Gully Foyle is not a likeable man. But he is a compelling one. And in The Stars My Destination Alfred Bester wrote one of his best. (I do like The Demolished Man a little bit more.)
in space, running out of air, Gully Foyle watches as a ship that could
save him passes him by. This changes something in him, turning him into a
monster bent on revenge (comparisons to The Count of Monte Cristo do
not go amiss.) Although he gains sophistication and self-control
throughout the book, he remains a tiger, burning his way through the
lives of those he encounters.
The world through which he moves
is drastically different from our own. The primary mode of
transportation is jaunting - teleporting in relatively short hops, up to
1000 miles - and the world has adapted itself to this technique.
Jaunting has had profound effects on living arrangements, population
distribution, and the status of women.
Wealthy women are kept
separate, sequestered, in windowless wings, where jaunting is
impossible. Even those without resources find their possibilities
The Inner and Outer Planets are on the verge
of war, and through this strides Foyle, caring for neither side,
unaware he possesses the most powerful weapon either side has yet
The world Bester creates is vivid and complex, the
characters intriguing, Foyle's mission compelling. He takes this
strongly unpleasant character and yet makes him interesting, and his
mission urgent. Who holds the fate of the world in their hands? Who
should? Gully Foyle's answer to that question is simply staggering.