21 December 2020

Currently Reading: The Stars My Destination

 

Tiger! Tiger!

 

My first read of 'The Stars My Destination' was a several years back and, it didn't take.
I had forced myself to continue reading it, begrudgingly, and by the time I had finished I was at a loss.
I felt as if I had missed the things that so many others said made this a great piece of sci-fi.
I didn't get it.
I was frustrated.
 
Sometime later I would read 'The Demolished Man'.
Though I tracked a little better through Bester's writing, there was still some dissonance between his word craft and my ability to visualize the story.
I simply concluded that I struggled with Bester and left it at that.

Bested by Bester.

*



During the first part of 2020 just as Covid was ramping up, we went to Albuquerque to do a book fair. This was March and things were just becoming tweaky with travel and events, ultimately the fair was cancelled because of it...an hour after we arrived in town.

Poor Little Book Fair Sign :/


Either on the way there or back, probably both, we listened to the audio book of Neil Gaiman's 'The View From The Cheap Seats' read by Gaiman.
In his words the books is, in part "...a motley bunch of speeches and articles, introductions and essays."
It's quite excellent and I very much recommend it, especially the audio book.



In it Gaiman has included his introduction to the 1999 Science Fiction Masterworks edition of 'The Stars My Destination'.
After listening to it I warmed up to the idea of giving the story another read...at some point.
Gaiman reading Gaiman is a compelling listen.

FF>> a few months.



I grabbed 'The Stars My Destination' almost as an after thought as we were packing to leave Colorado...forever?
There were so many books I could have grabbed but when it showed up in a box I was sorting I grabbed it thinking maybe now?
I'm certain that decision was based entirely on Gaiman's introduction.
 
The other day, having finished Aldiss's 'Starship' I went for another book to read and pulled 'TSMD' from the middle of a small stack.
I flipped the book to a page, Foyle's Merchant Marine record stared back at me.

               FOYLE, GULLIVER ------ AS-128/127:006
        
                    EDUCATION:          NONE
                    SKILLS:             NONE
                    MERITS:             NONE
                    RECOMMENDATIONS:    NONE

                       (PERSONNEL COMMENTS) 
           A man of physical strength and intellectual
           potential stunted by lack of ambition.
           Energises at minimum. The stereotype Common Man.
           Some unexpected shock might possibly awaken him,
           but Psych cannot find the key. Not recommended
           for promotion. Has reached dead end.



Something in that statement resonated with me, something familiar...something fatalistic.

And just like that I had begun 'The Stars My Destination' once again.


I am however taking to heart a couple things from Gaiman's introduction.
The first, a play on Heraclitus:

"You can no more read the same book again then you can step into the same river."

The second, a word of warning:

"The vintage of the book demands more work from the reader than he or she is used to."

Indeed.


 
So, what shall it be for Bester and me:
"Death's my destination" or "The stars my destination"

?
 
***
 
 
 
UPDATE:
24 DEC 20
 
 Got it.