Saturday, September 24, 2011

Oh, my stars.

I see that I never posted a full review for Bester's The Stars My Destination. I made some concluding comments at the Asimov's forum, but that has crashed or been deliberately offlined yet again, so I can't access my more immediate responses.

Yes, in the end, it was a waste of time. There are a few fun moments, but the main character isn't much of a character. He does whatever the plot demands of him in order to move itself erratically along, and Bester seems to think the protagonist is somehow worthy of our interest, a common man of note, but he's just a brute, and the story is little more than an adolescent revenge fantasy that drifts into self-importance and forays into the realm of whoa-man cosmic awareness. In classic SF fashion, the female characters are an insult to all females both fictional and living. Both major female figures enter the tale intriguingly, but Bester manages to ruin them. Then there's another who simply serves to be sexually victimized by the protagonist.

Nothing to see here, folks, but the sad missteps of a mid-century genre riddled with self-importance and misogyny.


Calvin said...

So what's next on your reading list?

William Preston said...

I'm currently reading—you may not believe this—The Mote in God's Eye. I was a big Niven fan in high school, back in the late '70s, and I remember picking up the book several times at my favorite bookstore, but I didn't buy it because it looked so thuddingly long, I didn't know whether I'd like a collaboration, and I knew it wasn't part of Niven's "Known Universe" worlds. Recently I ran into mentions of the book online—as a great "first contact" novel—and it happened to be for sale at the big annual library sale last weekend, so I picked it up. It's enjoyable, though it took me a little while to get used to the unremarkable writing, and I nearly put the book down the minute they introduced the ship's engineer: he's from the planet New Scotland, and his accent is even worse than Star Trek's Scotty's. The whole affair feels old-fashioned, but the plot is intriguing, even if none of the characters is remotely interesting or alive.

Reading some other stuff too, but that's the one I'm moving through with some attentiveness.


Calvin said...

I think Mote is one of the stronger Niven-Pournelle outings that I've read; I have a strange fondness for Inferno (though I have dreaded reading the recent sequel, expecting it to be awful), but found Lucifer's Hammer to be, well, a lot like being hit over the head with a hammer, and I stopped reading them after that.

I just need to catch up with back issues of the print magazines. I have Michael Flynn's Eifelheim on my desk but haven't cracked it yet. Some non-genre fiction as well is waiting...

William Preston said...

I also enjoyed Inferno (what a strange undertaking). When I read it, I hadn't yet read Dante, but when I later did, I found I appreciated even more what Niven/Pournelle had pulled off.

I loved Eifelheim, except for the bits of the original prize-winning story. The rest I found startlingly good.