Awesome Science Fiction book, written in 1956 by Alfred Bester. Originally published in the UK as "Tiger! Tiger!", from the first line of the William Blake poem "The Tyger". The book opens with "This was a Golden Age, a time of high adventure, rich living, and hard dying . . . but nobody thought so. This was a future of fortune and theft, pillage and rapine, culture and vice. . . but nobody admitted it. This was an age of extremes, a fascinating century of freaks. . . but nobody loved it."

The hero of the story is everyman personified, Gulliver Foyle, a second class machinist's mate, with the following qualifications on his merchant marine service card: "EDUCATION: NONE. SKILLS: NONE. MERITS: NONE. RECOMMENDATIONS:NONE". A man who never had a real goal in his life, until his ship is torpedoed by an enemy starship, and he is trapped in the wreckage for 170 days, in the sole airtight compartment, a closet. Every day of that 170 is a hellish fight for survival, until one day a ship arrives, answers his signal, and leaves him to die in the wreckage without a word of explanation. With that, Gully Foyle suddenly finds his purpose in life. To find the bastards who abandoned him, and make them pay.

Despite being written in the 1950s, The Stars My Destination isn't nearly as dated as one would think. The fact that computers hardly existed then means they aren't present in the book at all to be botched like they were in 1980s SF. Bester was principly known as a writer of comic books and television shows (he invented Superman villain Solomon Grundy and wrote the Green Lantern Oath), so the narrative is action packed and relatively short. Highly recommended.
The 1996 Vintage Books/Random House reissue of The Stars My Destination contains the complete work, as opposed to the numerous cheap paperback versions out there, which discard large amounts of text (sometimes entire chapters!). While the plot remains mostly intact, the changes are substantial - some persons and events have been removed, as well as a lot of background information which contributes to the "flavor" of the story.

The reissue also features an introduction by Neil Gaiman, which proclaims it to be "the perfect cyberpunk novel".

The poem which is referenced in the title reads:

Gully Foyle is my name
And Terra is my nation
Deep space is my dwelling place
The Stars my destination

Warning: Small spoiler ahead!

This poem is read by Foyle at the very end of the book. It is a re-statement of the poem from the first chapter of the book, where the fourth line used to read "And Death's my destination". To me, the re-telling of the poem at the end of the novel shows that Foyle has finally made peace with himself, and is hopeful for the future.

The trajectories of disintegrating systems
fireballs, as the habitats collapse in space.
Velvet-black and silent in the night,
slipping, shoeless through steel tunnels,
blinking, blinded in the light.

Once there was a city here, and now it is a star,
bright and burning, porch fires muted,
and soundless in the black. Streets have gone to cinders
coyote space pilots in the night. A cigarette
a falling star
- a suited, drifting form.

Propulsion, the jet-line - the jerk of the pull,
outwards, accelerated, on a slab of the wall. Once
there was a city here - now a spaceship, impulse drive -
for habitat, a holofield, burning in the night.

The trajectories of disintegrating systems, cinders in the night.
Velvet-black and silent, blinded by the light.

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