Cyberpunk without the cyber: classic SF from the 50s

The Stars My Destination is 50s classic science fiction.

Are you ready for 1950s cyberpunk? Well, ready or not, here it is—a novel on nearly every list of the all-time best science fiction. Yes, it’s 50s classic science fiction. And, yes, the book was published more than sixty years ago. Yet it (almost) reads as though it could have been written last year. If, that is, it had been written as a comic book. In fact, I found the story so puerile and so exasperating that I did something I almost never do: I quit reading shortly before the end. The story was so bad, I just didn’t care how it ended.

Admittedly, now, I’m not a fan of cyberpunk, either. (Nor, for that matter, of comic books. Despite the fact that I actually wrote for them back in the Dark Ages.) I find the genre contrived to the point of silliness. If I want overdrawn characters with exaggerated abilities, I can take in a superhero flick. Which, by the way, is also something I almost never do.

The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester (1957) 236 pages @@ (2 out of 5)

50s classic science fiction that couldn’t be more disappointing

Enough said. I have no idea why this novel is so widely celebrated.

Now, you may be wondering why, since I hate the book so much, I didn’t give it a rating of @ or even zero? My distaste for the content aside, I can’t quarrel with Alfred Bester’s ability to craft a sentence in the English language. Or, for that matter, a book. The novel is, I’m forced to admit, well plotted. Thus, @@ out of 5.

About the author

Alfred Bester was a Grand Master of the Science Fiction Writers of America (now SFFWA). Two of his eight novels are frequently listed among the best books the genre has produced: The Demolished Man, his first book, published in 1953; and The Stars My Destination. He also wrote a great many short stories in the field. He got his start writing for comic books and radio, later branching out into magazines and television. For many years he was a senior editor at Holiday Magazine.

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