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Gully Foyle is my name
And Terra is my nation
Deep space is my dwelling place
And death's my destination
It is the twenty fifth century. An age when humanity can jaunte across the world, where telepaths are, if not common, then not unheard of. An age where humanity has spread across the solar system -- a golden age that no one knows they are living in. An age when conflict between the Inner Planets and the Outer Satellites is about to end the age of the Global Wars by means of the outbreak of the first Solar War.
None of this matters to Gully Foyle -- the quintessential everyman, if you are convinced Humans Are Bastards. No education, no skills, no ambition, just a Mechanic's Mate Third Class on the freighter Nomad, which lies crippled in the void between the planets. And he does want to survive, and he has for six months when the spaceship Vorga sees the wreck of the Nomad, sees the distress signals -- and passes by, leaving him to rot.
Now Gully Foyle has a pressing reason to do more than simply survive as he had done while surviving on the Nomad, as he had done all his life before hand. Now, he's headed back to Terra, and he will have his revenge, no matter who stands in his way...
- The Alcatraz
- Anti-Hero: Oh, is Foyle ever one.
- Anti-Villain: Dagenham
- Aristocrats Are Evil: The Presteigns are quite fond of saying that they love blood and money.
- Ascended to A Higher Plane of Existence: One possible interpretation of the whole "Burning Man" episode.
- As You Wish
- Blessed with Suck: Robin is a "Telesend", meaning she can't read people's minds, but can only broadcast her thoughts, which often has embarrassing results. The only positive side is that she is capable of controlling the ability enough that she can select who hears the thoughts, allowing a degree of telepathic communication.
- Byronic Hero: Foyle
- Cargo Cult: The Scientific People, who are a Cargo Cult IN SPACE!
- Cold-Blooded Torture: Foyle inflicts this on the people connected to the Vorga, and it's especially grisly when he realizes that they are implanted with an Involuntary Suicide Mechanism... which Foyle gets around by cutting a man's heart out and keeping him on full life support (and in agony) while he interrogates him.
- Corporate Samurai: Dagenham is basically a proto-example of this Cyberpunk type.
- Cyberpunk: Although published in 1956, some three decades before Cyberpunk emerged, the book has many examples of the tropes common in cyberpunk -- the antihero, the mysterious female thief, the intrigue of the multinational companies, the scientific McGuffin and cybernetically boosted reflexes most obvious amongst them. This is not entirely a coincidence: cyberpunk pioneer William Gibson has called The Stars My Destination his favourite novel.
- Dark Messiah: Foyle is one of these at the end he spreads all over the world the MacGuffin, which is Made of Explodium and can be really easily set off. He gives people the chance not to mess up, but if Humans Are Bastards, the world will go kaboom
- Determinator: Nothing will stop Gully Foyle from having his revenge. Nothing.
- Die or Fly: How the first jaunter discovered his ability. Also how Gully Foyle escapes the wreck of the Nomad.
- Evil Albino: Olivia Presteign.
- Facial Markings: After an unplanned stopover at the home of the Scientific People, Gully Foyle gets extensive facial tattooing that is implied to be quite, quite hideous. Though it is worth noting that tattoos are virtually unknown in the future.
- From Nobody to Nightmare: Oh, boy howdy.
- The Great Politics Mess-Up: Russia is still the USSR. In at least one part of the book, Stalingrad gets mentioned.
- Have a Gay Old Time: The character Jisbella, or as she's more commonly called, "Jiz."
- Hulk Speak: Foyle (and it's implied lower class people in general) speak in a dialect that's a lot like this.
- I'll Kill You!: "You pass me by. You leave me rot like a dog. You leave me die, Vorga ... Vorga-T:1339. No. I get out of here, me. I follow you, Vorga. I find you, Vorga. I pay you back, me. I rot you. I kill you, Vorga. I kill you filthy."
- Inexplicably Identical Individuals: Mr. Presto. Not inexplicably, though, as the narration mentions they are corporate spokesmen all given extensive cosmetic surgery to look identical.
- Literary Allusion Title: The novel's alternate title, Tiger! Tiger!, from the William Blake poem.
- Lotus Eater Machine: As a means of interrogating Gully Foyle.
- Meaningful Name: Many of the characters are named after British towns and cities. Bester began writing the novel while living in England.
- Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex: After Jisbella reveals to Foyle that she's in a relationship with Dagenham, he tries to ask how that could be possible, given that Dagenham is a Walking Wasteland. Soon afterward, the reader sees how things work. Dagenham and Jisbella can have sex during his "safe" periods, and after that, they go to different beds that are separated by a lead-lined two-way mirror allowing them to see each other but preventing Jisbella from being exposed to Dagenham's radioactivity.
- Marked Change: Gully Foyle's facial tattoos turn into this after he has them (painfully) removed. He is stunned to discover that they reemerge whenever he is in the grips of strong emotions.
- To elaborate: He has them removed by having the ink dissolved out of his skin; while this removes the ink, it leaves subdermal scars which fills with blood, recreating the tattoo in bright red, whenever he gets flushed.
- Master of Disguise: One of the secret police characters pursuing Foyle.
- It helps that they have technology in the future that allows him to artificially add about 40 pounds to his weight.
- McGuffin: PyrE is one of the reasons that everyone with a bit of interest in what happens to the Inner Planets is chasing Gully Foyle across every corner of their territory.
- Meaningful Name: 'Gully' is short for Gulliver... and both characters follow similar development arcs right down to becoming reclusive misanthropes at the end of their respective stories.
- Mega Corp: One is involved quite directly in the plot.
- No Transhumanism Allowed: Averted -- Once he's rich, Foyle uses his money to have implants and circuitry put into his body that give him super-strength and amazing reflexes.
- Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: In fact, it's outright illegal leading to, somewhat unsurprisingly, underground religions. People who take part in such things are normally viewed as something akin to sexual deviants:
"Filthy pictures, signore? Cellar Christians, kneeling, praying, singing psalms, kissing cross? Very naughty. Very smutty, signore. Entertain your friends ... Excite the ladies."
- Phlebotinum: PyrE -- a psychically activated nuclear explosive.
- Rape Is Love: As close to love as anything in this book gets, anyway.
- Combined with a Masochism Tango.
- Recycled in Space: The Count of Monte Cristo
- Rich Idiot With No Day Job: Foyle pretends to be an Upperclass Twit in his Fourmyle identity
- Secret Police: Central Intelligence is quite obviously this. They even have a secret language that is called...the Secret Speech.
- Sense Freak: Inverted -- and how! -- with the Skoptsy.
- Sliding Scale of Anti-Heroes: Foyle dances between type IV and V with alarming frequency.
- Space Is an Ocean: Foyle is an astronaut but is described as a sailor; this is probably at least in part because of the Recycled in Space aspect.
- Tech Marches On: Presteign of Presteign is so rich he can afford to have his own telephone switchboard, complete with operator. Subverted somewhat, in that jaunting has made communications networks obsolete, and a private telephone switchboard is an unnecessary extravagance. In fact, social status is reflected by just how much obsolete and unnecessary technology one surrounds oneself with.
- Teleporters and Transporters
- Teleport Interdiction: Anti-teleport security measures include turning headquarters and homes into elaborate manipulable mazes. Jaunting only works if you know where you are and where the destination is. Attempting to teleport if you don't will just fail to work or lead to disappearance/death.
- This Loser Is You: As noted above, the book's idea of an "average man" is a real nasty piece of work.
- Time Stands Still
- Took a Level In Badass: Goes from a living object to relentless killing machine to effectively transcendent through the course of the novel, all because some passersby decided not to give him a life-saving lift.
- Unfortunate Names: The aforementioned woman thief is named Jisbella, but is more often just referred to as "Jiz".
- Walking Wasteland: Dagenham. Mildly subverted in that he can avoid causing damage if he limits his interactions with the world outside his radiation-proof chamber.
- Whoopi Epiphany Speech: Possibly the most memorable passage in the book, delivered to humanity as a whole by a man who began the story as a mindless, uneducated drone.
"You got the most in you, and you use the least. You hear me, you? Got a million in you and spend pennies. Got a genius in you and think crazies. Got a heart in you and feel empties. All a you. Every you... Take a war to make you spend. Take a jam to make you think. Take a challenge to make you great. Rest of the time you sit around lazy, you."
- Note that it's a inversion of this trope: while in its classical form a Whoopi Epiphany Speech is delivered by a poor uneducated character to his or her social betters, neither Gully, nor his auditory is either. Gully was a mindless drone barely eligible to be called a sapient, but has since jerked himself out of this stupor, and he tells the very people he was some time ago that they could do the same -- a sort of inspirational World of Cardboard Speech.
- Unconventional Formatting: Gully temporarily suffers from synesthesia after a head trauma, which Bester represents with modified typeface.
- Yellow Peril: In the future, all intelligence work will be handled by the Chinese, 'cause they're so good at it, don't you know.
- Subverted in that they're not actually "yellow." The book states that jaunting has blurred racial lines to the point that a person's name is generally the only indicator of their nationality.
- ↑ there is some debate as to which is the original title