Gulliver “Gully” Foyle is the protagonist of Alfred Bester’s seminal novel The Stars my Destination. He is the Edmond Dantes of Stars’ Count of Monte Cristo. Alfred Bester claimed to have found his name while flipping through a British phone book, as he found many of his characters’ names.

Gulliver Foyle is the Everyman: he is nobody special, who, through the course of events in the book, is transformed into somebody special. One of the key messages in the book is that every man is a tiger, if he can only find a reason to be one. Foyle, from a lazy man with no aspirations, becomes an educated, driven, powerful man.

A warning: if you read the rest of this writeup, you will have many key plot elements in the book given away. If you have not read the book and intend to, I suggest that you read it instead of this writeup.

Foyle lives in the world of the jaunte: personal teleportation of up to a thousand miles. The entire solar system is colonized, and the Inner Planets and Outer Satellites are locked in war.

Gully Foyle is my name
Terra is my nation
Deep space is my dwelling place
Death’s my destination

At the novel’s start, Foyle is, as Bester describes him, a cipher. He is an empty husk of a man, who, despite some natural aptitude, is crippled by a complete lack of motivation, an inability to better himself. An excerpt from Merchant Marine records describe him as lazy, unfocused, and not recommended for promotion.

However, Foyle achieves what should be impossible: after an accident in space, he survives for the better part of a year in a small airlock aboard the disabled ship, Nomad. For the space of six months, he ventures out only to get more supplies and air to sustain himself. His only companions are a faceless clock that he winds to listen to the ticking, a lug wrench to hold while lonely, and an egg strainer that he plucks to make music.

Foyle is changed forever when he sees the ship Vorga passing by the wrecked hulk of its sister ship, the Nomad. He quickly reads shipboard manuals and instructions, lights all of the flares and distress signals he can, and is consumed with rage and an overwhelming urge for revenge when the ship passes him by. He then begins to reform himself as a new man, teaching himself the physics and engineering he needs to repair the ship’s systems enough that he can give it thrust, and rockets himself away. He crashes into an asteroid populated by a group calling themselves the Scientific People, where his face is tattooed to look like a tiger, with the word NOMAD emblazoned on his forehead.

As he tries to hunt down the Vorga and destroy it, revenge for abandoning him, he is taken into custody and questioned regarding a safe on board the Nomad, containing twenty million credits’ worth of platinum bullion and (unrevealed to Foyle) a small quantity of pyrE, a substance which is explosive beyond explosive, and is detonated by a mere thought. After he realizes that the twenty million is the path to the Vorga, he refuses to speak, and is thrown in the Gouffre Martel, an inescapable prison miles beneath the French mountains.

Foyle spends most of a year in the prison, befriending Jizbella McQueen, another convict. They manage to speak through an acoustical freak in the rock walls of the prison, and she educates Foyle, giving him diction and class. More importantly, she teaches Foyle that he must punish a person, and not a ship: he must find the officer who gave the order for him to be passed by. After managing to escape through the underground caverns and rivers beneath the prison, they go on the run, and one of Jiz’s contacts in the underworld removes Foyle’s tattooing. Unfortunately, scarring makes it so that any time he becomes emotional and blood goes to his face, the unmistakable tattooing will appear in red on his face, requiring him to develop enormous emotional control.

After stealing the safe from the Nomad (abandoning Jiz to the approaching authorities in a moment of desperation), Foyle remakes himself as Geoffrey Fourmyle, interplanetary playboy, darling of high society, and proprietor of the rowdy and explosive Four Mile Circus, his travelling array of clowns, scientists, athletes, poets, and other humanists. All of this, however, is a front for his real aim: find the captain of the Vorga, and make him suffer.

Foyle’s search takes him all over the world, to the fantastic and weird relics of the Freak Century and the world of the jaunte, constantly haunted by the Burning Man, a horrific, fiery version of himself who periodically appears before him. But by the time he discovers who gave the order, he is not only Solar Enemy Number 1, but has realized that he does not need to lash out and kill to find his peace. He gives the pyrE to the people of the world, telling them to find out what it does, giving the world back to the common man. He also accomplishes what has never been done before: the space-jaunte, jaunting across the thousands and thousands of miles. He then jauntes aboard the Nomad, now incorporated into the Scientific People’s asteroid, and sleeps, ready to give the world the stars.

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

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