Foyle goes through several stages of this throughout the novel, going from a blank cypher with no ambitions, desires or reasons to exist whatsoever; to a traumatised survivor; to a vicious animal filled with nothing but hate and the desire for vengeance lashing out at whoever gets in his way; to a cool-headed and sophisticated schemer and manipulator carefully targeting his enemies; to a guilt-filled atoner seeking a way to somehow atone for all the monstrous things he's done; until he finally becomes the next Messiah.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Foyle inflicts this on the people connected to the Vorga, and it's especially grisly when he realizes that they are implanted with an Involuntary Suicide Mechanism... which Foyle gets around by cutting a man's heart out and keeping him on full life support (and in agony) while he interrogates him.
  • Corporate Samurai: Sheffield is basically a proto-example of this Cyberpunk type.
  • Cyberpunk: Although published in 1956, some three decades before Cyberpunk emerged, the book has many examples of the tropes common in cyberpunk—the antihero, the mysterious female thief, the intrigue of the multinational companies, the scientific McGuffin and cybernetically boosted reflexes most obvious amongst them. This is not entirely a coincidence: cyberpunk pioneer William Gibson has called The Stars My Destination his favourite novel.
  • Cyborg: Foyle spends a whole lot of money to get augmented into "... an extraordinary fighting machine" with transistors and transformers buried in muscle and bone.
    • At one point he goes against a bunch of Martian commandos who have similar augments AND military training on top of it. He barely escapes with his life.
  • Dark Messiah: Foyle is one of these at the end. He spreads the MacGuffin all over the world, which is Made of Explodium and can be really easily set off. He gives people the chance not to mess up, but if Humans Are Bastards, the world will go kaboom.
  • Deadly Environment Prison: Everyone can teleport unless lobotomized or drugged, so criminals are usually kept in a location they don't know. You are welcome to Tele-Frag yourself whenever you want.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Jaunting has caused the upper class to once again view women as property which must be protected.
  • Determinator: Nothing will stop Gully Foyle from having his revenge. Nothing.
  • Die or Fly: How the first jaunter discovered his ability. Also how Gully Foyle escapes the wreck of the Nomad.
  • "Double, Double" Title: This book was also published under the title Tiger, Tiger!.
  • Driving Question: Why did the Vorga to abandon Foyle to die? They were illegally transporting refugees. Not only that, the "cargo" were Thrown Out the Airlock to keep from getting caught by Immigration on the other end. So even if they'd picked Foyle up, they'd have had to kill him anyway once he found out. Who specifically ordered the crew of the Vorga to abandon Foyle to die? That's a doozy. Olivia Presteign. And she gave Foyle the Driving Questions because she admired his determination and hoped the quest would prove them no different - determined to punish a Crapsack World for failing to care for their fates; his to be abandoned in space, hers to be a blind trophy wife.
  • Facial Markings: The Scientific People cover their faces in tattoos, which are described as hideous and similar to those of the Maori. They tattoo Gully Foyle's face while he's unconscious, which he loathes and makes him an outcast once he returns to society. The swirling designs are frequently compared to tiger markings. Once Gully gets them removed, they still flare up with blood when he becomes emotional, forcing him to become cold and calculating to avoid blowing his cover.
  • Failed Future Forecast: Russia is still the USSR. In at least one part of the book, Stalingrad gets mentioned.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Gully goes from the most insignificant cog in the machine to one of the few who truly lives outside its control.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: The character Jisbella, or as she's more commonly called, "Jiz."
  • Hulk Speak: Foyle, and in fact most of the lower class, speak in a dialect that's a lot like this.
  • Humans Are Psychic in the Future: in the setting, "jaunting" is a learned skill and random people simply developed telepathy out of nowhere.
  • Illegal Religion: Religious observance has been outlawed, leading somewhat unsurprisingly to underground religions. People who take part in such things are normally viewed as something akin to sexual deviants:
    "Filthy pictures, signore? Cellar Christians, kneeling, praying, singing psalms, kissing cross? Very naughty. Very smutty, signore. Entertain your friends ... Excite the ladies."
  • I'll Kill You!: "You pass me by. You leave me rot like a dog. You leave me die, Vorga ... Vorga-T:1339. No. I get out of here, me. I follow you, Vorga. I find you, Vorga. I pay you back, me. I rot you. I kill you, Vorga. I kill you filthy."
  • Inexplicably Identical Individuals: Mr. Presto. Not inexplicably, though, as the narration mentions they're all given extensive cosmetic surgery to look identical.
  • Karma Houdini: Foyle himself, who rapes a woman towards the start of the novel and basically spends most of the novel trying to kill people. He is treated as humanity's saviour and a messianic figure at the end...
  • Literary Allusion Title: The novel's alternate title, Tiger! Tiger!, from the William Blake poem.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: As a means of interrogating Gully Foyle, they put him on a set where actors tell him he is a corporate noble suffering amnesia.
  • Meaningful Name: Many of the characters are named after British towns and cities.
  • Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex: After Jisbella reveals to Foyle that she's in a relationship with Dagenham, he tries to ask how that could be possible, given that Dagenham is a Walking Wasteland. Soon afterward, the reader sees how things work. Dagenham and Jisbella can have sex during his "safe" periods, and after that, they go to separate beds that are separated by a 3-inch layer of lead-impregnated glass allowing them to see each other but preventing Jisbella from being exposed to Dagenham's radioactivity.
  • Marked Change: Gully Foyle's facial tattoos turn into this after he has them removed. Scar tissue has more capillaries than un-scarred skin, so when his heart rate rises, they fill with blood and cause the tattoo shapes to reemerge, this time in red.
  • Master of Disguise: One of the secret police characters pursuing Foyle. It helps that they have technology in the future that allows him to artificially add about 40 pounds to his weight.
  • Master of Your Domain: Foyle learns biofeedback and yoga from an "old fakir" to master, among other things, his body's blush response. Very important, as his enemies are aware of his tattoos, and even after having them removed, the scars flush when he's stressed.
  • McGuffin: PyrE is one of the reasons that everyone with a bit of interest in what happens to the Inner Planets is chasing Gully Foyle across every corner of their territory.
  • Meaningful Name: 'Gully' is short for Gulliver...and both characters follow similar development arcs right down to becoming reclusive misanthropes at the end of their respective stories.
  • Mega-Corp: Corporations have evolved into a sort of neo-nobility, and hold just as much influence as the royalty of old.
  • Merchant Prince: Businessmen like Presteign of Presteign have so much power that they essentially are the government, and their family names are treated as titles.
  • Painting the Medium: Foyle's spacetime jaunte, while he's suffering from synesthesia, is done with text illustrated in strange styles.
  • Phlebotinum: PyrE— a psychically activated explosive that's even more powerful, gram for gram, than plutonium.
  • Psmith Psyndrome: The capitalized E in PyrE is important.. but still silent.
  • Psychic Teleportation: Pretty much everybody. Those who cannot jaunte usually become part of the dregs of society.
    • As said in its prologue, as a description of "jaunting":
      Teleportation...transportation of oneself through space by an effort of the mind alone
    • Special classes are held for those who have lost their ability due to trauma but still have the potential.
    • People are rated by the distance they can jaunte, creating an informal caste system.
    • Jaunting is a personal thing; you can teleport with as much as you can carry, but no more. "Sorry, not even the ladies will arrive naked."
    • A person's ability can be temporarily negated by concussion or drugs.
    • Since both the current location and destination must be known, it is possible to imprison people in elaborate mazes. They are kept in the dark to keep them from memorizing the layout and isolated to keep them from cooperating. Despairing prisoners may chance a "Blue Jaunte", a blind teleport that rarely ends well. Contrariwise, one can make a location safe (from jaunte attacks, at least) by enclosing it in a maze.
    • In extreme cases, a criminal's ability may be surgically removed. This has the effect of removing them from society, as one who cannot jaunte is essentially casteless.
  • Recycled In Space: The Count of Monte Cristo
  • Rousing Speech: Foyle's final tirade to the mob — though he has no idea if they will ever get the point.
  • Secret Identity: Foyle pretends to be an Upper-Class Twit in his Fourmyle identity, roving around with his "Four-Mile Circus".
  • Secret Police: Central Intelligence is quite obviously this. They even have a secret language that is called...the Secret Speech.
  • Sense Freak: Inverted with the Skoptsy. Played straight with the Synth-Disease sufferers, who get infected with non lethal but debilitating illnesses for the experience of both being sick (almost all serious diseases have been cured by this point) and being doted on by beautiful nurses (male and female)
  • Skip the Anesthetic: After Gully and Jisbella escape from prison, they go to a Back-Alley Doctor to have his Embarrassing Tattoo bleached from his face so that he's less recognizable by the authorities. Since the two have just had a nasty argument, she puts up money for the procedure but not the anesthetic. Eventually though, she can't stand his pain and gives in and pays the extra money.
  • Something Only They Would Say
  • Space Is an Ocean: Foyle is an astronaut but is described as a sailor— this is probably at least in part because of the Recycled In Space aspect.
  • Space Isolation Horror: This happens briefly to Gully Foyle at the beginning. The trauma of the experience is so pivotal to his character development and his main motivation for the rest of the book.
  • Super-Speed: Foyle eventually has his body upgraded with various functions, including being able to think and move five times faster than normal humans. Notably, it doesn't give him Super-Toughness, so he has to avoid accidentally bumping into anything while super speed is engaged—especially other people who also possess this ability. (His one brief skirmish with some Martian commandos resembles a sped-up game of touch football, in which an actual collision would be messily fatal to both parties.)
  • Tech Marches On: Modern tattoo removal techniques are far more sophisticated and effective than what's presented in the book. The book implies that tattooing is something of a lost art on Earth, which may explain why Foyle couldn't just get laser surgery. (Not to mention that the book was published in 1957, three years before the first laser was even built!)
  • Teleport Interdiction: Anti-teleport security measures include turning headquarters and homes into elaborate manipulable mazes. You literally can't teleport unless you know where you are and where the destination is. Attempting to teleport if you don't will just fail to work or lead to disappearance or death.
  • Theme Naming: Presteign, Dagenham and Sheffield are all named after towns in Great Britain. Bester got the names out of a phone book.
    • Presteigne is a village in Powys in Wales.
    • Dagenham is a town in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham.
    • Sheffield is a large city in Yorkshire.
    • Yeovil is a town in Dorset.
  • They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!: Inverted. Apparently naming conventions in the corporate aristocracy follow those of the Scottish clans. Presteign constantly reminds people to call him "Presteign" and not "Mr. Presteign," because he is the head of his family.
  • This Loser Is You: As noted above, the book's idea of an "average man" is a pathetic piece of work. (You can hardly call Gully "average" after the Vorga incident.)
  • Time Stands Still: While using the Commando boosts, normal events appear to happen in slow motion.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Goes from a living object to relentless killing machine to effectively transcendent through the course of the novel, all because some passersby decided not to rescue him.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Near the very end of the book, Gully essentially gains enlightenment after the "Burning Man" episode and when he returns he is a completely changed man whose rage has been extinguished. He gives a sermon to a crowd about how everyone is better than they think they are, before realizing he isn't getting through to them. Last we see of him, he is in contemplation, trying to figure out how to convey his revelations to the masses.
  • Virtual-Reality Interrogation: There is an attempt to get information from the protagonist by simulating for him a reality where he is rich and happy, and his adventures are All Just a Dream. He spots A Glitch in the Matrix (his own reflection) right before talking. (His false identity in the simulation eventually becomes the basis for the one he assumes to carry out his revenge.)
  • Walking Wasteland: Dagenham. Mildly subverted in that he can avoid causing damage if he limits his interactions with the world outside his radiation-proof chamber. Because of Alan Moore's love for this book, he became the basis of Dr. Manhattan.
  • Wham Line: "She says Olivia. Olivia Presteign. Olivia Presteign. Olivia Presteign."
  • Whoopi Epiphany Speech: A version of this at the end. Gully was once a poor, uneducated sap, but now he's become enlightened and tells the unwashed masses that they too can Dare to Be Badass:
    "You got the most in you, and you use the least. You hear me, you? Got a million in you and spend pennies. Got a genius in you and think crazies. Got a heart in you and feel empties. All a you. Every you... Take a war to make you spend. Take a jam to make you think. Take a challenge to make you great. Rest of the time you sit around lazy, you."
  • Unconventional Formatting
  • Yellow Peril: In the future, all intelligence work will be handled by the Chinese, 'cause they're so good at it, don't you know. However, jaunting has created a virtually post-race society. The main Chinese intelligence agent is said to have almost no physical indication of his Chinese ancestry.
  • Zeerust: surprisingly averted, probably because the book is actually pretty light on actual descriptions of futuristic technology; what is shown is still pretty far off, even today.

’’Gully Foyle is my name
and Terra is my nation
Deep Space is my dwelling place
The Stars my Destination’’

Alternative Title(s): Tiger Tiger