logo

The Stars My Destination

Alfred Bester

The Stars My Destination

Alfred Bester

Enjoy this free Plot Summary
In addition to SuperSummary’s 4,400+ Study Guides, we offer 5,900+ free Plot Summaries covering a diverse range of books.

The Stars My Destination Summary

Thanks for exploring this SuperSummary Plot Summary of “The Stars My Destination” by Alfred Bester. A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics.

The Stars My Destination is a science fiction novel by Alfred Bester, which was published in 1957. It tells the story of an unambitious and directionless man named Gulliver Foyle who is abandoned in a damaged spaceship and, through his own rage and a series of mishaps, remakes himself as an aristocrat in a society wrecked by the invention of teleportation to stalk the people who did him wrong. The book is adapted from Alexander Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo, and the original title Tiger! Tiger! is based on the poem “The Tyger” by William Blake, which also serves as the epigraph for the book.
 
The book begins with Gulliver's abandonment in a damaged spaceship, in a world where teleportation has caused the inner and outer planets to go to war with each other. Gulliver is on a merchant ship owned by Presteign, a powerful industrial clan, when his ship is attacked. He is the sole survivor. Gulliver waits for six months hoping for someone to rescue him, when a passing ship called Vorga, also owned by Presteign, passes right by him without stopping to come to his aid. Gulliver becomes so enraged by this betrayal that he is transformed into a monstrous, vengeful man.
 
Eventually, Gulliver repairs his ship and manufactures his own escape, only to be captured by a clan of cargo ships in the Asteroid Belt. The clan tattoos tiger stripes on his face to mark him as a prisoner, but he manages to escape and is returned to his home planet Terra. After his return, Gulliver attempts to blow up the Vorga as revenge for their betrayal. His attempt fails, and he is captured by Presteign, who throw him in prison. Gulliver then discovers that his original ship, the Nomad, was carrying a precious material called PyrE, which Presteign wants to use to win the war.
 
Gulliver is brutally questioned about the Nomad, but does not break. He is then thrown in prison, where he meets Jisabella McQueen. She helps him focus his attention on discovering who ignored his help signal back on the Nomad, and together the two find the wrecked Nomad and steal the PyrE, as well as a huge amount of valuable platinum. During this escapade, Jisabella is captured by Gulliver's interrogator Dagenham, but Gulliver manages to escape.
 
After this adventure, Gulliver returns to society under the new name Geoffrey Fourmyle. He has transformed himself into a rich aristocrat and given himself an intensive education. He also had his body altered to make him stronger and better able to fight and kill. He hides the remnants of his tiger stripe tattoos, which still appear when he is stressed or emotional (though he had the tattoos removed) through breathing techniques and yoga. Once he has returned to high society, Gulliver seeks out former Vorga crew members to question them about his rescue, but they are all programmed to die upon interrogation to protect Presteign.
 
At a fancy dinner party, Gulliver falls in love with Olivia, Presteign's daughter. He also finds Jisabella, who has become the lover of his former interrogator and her kidnapper, Dagenham. Jisabella does not reveal Gulliver's identity. During a nuclear attack, Gulliver tries to rescue Olivia, but she refuses him, telling him that in order to love her he must become as brutal and uncaring as she is.
 
After much investigation, Gulliver discovers that Olivia was in fact the person in charge of the Vorga during his rescue, and that the former captain of the ship has moved to a cult on Mars where she has become immune to torture because all of her nerve cells have been disabled. He discovers that Olivia was kidnapping refugees while on the Vorga, stealing their items, and then abandoning them in deep space. Gulliver tries to give himself up, driven by his own guilt, but instead he is captured by Presteign's lawyer and used as a decoy in space. During this period, Gulliver discovers space-jaunting, a kind of teleportation previously unknown, and because of this new skill he becomes even more of a target.

Ultimately, Gulliver realizes that the best thing he can do with the PyrE and his newfound skill for space-jaunting is to give it to all mankind, and he teleports and throws the PyrE out into crowds of people, urging them to either destroy themselves or follow him into the great void of space. Gulliver realizes that space-jaunting is caused by faith, not knowledge of any particular skill, and at the end of the novel he becomes a wise man for a cargo cult and spends his days discovering new worlds and offering his divine wisdom to those in need.
 
The Stars My Destination received mixed reviews by critics immediately after publication, but has since become a much-loved favorite of many prominent science fiction authors. It was included in the 2012 Library of America boxed set American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s. The book is a prime example of the early cyberpunk movement, which was critical of corporate power, industrialization, and war-mongering.
 
Transform this Plot Summary into a Study Guide
Open Guide

We don’t yet have a full-length Study Guide for this book. If you’d like us to expand this Plot Summary into a Study Guide, click the Upvote button below.