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The Killing Star Mass Market Paperback – February 1, 1996
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Pellegrino and Zebrowski hang a whirlwind of ideas within the framework of the traditional sf concept of first contact with intelligent aliens. Their yarn is full of action and danger to the human race, too--and without dividing the cast into good guys and bad. Among their double handful of ideas are concepts concerning enhanced human intelligence, several superweapons, new energy sources, and the Titanic disaster (on which Pellegrino is a recognized expert). All of this does not make the book's plot easy to follow. On the other hand, all the idea mongering shows so much creativity and knowledge that you almost wind up not caring whether the book has a plot. Pellegrino and Zebrowski are working territory not too far removed from Arthur C. Clarke's, and anywhere Clarke is popular, this book should be, too. Roland Green --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Dr. Charles Pellegrino is the author of twelve books, including Unearthing Atlantis and Her Name, Titanic. He is a paleontologist who designs robotic space probes and relativistic rockets. In his spare time, Pellegrino writes mindbending technothrillers. Jan de Bont, the director of Speed and Twister, has recently signed on to direct the film adaptation of Pellegrino's Dust. Dr. Pellegrino lives in New York. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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(Spoilers ahead) Many of the ideas presented here are legitimately disturbing and appear to be scientifically valid (though other reviewers here have nitpicked the authors for getting the speed of light wrong (and one of the authors has himself made the mistake of responding to these reviews(the first rule of the writers' club is that the only effective response to a harsh review is to bash one's brains out against the nearest wall))), and they make the book well worth the purchase: relativity bombs, anti-hydrogen, interstellar valkyrie ships, alien races enslaved by machines, humanity burrowing inside Ceres or a battle across the sun with absorbic bombs which change energy into matter and inadvertently cause a stellar collapse, a grey goo molecular virus—all left me aching for more stories in this universe. Other ideas, such as the extremely nineties-esque obsession with the Titanic and cloned dinosaurs, as well as the ridiculous admission, on the part of our alien exterminator, that his race (or their robot overlords) decided to wipe us out after watching Star Trek: The Next Generation—not because of the wooden acting or episode after episode of thirty-second technobabble resolutions coming after fifty minutes of unsolvable problems, but because the humans in the show display a pattern of contempt for alien species (in Star Trek!). As for me, watching a few minutes of Maury would probably be enough to have me pressing the button to launch the relativity bombs in Earth's direction. Also: bonephones.
The story shifts from one-dimensional character to one-dimensional character, none of whom is really memorable save for Richard Tuna, and only because of his ridiculous name. Then there was the guy who was sad about his pet dinosaur dying, and another guy (maybe Tuna?) who was so crazy about the Titanic that he more or less locked himself inside a VR recreation of the ship's sinking. If you found yourself repeatedly wondering why the Titanic was such a prominent feature of a novel about aliens exterminating humanity, you were definitely not alone. The writing flows admirably, however, and the story was so gripping that I probably could have finished it in a single sitting: I was nonetheless disappointed that everything ended just as it was beginning! What happened to the two humans captured by the space jellyfish? Did they wind up in some kind of crazy interstellar zoo? Did they orchestrate a rebellion against their masters and then build a time machine to exterminate the exterminators before they could exterminate everyone else? Perhaps it's time to write an unauthorized sequel...
For a week or two I was convinced, thanks to this darkest of books, that humanity was doomed, but thanks to programs like Space Engine as well as a healthy dose of self-delusion I've come to conclude that relativity bombs and genocidal aliens are not that much of a threat: there's probably only a few decades, at most, in a sentient species' evolution when they decide to go on the offensive, as depicted in this novel (if they ever do), and then before you know it they evolve into something beyond our comprehension, melding with the fabric of the universe and no longer worrying about relativity bombs or Star Trek's arbitrary-ridge-head-of-the-week. Thanks to the incredible age and vastness of the universe, the likelihood that our species will be exterminated by enslaved ice world jellyfish appears to be slim, but that shouldn't stop us from organizing an adequate defense—which, in the authors' view, would appear to be an aggressive offense.
A couple good points: the few surviving human outposts are all interesting sub-plot lines as they each attempt to avoid detection and subsequent destruction. Some of the science and technology described was also interesting (if you are a hard sci-fi fan like myself). However some technologies seemed rather far fetched ("Asorbic bombs" and "Bardo cones").
However, the book feels very incomplete. The fate of several characters are dropped right when things start to get interesting. Overall, the development of the characters is very weak.
The ultimate fate of humanity and earth life is left for the reader to guess, but with a very bleak chance of success, the book is extremely depressing.
Edit 7/27/14: More than a year later, I find I have thought a bit about this book on and off after finishing it. A book must be pretty good in one sense if you continue to think about the overall plot occasionally. It left a lasting impression. So, even though I think that this book could have been longer, with better character development and resolution (and the entire Titanic theme expunged or reduced during the initial edit) I feel I have underrated it. So upon reflection, I have to bump this to a 4-star.
Also, I think a follow-on book or two that details the trials of the few survivors in the years following the attack would be a worthwhile read.
None the less, The Killing Star will hold your interest from beginning to end. It is by no means boring or a chore to read.