The Killing Star
|Author||Charles R. Pellegrino and George Zebrowski|
|Publisher||William Morrow & Co|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
|LC Class||PS3566.E418 K55 1995|
The Killing Star is a hard science fiction novel by Charles R. Pellegrino and George Zebrowski, published in April, 1995. It covers several familiar speculative fiction ideas such as sublight interstellar travel, genetic cloning, virtual reality, advanced robotics, alien contact, and interstellar war.
The late 21st century seems like a good time to be alive. Earth is at peace. Humans now command self-replicating machines that create engineering marvels on enormous scales. Artificial habitats dot the solar system. Anti-matter driven Valkyrie rockets carry explorers to the stars at nearly the speed of light. All seems well.
Then, from the uncaring black of space come swarms of relativistic missiles. Though they are merely boulder-sized hunks of metal, they move fast enough to hit with the force of many nuclear arsenals. They are impossible to track and impossible to stop. Humanity is all but wiped out by the horrific bombardment. (To read a discussion of relativistic weapons and an excerpt of the attack, look here.)
A handful of survivors desperately struggle to escape the alien mop-up fleet. They hide close to the sun, inside asteroids, beneath the crusts of moons, within ice rings, and in the fathomless depths of interstellar space. But most are hunted down and slaughtered.
The last man and woman on Earth are captured as zoo specimens. In the belly of an alien starship, a squid-like being relates to them the pitiless logic behind human-kind's execution: the moment humans learned to travel at relativistic speeds was the moment mankind simply became too dangerous a neighbor to have around. Nothing personal.
The following is an overview of the various survival stories listed according to their location.
Sun - A single spacecraft grazes the Sun while playing a game of cat and mouse with an intruder starship. The humans use negative energy bombs to cause a massive solar eruption which destroys the alien pursuers. Several years later, at the book's end, this band makes the Sun go nova, thus cleansing the solar system of the intruders.
Earth - The last people alive on Earth are a man and woman in a submersible. The relativistic missiles hit while they are surveying the RMS Titanic. One of the characters finds respite in a virtual reality program of the Titanic. Eventually the couple goes ashore at New York City where the only evidence they find that humankind ever existed is the plumbing for a swimming pool buried deep beneath the mud. The pair regularly send out distress calls which the aliens home in on. The two survivors are captured as zoo specimens.
Ceres - Colonists living within the dwarf planet Ceres escape the initial attack unnoticed. Unfortunately, the waste heat from normal colony operations, plus the colony's cavern excavations, have produced an unmistakable corona of dust and infrared emissions. The colonists know they will likely draw the aliens' attention sooner or later, but have no choice but to try to hide. They drop power usage to near zero and cut all radio transmissions. The aliens, however, broadcast a virus program which one of the Ceres robots picks up. The virus tells the robot to make self-replicating nanomachines. These "Grey goo" nanobots (the book describes them as self-replicating molecules that raise the melting point of ceramic and metal compounds) disassemble the Ceres habitat, killing all the colonists.
Saturn - Clones of what some believe to be the historical Jesus and Buddha lead their flock away from Saturn's rings. The group plans to hide around the energy rich brown dwarfs in the interstellar medium. There they hope to rebuild human civilization and eventually strike back at the alien murderers.
Neptune - Some humans hiding below the frozen crust of Neptune's moon, Triton take their ship to Neptune to see about establishing a deep ocean base. The captain, however, has a mental breakdown and drives his vessel down until it implodes.
Deep Space - Several interplanetary vessels and a few Valkyries returning from interstellar missions are destroyed early on. A Valkyrie is shot down by another Valkyrie-mounted railgun to prevent it from accidentally betraying the location of the remaining pockets of humanity. There is some speculation that a handful of husband/wife teams in Valkyrie ships in nearby starsystems may still survive.
Contemporary and historical references
The Killing Star makes several references to historic and contemporary people, places, and things. A few notables include the following:
We Are the World by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie - Six alien ships patrolling through the post-attack solar system continually broadcast this song. It served both as a taunt to the pathetic survivors and as a carrier for computer viruses. The aliens chose this song partly because on April 5, 1985 it constituted the single strongest radio transmission ever sent from Earth. It also conveyed the disturbing impression that humanity might become a unified force to reckon with.
Star Trek: The Next Generation - The aliens presented to two of the human survivors footage from several Star Trek episodes as examples of our fiction reflecting a deep rooted desire to dominate all other species.
Titanic - One of the survivors on Earth spent an inordinate amount of time in a virtual reality simulation of the Titanic. He tinkered with the program until, without knowing it, he made it sentient. Since the artificial intelligence was a representation of his mother, the AI convinced him to delete her so that he could get back to the business of living.
Jurassic Park - Dinosaurs, ancient flora, and even historical figures were cloned in the novel.
- Naeye, Robert. "The Killing Star Scenario." Mercury 32.6 (Nov. 2003): 24-24.
- Berry, Adrian. "The younger you are, the safer." Spectator 278.8797 (08 Mar. 1997): 17.
- Green, Roland. "Adult books: Fiction." Booklist 91.16 (15 Apr. 1995): 1484.
- Gerald Jonas. "Science Fiction." New York Times Book Review (14 May 1995): 24.
- Feeley, Gregory. "Science fiction and fantasy." Washington Post News Feed 118.202 (25 June 1995): 8