Tiger! Tiger! – Alfred Bester. Cover by Alan Aldridge, 1967.
Tiger! Tiger! is a science-fiction novel set in the 24th century. It was first published as a four-part serial, The Stars My Destination, in the US science fiction magazine Galaxy, beginning with the October 1956 issue.
The novel first appeared in book form in the UK taking its title from William Blake’s poem, The Tyger. The poem’s famous first verse is printed as the first page of the novel.
Alfred Bester, the 9th Grand Master of Science Fiction Writers of America, certainly packed a lot of action into the book’s 236 pages.
The central character, Gulliver Foyle, is marooned in space when his ship is attacked. He is the only survivor and, after six months of waiting for rescue, is ignored by a passing spaceship. Foyle, not unreasonably, is enraged and is transformed into a man consumed by revenge. He repairs his spaceship, but is then captured by a cult which tattoos the image of a tiger on his face. He manages to escape and attempts to blow up the spaceship which abandoned him. He fails and is captured by the ship’s owners who torture him.
Foyle, protected by his own revenge fixation, cannot be broken. He is thrown into prison where he meets the magnificently named Jisbella McQueen. She teaches him to think clearly and tells him he should find out who gave the order not to rescue him. Together they escape and, while they’re at it, arrange to have his tattoos removed. This is not a total success and the scars become visible whenever Foyle becomes too emotional. Undaunted they travel to find Foyle’s old spaceship from which they recover a fortune in platinum. But… Foyle and Jis are captured again. And that’s just the first chapter.
The novel inspired some wonderful cover designs but Alan Aldridge’s 1967 version is not one of them. Penguin’s founder Allen Lane certainly wasn’t a fan; he felt that Aldridge’s designs were too commercial and tasteless. If it had been up to me I would have used Rousseau’s scaredy-cat, Tiger in a Tropical Storm. I like to think that Lane would have approved.
David Pelham designed the cover of the 1974 edition which was inspired by the edition’s back cover blurb; this described Foyle as, “liar, lecher, ghoul, walking cancer, obsessed by vengeance, the 24th century’s most valuable commodity but he doesn’t know it”.
“I drew a composite portrait made out of debris. If you have a copy of this book you might actually see Gully Foyle on the cover. He’s a tiny white spot to the left of the portrait’s left eye, adrift in space, because that’s where we first come across him, barely getting by, living in the tangled remains of a drifting spaceship that has exploded”.
Can you spot him?