The Stars My Destination, by Alfred Bester
The best science fiction works on multiple levels; yes, it should almost always include interesting descriptions of the state of science and technology at some future (or past) place and time, along with insightful commentary on the state of mankind itself--or at least some alien species that we can all relate to in some way. And typically there is compelling action taking place. But the best of the best, I find, also works on a more personal level. There has to be something about the main character(s) of any story that draws us in and lets us identify with them, and there has to be some kind of conflict of character and an ultimate resolution of that conflict that strikes a chord within us. As I read Alfred Bester's classic The Stars My Destination (previously published in the U.K. as Tiger! Tiger!), what I initially found myself identifying with most in the character of Gully Foyle was his driving need to balance the scales between himself and a world that seemed to have gone out of its way to heap injury and indifference upon him--as I am certain that most people who have ever felt put-upon by the world will likewise relate to. But what I found even more compelling was Gully's necessary transformation from a mediocre, uneducated brute to a self-made man with iron control over his own thoughts and emotions as his quest for revenge likewise evolved from lashing out in mindless fury to flexing his intellect in pursuit of his goals. As Gully acquires intellect he also acquires empathy, and conscience, arguably prerequisites for true sentience in any species. In many stories, heroes have a tendency to become god-like in their power; in Bester's story, his main character's physical abilities are matched in turn by his mental and spiritual evolution. Not to give anything away, but Gully's quest for vengeance takes a turn that I believe makes his character superior to Alexandre Dumas' Edmond Dantès (to whom Gulliver Foyle is often compared). Give Alfred Bester's visionary classic a read for yourself and see if you agree.
March 2013 Archives
The Stars My Destination, by Alfred Bester
The Power of Un, by Nancy Etchemendy
Until a week ago, Gib Finney was just a regular guy, shooting spitballs and messing up his science experiments. But when he receives a mysterious device called the Unner, everything changes. Gib discovers that the Unner has the power to travel back in time to undo his bad decisions. What will change in Gib's life if he uses the Unner?
No Easy Day, by Mark Owen
Prior to last year's Presidential election, I remember hearing about a Navy SEAL who was publishing a book about the covert operation to apprehend terror chief Osama Bin Laden. It was listed on the New York Times bestseller list. I put my name on the reserve (HOLD) list, and received a copy within a few weeks. No Easy Day was written by Navy SEAL Mark Owen in 2012. It chronicles Owen's enlistment and ultimate selection as a Navy SEAL. He applies for a special unit assignment, which leads to covert operations in the Middle East over a ten-year period. When Bin Laden is finally located in Pakistan, Mark finds himself in the right place at the right time. Owen describes how the team trains in Virginia for "clearing" suspected terrorist houses. Then, he relates how his team is transported to Afghanistan, where they await the green light from Washington to enter Pakistan. Finally, permission is granted, and the teams travel by helicopter and cargo plane to Abbottabad. The SEAL does an excellent job of describing the step-by-step search to apprehend their target. He also expresses frustration at the inability of the government officials to keep a lid on mission information. Owen has no regrets because he knew Bin Laden had to be eliminated. I feel this book is well-written and accurate. I suggest you read this book to dispel much of the rumor and misinformation about the mission.
The Elevator Family, by Douglas Evans
When the eccentric Wilson family arrives at the San Francisco Hotel only to find there are no rooms available, they waste no time in finding the next best place to stay--the elevator!
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, by Kate DiCamillo
Edward Tulane, a cold-hearted and proud toy rabbit, loves only himself until he is separated from the little girl who adores him and travels across the country, acquiring new owners and listening to their hopes, dreams, and histories.