Tiger! Tiger! (a.k.a The Stars My Destination) by Alfred Bester
Cover Concept by Lorenzo Princi, 26 December 2012

Tiger! Tiger! (a.k.a The Stars My Destination)

Author: Alfred Bester

Reviewed by Lorenzo Princi

Aflred Bester's superb novel laid the yellow brick road in 1956 for a new science fiction. A road walked on by Philip K. Dick and later William Gibson (to name a few who added some important bricks of their own). Though the book was also released as The Stars My Destination (in the US) I believe that Tiger! Tiger! is a more fitting title; It sounds like a warning, a scream, a reflection and echoes William Blake's poem of innocence lost as well as being as sharp as the narrative which follows.

The central plot consists of Gully Foyle's search for vengeance after being left stranded in space when a passing ship ignores his distress call. We don't know why he is stranded in space, or if he himself is to blame for his predicament and from what we are told of him, there is little to pity except perhaps his naivity and ignorance. What we do know, is that the unanswered call for help sparks life into Gully and that this very thing which should have killed him actually gives him strength "Vorga!" He cries "I kill you deadly". This idea of course echoes Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo and also pre-empts the vendetta of V in Alan Moore's V for Vendetta where the characters were also cruelly left to die and in turn are reborn and live on, not so much as themselves but personifications of vengeance.

Gully Foyle's transformation also takes a physical step when his face is tattooed by the group of asteroid dwellers that find him. When he has the Mauri face tattoo surgically removed, he is left with one of the greatest double edged swords since greek mythology! The tattoo is gone and his enemies can't recognise him, however a red outline of the tattoo is shown on his face anytime he gets emotional, adding a level of suspense to the already twisting and turning plot.

Thematically, the story is layered and complex, with interesting characters who all "juante" around the grey area between good and evil. Nothing is as it seems and we are constantly reassessing our alligences as this simple black and white revenge story expands into a galaxy of coloured complexity. Foyle himself is a tragic character but also a redeeming one and as he learns and grows he also becomes self aware and his initial ideas of betrayal and revenge become less clear. It isn't cause and effect but rather a vicious entanglement which ultimately leaves no fullfilment as another character points out, we can't avenge the betrayal we inflict on ourselves by our own imperfections.

This is truly one of the best books I have ever read, entertaining with some of the most marvelous visions and concepts in science fiction and is in no way dated (infact it may still be ahead of the curb). I'm only a little frustrated I hadn't picked it up sooner; I just wish Science Fiction classics had better editions, such as the treatment given to the classics of other genres. Enjoy!
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