Monday, 5 April 2010

Jaunting with The Stars My Destination

I don't often read Sci-fi, but Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination was recommended to me last year (by someone who doesn't often read Sci-fi) and so I tracked a copy down.  Again, for one reason or another, I ended up ordering it from a second-hand bookshop in America, and was delighted I did because it has a wonderful smell to it.

The moment I removed the first layer of packaging, a rich aroma of pipe tobacco wafted out.  And with each layer that I peeled off, the smell got stronger.  It's not that I smoke, but there's something about the smell that reminds me of my grandad and all the tins of Old Flake and Golden Virginia in which he stored nails, screws, bolts, rivets, washers and so on when he was alive.  Every now and then I pick up The Stars My Destination and sniff it, and I travel back through time to his work-shed and I watch him at his band saw or at his lathe.  Sometimes the smell transports me across the Pacific to the bookshop I bought it from.  I imagine the owner sitting at a counter with a pipe in his mouth, surrounded by eccentrically stacked books, or the house of the original owner surrounded by a fug of smoke.

That aside, it is a lovely read.  One of those books I was keen to return to each day.  (Thank goodness, as I've had a couple of duds recently that didn't even make the page 40 mark.)  First published in 1956, it doesn't feel dated in any sense, which perhaps indicates that it will endure for a good time to come.  I hope so.
'In this pulse-quickening novel, Alfred Bester imagines a future in which people "jaunte" a thousand miles with a single thought, where the rich barricade themselves in labyrinths and protect themselves with radioactive hit men - and where an inarticulate outcast is the most valuable and dangerous man alive.'
Gully Foyle is a wonderful character and his quest for vengeance is a compelling story.

In other news, I put the finishing touches to the final edit of The Grease Monkey's Tale today.  Phew!  Off to the printers before long, I imagine.  This certainly isn't Sci-fi.  And quite different to The Snowing and Greening of Thomas Passmore.  More of a Romance-Thriller this time.

Have been listening to Leonard Cohen recently.  Enough to transport me back to undergraduate days at Kingston Polytechnic: staying up through the night, drinking and smoking too much (but never a pipe), walking along the banks of the Thames at sunrise, not having to go to work in the day... and thought I'd track down a 1970's version of Suzanne on YouTube for a little more nostalgia.


Phil Burman said...

Thanks for the recommendation. Just finished it, an interesting read. Why not now try Norstrilla by Cordwainer Smith?

Paul said...

Will search out a copy, Phil. Thanks.