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Tiger! Tiger!
1956 British first edition
AuthorAlfred Bester
CountryUnited Kingdom
GenreScience fiction
PublisherSidgwick and Jackson
Publication date
June 14, 1956[1]
Media typeprint (hardback)
The Stars My Destination
1957 edition (final/revised text)
AuthorAlfred Bester
Cover artistRichard M. Powers
CountryUnited States
GenreScience fiction
PublisherSignet Books
Publication date
March 21, 1957[2]
Media typeprint (paperback)
The first installment of The Stars My Destination was cover-featured on the October 1956 issue of Galaxy.

The Stars My Destination is a science fiction novel by American writer Alfred Bester. Its first publication was in book form in June 1956 in the United Kingdom, where it was titled Tiger! Tiger!, named after William Blake's 1794 poem "The Tyger", the first verse of which is printed as the first page of the novel.[3] The book remains widely known under that title in the markets in which this edition was circulated. It was subsequently serialized in the American Galaxy Science Fiction magazine in four parts, beginning in October 1956.[4] A working title was Hell's My Destination;[5] the book was also associated with the name The Burning Spear. It would prove to be Bester's last novel for 19 years.

The novel was both widely criticized and praised when it first appeared, but now is appreciated as a classic work in its own right, and as a prescient forerunner of the cyberpunk literary genre.


In the 24th or 25th century (depending on the edition of the book), humans have colonized the Solar System and also learned to teleport (although not through outer space itself). It tells the story of Gulliver ("Gully") Foyle, driven by, and transformed by, a thirst for vengeance.


At the time when the book is set, "jaunting"—personal teleportation—has so upset the social and economic balance that the Inner Planets are at war with the Outer Satellites. Gully Foyle of the Presteign-owned merchant spaceship Nomad—an uneducated, unskilled, unambitious man whose life is at a dead end—is marooned in space when the ship is attacked and he alone survives. After six months of his waiting for rescue, a passing spaceship, the Vorga, also owned by the powerful Presteign industrial clan, ignores his signal and abandons him. Foyle is enraged and is transformed into a man consumed by revenge, the first of many transformations.

Foyle repairs the ship and barely survives, but is found and adopted by a cargo cult in the Asteroid Belt who tattoo a hideous mask of a tiger on his face. He recovers his health, escapes, and is returned to Terra. His attempt to blow up the Vorga fails, and he is captured by Presteign. Unknown to Foyle, the Nomad was carrying "PyrE", a new material which could make the difference between victory and defeat in the war. Presteign hires security agent Saul Dagenham to interrogate Foyle and to find the ship and PyrE.

Protected by his own revenge fixation, Foyle cannot be broken, and he is put into a jaunte-proof prison. There he meets Jisbella McQueen, who teaches him to think clearly, and tells him he should find out who gave the order not to rescue him. Together they escape and get his tattoos removed—but not with total success: the subcutaneous scars become visible again whenever Foyle becomes too emotional. The pair travel to the Nomad, where they salvage not only PyrE, but also a fortune in platinum metal. Jisbella is captured by Dagenham, but Foyle escapes.

Some time later, Foyle re-emerges as "Geoffrey Fourmyle", a nouveau riche dandy. Foyle has rigorously educated himself and had his body altered to become a killing machine. Through yoga, he has achieved the emotional self-control necessary to prevent his tattooed stigmata from showing. He seeks out Robin Wednesbury, a one-way telepath, whom he had raped earlier in the novel, and persuades her to help him charm his way through high society.

Foyle tracks down the crew of the Vorga to learn the identity of the ship's captain, but each person he finds has been implanted with a death-reflex and dies when questioned. Each time, Foyle is tormented by the reappearance of "The Burning Man", a vision of himself on fire.

At a society party, Foyle is smitten with Presteign's daughter Olivia. He also meets Jisbella again—now Dagenham's lover—who chooses not to reveal Foyle's identity, although Dagenham has realized it anyway (Foyle's alias was implanted in his subconscious mind during Dagenham's interrogation). During a nuclear attack by the Outer Satellites, Foyle goes to Olivia to save her. She tells him that to have her, he must be as cruel and ruthless as she is.

Robin, traumatized by the attacks, tries to buy her way out of her arrangement with Foyle by revealing the name of another Vorga crew member. Foyle agrees, but immediately reneges. In response, Robin goes to Central Intelligence to betray him.

Foyle learns that the captain of the Vorga has joined a cult on Mars and has had all her sensory nerves disabled, making her immune to conventional torture. Foyle kidnaps a telepath to interrogate the captain, and learns that the ship did not rescue him because it was picking up refugees, taking their belongings, and ejecting them into space. He also learns that the person in charge of the ship was Olivia Presteign. But now she rescues him from Martian commandos, as she sees in Foyle someone who can match her hatred and need to destroy.

Driven by a guilty conscience, Foyle tries to give himself up to Presteign's lawyer, Regis Sheffield, who is known as a Terran patriot. Sheffield turns out to be a spy for the Outer Satellites, and he captures Foyle. Sheffield tells Foyle that when the Nomad was attacked, Foyle was taken off the ship, transported 600,000 miles away, and set adrift in a spacesuit to be a decoy to attract ships to be ambushed. Instead, Foyle had space-jaunted—teleporting a cosmic distance, very much further than had been previously believed possible—back to the Nomad. Now, the Outer Satellites not only want PyrE, they want Foyle as well, to learn the secret of space-jaunting.

Meanwhile, Presteign reveals that PyrE is activated by telepathy, and Robin is enlisted to trigger it to flush out Foyle. Bits of PyrE left exposed by Foyle's tests to determine its purpose cause destruction worldwide, but primarily at Foyle's abandoned encampment in St. Patrick's Cathedral, where Sheffield has brought him. The church partially collapses, killing Sheffield and trapping Foyle, unconscious but alive, over a pit of flame. Suffering from synesthesia brought on by the explosion affecting his neurological implants, Foyle jauntes through space and time as "The Burning Man". Finally he lands in the future, where Robin telepathically tells him how to escape from the collapsing cathedral.

Back in the present, Foyle is pressured by Presteign, Y'ang-Yeovil, and Dagenham to surrender the rest of his cache of PyrE, which had been protected from exploding by its Inert Lead Isotope container, and to teach mankind how to space-jaunte. He leads them to where the rest of the PyrE is hidden, but makes off with it and jauntes across the globe, throwing slugs of PyrE into the crowd at each stop. He asks humanity to choose: either destroy itself or follow him into space.

Foyle now realizes the key to space-jaunting is faith: not the certainty of an answer, but the conviction that somewhere an answer exists. He jauntes from one nearby star to another, finding new worlds suitable for colonization, but reachable only if he shares the secret of space-jaunting. He comes to rest back with the cargo cult, where the people see him as a holy man and await his revelation.

The novel


The novel was outlined by Bester while he was living in Britain, and actually written mainly when he was living in Rome.[citation needed] The project had its origins[citation needed] in a newspaper clipping (or possibly a National Geographic article) that Bester read about Poon Lim, a shipwrecked World War II sailor on a raft, stranded in the South Pacific. He had drifted un-rescued in the Pacific for a world record 133 days, because passing ships thought he was a lure to bring them within torpedo range of a hidden submarine. From there grew the story of the antihero Gully Foyle, seeking revenge for his abandonment and causing havoc all about him: a future-set retelling of Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo.

Like Edmond Dantès in The Count of Monte Cristo, Foyle is thrown into prison, in this case the supposedly jaunte-proof Gouffre Martel located in caverns. He establishes a clandestine connection to another prisoner, Jisbella McQueen, and through her he is educated to the point where he can conceive a plan to escape and exact his revenge. Escaping with her and locating the wreck of the Nomad, he uses its treasure, as Dantès did, to reinvent himself as Geoffrey Fourmyle.

Bester once wrote that he used playful narration at one point to grab the reader's attention.[citation needed]

Publication and reception

First published in book form in the UK in June 1956 as Tiger! Tiger!, The Stars My Destination was subsequently serialized in Galaxy, where The Demolished Man had also appeared. It ran in four parts (October 1956 through January 1957), then was published in the US later in 1957.

The novel has often featured in lists of the best science fiction novels of all time.[citation needed]

Influence on cyberpunk

The novel has been described as proto-cyberpunk, predating the literary movement by over two decades.[6][7][8][9] Specifically, the novel features megacorporations as powerful as governments, a dark overall vision of the future, and the cybernetic enhancement of the body.[citation needed]


The name of Charles Fort Jaunte, who discovers teleportation, derives from Charles Fort, a writer principally of nonfiction, who coined the term "teleportation".[citation needed]

The title "The Stars My Destination" appears in a quatrain quoted by Foyle twice during the book. The first time, while he is trapped in outer space, he states:

Gully Foyle is my name
And Terra is my nation.
Deep space is my dwelling place,
And death's my destination.

Toward the end of the novel, after he has returned to human life and become something of a hero, he states:

Gully Foyle is my name
And Terra is my nation.
Deep space is my dwelling place,
The stars my destination.

Both quatrains are based on a poetic form that was popular in England and the United States during the 18th-to-mid-20th centuries, in which a person stated their name, country, city or town, and a religious homily (often, "Heaven's my destination") within the rhyming four-line structure (see book rhyme).[10] This literary device had been previously used by James Joyce in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

Bester may have come across his title expression in the writings of John Whiteside Parsons, one of the fathers of modern rocketry, who was also a science fiction fan and occultist. In 1943, Parsons wrote: "Rocketry may not be my True Will, but it's one hell of a powerful drive. With Thelema as my goal and the stars my destination and my home, I have set my eyes on high".[11]

Bester's initial work on the book began in England, and he took the names for his characters from a UK telephone directory. As a result, many of the characters are named after British or Irish towns or other features:[3] Gulliver Foyle (and his pseudonym, Fourmyle of Ceres), Robin Wednesbury, the Presteign clan, Regis Sheffield, Y'ang-Yeovil, Saul Dagenham, Sam Quatt, Rodger Kempsey, the Bo'ness and Uig ship underwriters.[12]


Speculative science

The novel included some early descriptions of proto-science and fictional technology, among them Bester's portrayal of psionics,[13] including the phenomenon of "jaunting", named after the scientist (Charles Fort Jaunte) who discovered it. Jaunting is the instantaneous teleportation of one's body (and anything one is wearing or carrying). One is able to move up to a thousand miles by just thinking.

Jaunting has other effects on the social fabric of the novel's world, and these are examined in true science-fictional fashion. Women of the upper classes are locked away in jaunte-proof rooms "for their protection", the treatment of criminals of necessity goes back to the Victorian "separate system", and freaks and monsters abound.

The second significant technology in the novel is the rare substance known as "PyrE", an extremely powerful explosive which is activated by telepathy. Possession of PyrE and knowledge of the means to detonate it is believed by both sides to be key to winning the interplanetary war.

Bester's description of synesthesia is the first popular account published in the English language and is also quite accurate.[14]

Reception and influence

Initially, reviews of The Stars My Destination were mixed. The well-regarded science fiction writer and critic Damon Knight, in In Search of Wonder (1956), wrote of the novel's "bad taste, inconsistency, irrationality, and downright factual errors", but called the ending of the book "grotesquely moving".[15] In a profile of Bester for Continuum Encyclopedia of American Literature (2005), critic Steven H. Gale cited the novel as a reflection of the author's maturation, addressing as it does "the continued evolution of humankind as a species", a grander theme than those treated with in his earlier work. Gale declared the novel to be Bester's most stylistically ambitious work, citing the use of disparate fonts to evoke synesthesia, the progressively intelligent language accorded to the maturing protagonist, and the framing of the narrative between the variations on Blake's quatrain.[4]

The book has received high praise from many fellow science fiction writers. After generally criticizing unrealistic science fiction, Carl Sagan in 1978 listed The Stars My Destination as among stories "that are so tautly constructed, so rich in the accommodating details of an unfamiliar society that they sweep me along before I have even a chance to be critical".[16] By 1987, when the author died, "it was apparent that the 1980s genre [cyberpunk] owed an enormous debt to Bester and to this book in particular".[citation needed] Neil Gaiman wrote in the introduction to a 1999 edition of the book: "The Stars My Destination is, after all, the perfect cyberpunk novel: it contains such cheerfully protocyber elements as multinational corporate intrigue; a dangerous, mysterious, hyperscientific MacGuffin (PyrE); an amoral hero; a supercool thief-woman..."[3] James Lovegrove called it "the very best of Bester",[17] and Thomas M. Disch identified it as "one of the great sf novels of the 1950s".[17] Joe Haldeman wrote: "Our field has produced only a few works of actual genius, and this is one of them",[17] who also added that he reads the novel "every two or three years and it still evokes a sense of wonder".

According to Samuel R. Delany, the book is "considered by many to be the greatest single SF novel".[17] while Robert Silverberg wrote that it is "on everybody's list of the ten greatest SF novels".[3] Fantasy writer Michael Moorcock praised it as "a wonderful adventure story" that embodies truly libertarian principles.[18] Ty Franck, co-author of The Expanse series, said: "I don't remember any of the other stories in [A Treasury of Great Science Fiction, Volume Two; an anthology of science fiction stories], and I read that book a dozen times. The only story that sticks out in my mind is The Stars My Destination".[19]

In a 2011 survey asking leading science fiction writers to name their favorite work of the genre, The Stars My Destination was the choice of William Gibson and Moorcock. Gibson remarked that the book was "perfectly surefooted, elegantly pulpy", and "dizzying in its pace and sweep", and a "talisman" for him when undertaking his first novel. Moorcock hailed Bester's novel as a reminder of "why the best science fiction still contains, as in Ballard, vivid imagery and powerful prose coupled to a strong moral vision".[20]

In 2012, the novel was included in the Library of America two-volume boxed set American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s, edited by Gary K. Wolfe.[21]



In 1963, Australian comics illustrator Stanley Pitt and his brother Reginald worked on a proposed comic strip adaptation entitled Gully Foyle. Bester looked over the strips and gave his approval. A film company, which held the rights to the novel, apparently put a stop to this. Small circulation publications containing the strips appeared in 1967 and 2001.[citation needed]

A graphic novel adaptation drawn by Howard Chaykin, which utilized the complete text of the original novel was first published, in part, in 1979 by Baronet Publishing. The release of the conclusion was delayed due to Baronet's bankruptcy. The second half was released by Marvel Entertainment's Epic imprint in 1992.[22]


A dramatisation titled Tiger! Tiger! was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on September 14, 1991 and repeated on August 16, 1993. It was scripted by Ivan Benbrook and directed by Andy Jordan. Alun Armstrong played Gully Foyle, Miranda Richardson was Olivia, Siobhan Redmond was Robin Wednesbury and Lesley Manville was Jisbella McQueen.[23]


A 2004 anime series, Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo, was originally intended as an adaptation of The Stars My Destination. The copyright holders' refusal to allow an adaptation led the director, Mahiro Maeda, to instead use The Count of Monte Cristo, which had inspired Bester's story.[24]

Planned feature film adaptations

As mentioned above, one production company had apparently secured the rights to the novel as early as the 1960s. A number of adaptations of the book have been scripted. So far, none have yet made it to the screen.[25] While the novel has long been considered an "unfilmable" work,[26] the screen rights were acquired by Universal Pictures in 2006[27] and by Paramount Pictures in 2015.[28]

Film adaptations of The Stars My Destination have been frequently rumored. According to David Hughes' Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made, Richard Gere owned the rights to, and wanted to star in, the adaptation following the success of Pretty Woman. At a later point, NeverEnding Story producer Bernd Eichinger had the rights and hired notable comic book artist Neal Adams to produce concept art. Still later, Paul W. S. Anderson was set to direct it, but wound up doing Event Horizon instead. Since then, a number of scripts have been written, but nothing more has happened.[29]

In popular culture



  1. ^ Whitaker's Cumulative Book List: 62. 1956.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: untitled periodical (link)
  2. ^ "Books Published Today". The New York Times: 28. March 21, 1957.
  3. ^ a b c d Gaiman, Neil (1999). "Introduction". The Stars My Destination. SF Masterworks. London: Orion Publishing. ISBN 978-1-85798-814-7.
  4. ^ a b Gale, Steven H. (2003). "Bester, Alfred". In Serafin, Steven; Bendixen, Alfred (eds.). The Continuum Encyclopedia of American Literature. London: Continuum. pp. 93–95. ISBN 0-8264-1777-9.
  5. ^ Kelleghan, Fiona (November 1994). "Hell's My Destination: Imprisonment in the Works of Alfred Bester". Science Fiction Studies. 21, part 3 (64). Retrieved May 14, 2011.
  6. ^ Biller, Diana (December 25, 2015). "The Essential Cyberpunk Reading List". io9. Retrieved January 26, 2016. This 1956 novel, originally serialized in four parts in Galaxy magazine, predates the cyberpunk movement by more than twenty years, but nonetheless serves as one of its more important ancestors. With its bleak future, cybernetic body modification, and evil megacorporations, The Stars My Destination set up a number of themes that became central to later cyberpunk works.
  7. ^ Hiltzik, Michael (January 1, 2016). "A New Year's list: Five great sci-fi novels to make you forget 'Star Wars'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 26, 2016. Bester is a science fiction master unappreciated by the general reader but known as an important influence on Stephen King and the "cyberpunk" movement; The Stars My Destination frequently turns up on aficionados' lists of the greatest science fiction works of all time.
  8. ^ Berthoud, Ella and Susan Elderkin (2013). The Novel Cure. Edinburgh: Canongate. p. W.
  9. ^ Cavallaro, Dani (2000). Cyberpunk & Cyberculture: Science Fiction and the Work of William Gibson. London: Athlone Press. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-485-00412-0.
  10. ^ "Origins: 'Johnson Johnson is my name' A MYSTERY!". Mudcat Café. Mudcat Café Music Foundation. Archived from the original on May 22, 2011. Retrieved October 18, 2009.[unreliable source?]
  11. ^ Pendle, George. Strange Angel: The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons (Orlando, Florida: Mariner Book, 2006). p.169. ISBN 0-15-603179-5
  12. ^ Alfred Bester (June 6, 2011). The Stars My Destination. ibooks. p. 75. ISBN 978-1-876963-46-0. the underwriters, Bo'ness and Uig, get the salvage rights
  13. ^ Clareson, Thomas (1992). "Science Fiction: The 1950s". Understanding Contemporary American Science Fiction. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press. p. 74. ISBN 0-87249-870-0.
  14. ^ Giannini, A.J.; Slaby, A.E.; Giannini, M.C. (1982). Handbook of Overdose and Detoxification Emergencies. New Hyde Park, NY: Medical Examination Publishing. p. 164. ISBN 0-87488-182-X.
  15. ^ Knight, Damon (1956). In Search of Wonder. Chicago: Advent. p. 306.
  16. ^ Sagan, Carl (May 28, 1978). "Growing up with Science Fiction". The New York Times. p. SM7. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 12, 2018.
  17. ^ a b c d Bester, Alfred (1999). The Stars My Destination. London: Gollancz. ISBN 978-1-85798-814-7.
  18. ^ Moorcock, Michael. "Starship Stormtroopers Archived December 24, 2002, at the Wayback Machine". Cienfuegos Press Anarchist Review, 1978.
  19. ^ Andrew Liptak (May 27, 2015). "Evolution of a Space Epic: James S.A. Corey's The Expanse". The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog. Barnes & Noble.
  20. ^ "The stars of modern SF pick the best science fiction". The Guardian. May 14, 2011. Retrieved May 14, 2011.
  21. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (July 13, 2012). "Classic Sci-Fi Novels Get Futuristic Enhancements from Library of America". New York Times. Arts Beat: The Culture at Large blog. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
  22. ^ "The Complete Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination". September 15, 2012.
  23. ^ "The Shape of Things To Come Episode 8 Tiger! Tiger!". Miranda Richardson Radio Appearances. Archived from the original on December 20, 2010. Retrieved January 2, 2009.
  24. ^ "Interview: Mahiro Maeda" (in French). Coyote Magazine. January 18, 2016. Archived from the original on August 28, 2016. Retrieved January 27, 2018.
  25. ^ "Destination: Development Hell: How Alfred Bester's 'The Stars My Destination' Took a Jaunt to Hollywood" in David Hughes, The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made. Chicago IL: A Capella Books, 2001, pp. 8-17
  26. ^ Ambrose, Tom (November 14, 2008). "Asimov's The End Of Eternity Is Coming". Empire. Bauer Consumer Media. Retrieved May 14, 2011.
  27. ^ "U has 'Stars' in its eyes" Variety (March 21, 2006)
  28. ^ Busch, Anita (February 27, 2015). "Paramount In Talks To Acquire Rights To Sci-Fi Classic 'The Stars My Destination'". Retrieved March 1, 2015.
  29. ^ Anders, Charlie Jane (August 10, 2012). "100 Wonderful and Terrible Movies That Never Existed". io9. Archived from the original on October 20, 2012. Retrieved October 5, 2012.