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The Killing Star

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  197 ratings  ·  39 reviews
The Apocalypse occurs nine days prior to America's Tri-Centennial celebration - when relativistic bombs launched by an unknown alien civilization finally reach their destinations. One man sees them approaching - but by then, it is already too late. And in a brief, incomprehensible instant, every inhabited planetary surface in the solar system is wiped clean. Life has cease ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 340 pages
Published February 1st 1996 by Avon Books (first published April 1st 1995)
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3.84  · 
Rating details
 ·  197 ratings  ·  39 reviews

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Sep 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Rule 1. Aliens will believe their survival is more important than our survival.

Rule 2. Wimps don't become top dogs.

Rule 3. Aliens will assume the the first two rules apply to us as well.
Jul 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: science fiction fans
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
This book was absolutely terrifying when I first read it, not in the way a horror story is terrifying, but because of the reason the Earth is attacked. Are you an avid science fiction reader, secure in your conception of mankind's strengths and how mature intelligent races behave? This book will rip those notions to shreds.
Jun 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I read this book a long time ago in high school, and for whatever reason, it's resonated with me more than some 95% of all other novels I've ever read. I find myself referring to it a lot in philosophical discussions (not that anyone else has ever heard of it), and even just thinking about it a lot.

I think it's the cold, brutal, hard logic of the aliens that really draws me in. It's so coldly rational and inescapable, and a welcome counter-point to most of the rest of science fiction. It's also,
Apr 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
Lots of cool ideas but ultimately, it's sort of an amateur venture.
Nicolas Quattromani
Dec 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
Review originally posted on Let's Get Off This Rock Already (

Here we will explore how not to write a science fiction novel.

Now, I really wanted to like The Killing Star. Pellegrino and Zebrowski’s novel is beloved in some sci-fi circles, and I can see why: their vision of the galaxy is a brutal place, where any civilization becomes an existential threat the moment it develops interstellar rockets, and the only logical action is to exterminate the other sp
Sep 11, 2017 rated it liked it
I first read this book probably 20 years ago and it turns out this is one of those books that was much better remembered than it was in actuality.

This book opens with an alien attack on Earth, Mars and all the out-system science stations. In the opening minutes of the attack the human population is reduced to probably a 1,000 people or less. The good part of the book describes the attack, how it works, what happens to who, who happens to survive and what the survivors do in the immediate afterm
Oct 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
This would have to qualify as one of the most depressing novels ever, as it involves (view spoiler). A lot of the scenarios with future spaceflight developments are now outdated, and the writing itself certainly is not great literature, but it is still a compelling and morbidly fascinating read nonetheless (though I am still hopeful that a real alien first contact would not be so brutal). The ...more
Sep 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very, very interesting, but...

If 3.5 stars was an option that's what I would give it. The reason for the downgrade isn't the story, or even the prose, but the author himself. Occasionally he is wildly obnoxious and the presumptions are sometime insufferable. Between those moments remains 3.5 stars of interesting story laced with technological mind candy. The concept of "absorbic bombs" alone ignited in me hours of thought exercise.
Alastair Mayer
Nov 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Not exactly a sequel to Pellegrino's "Flying to Valhalla", but it could be on a very close timeline - there are many common elements, although the story is quite different. For having been written 24 years ago, it still holds up remarkably well, and the inexorable logic is just as chilling. There are a couple of weak spots, but overall enough action, good science, and intriguing concepts to earn its stars.
Chris Ainsworth
Apr 27, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ken Richards
Nov 13, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. Perhaps one of the most depressing books I have ever read! Begins with the destruction of Earth, and gets worse from there on.
Mark Brakenhoff
Jan 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Fun premise and generally enjoyable. Last third is much too focused on the prophets. That portion of the story was uninteresting.
Bill Yancey
Jun 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Illustrates the problem of trying to be scientifically correct, in detail. Too much telling and not enough showing. A third of this novel should have been cut out by the editor.
Jul 07, 2016 rated it did not like it
While perhaps not the worst wanna-be-science fiction I've ever read (this distinction is held by WWW trilogy), it is definitely in top 10.

Perhaps I started with wrong expectations - my friend tried to sell this to me as hard SF, which this book is most definitely not. But I am not a person to hold onto my expectations for long, so was this book good, I'd just change my perspective.

The problem is, this book WANTS to be hard SF and fails miserably. The authors put a lot of effort into describing a
Maxwell Edison
Aug 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Going to repost my review from printsf:

This is a book I read about on atomic rockets with quite a frightening premise regarding aliens:

If an alien species has to choose between them and us, they won't choose us. It is difficult to imagine a contrary case; species don't survive by being self-sacrificing.

No species makes it to the top by being passive. The species in charge of any given planet will be highl
Jul 05, 2014 rated it liked it
I finally finished this book, and it left me with a difficult task in appointing a star rating. It probably intrigued me on levels and will definitely be a book I bring up in many a science fiction discussion but I also found myself breezing through parts of it, and shaking my head at a few others. But the fundamental premise is one that I'll definitely bring up in any discussion of looking for life on other planets, or reading any story of first contact with an alien species.

Short summary: Tur
Pat Buchanan
Feb 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The biggest surprise book of my life. Not sure if I was just in the right mood or what, but this book caught me off guard with it's incredible writing, the deep characters and the rather unique story. This is the kind of sci-fi book you search and search for, and rarely find. I would put this book in the top 10 sci-fi books I've ever read - shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Old Man's War and Enders Game. Great, and different thinking about how man could use the natural aspects of space in o ...more
Jul 02, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi-fantasy, 2015
I'm still not quite certain if Charles Pellegrino is off-the-wall crazy, or super smart. It's certainly a bold man that names vast swaths of planets after himself and his buddies, and puts his real-life enemies in a work of fiction as the villains. However, he interleaves some good hard sci-fi with plausible tech and alien behaviors. I liked the premise and beginning best, but I thought the work was weaker for having direct contact with the aliens. I think if we ever do make contact, the aliens ...more
Katie Minion
Oct 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book was... different. It wasn't a story you read to be entertained because you didn't have a lot of opportunity to get attached to certain characters. The story was more about the scientific possibilities of space travel. I thought the science part of this book, even though I didn't understand it, was really interesting. It was also interesting to read the end of the book where they describe which parts of the book were based on science, and which were more or less made up (almost all of i ...more
W.E. Larson
May 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a book I found more interesting than entertaining. As a novel, it has some serious weaknesses in terms of characters. The characters feel a little like an afterthought; there more to add some story to the ideas than as an end to themselves. However, the science and ideas are really intriguing and kept me turning the pages. It's a different, chilling, and logical way of thinking about how intelligent aliens might view the Universe.

While I found the ideas and hard sci-fi science really gre
Jul 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Following my decision to revisit less well-known SF of the 1980s and 90s, I read this novel of an alien invasion. It's actually quite good but I could not warm to it. The science is solid, some of the characters are quite interesting, the scope is wide...wait, maybe this is the problem. I am getting tired of multiple focalization through a range of unrelated characters. This narrative device is done, as far as I am concerned. Next time aliens invade, I want to have a single point of view and a n ...more
Alexa Williams
Feb 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: scifi
I really really wanted to like this book, but it became too messy for me. There were too many threads, too many characters we didn't see enough of. I just wanted more of Hollis, who I found to be the most compelling character, but since there are so many characters you don't get to know any that well. It almost felt more like a collection of short stories. I also disagree with the decision to actually show/interact with the intruders, but that's more personal preference than anything else. Great ...more
Ruy de Oliveira
Nov 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
I can't believe this book slipped by me for over 20 years. The story is haunting, of course, but very well reasoned and very well written. I've been following Cixin Liu's Three Body Problem trilogy, and both premises overlap rather nicely. I am not sure I agree with the idea that interstellar civilizations would still be bound by such strict darwinism, though. But if they are, indeed the book makes total sense. In such case, too bad we have already broadcast our existence so carelessly. All in a ...more
Julie Amador
Sep 27, 2012 rated it did not like it
I read this when it first came out. While I enjoyed the concept, I was disappointed in it for many reasons. SPOILERS stop reading if you haven't read it. I was most put off by the depressing aspect that nearly all humans had been extinguished and our future was grim. And the only characters I really liked were the reincarnation of Jesus and Buddha. It just left me in a bad mood and honestly is the only book I wish I would never have read. I did not feel hopeful or uplifted by the end, just depre ...more
In my opinion, not much of a novel. Rather, it's a vehicle for examining various hard science and philosophical concepts about extraterrestrial life and our universe.

What there was of character development was a start, but since the story jumped back and forth between various factions I was sometimes confused about which group we were currently dealing with.
Dwayne Toney
Dec 28, 2014 rated it it was ok
I think this is one of those books that either does it for you or does not. For me it did not. though I liked the concept and got into it in parts, I felt it ended right when it was getting interesting!
Doug Roberts
Jan 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this one a great deal although it feels like the first in a series. The story ends a bit abruptly and since there doesn't appear to be a sequel, I'll take that as the author being a polite guest, bringing a lovely hostess gift, and choosing not to wear out his welcome.
Thomas Cardin
Sep 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Very influential. Very frightening! The science is sound and the reasoning is innescapable.

I list this easily as one of the top books that have changed how I think about our place in this universe.
Mar 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A Sceince fiction book where the Fiction is that it has not happened yet. The Science is pure and correct. All done while telling a pretty good story. And as would be the case in a true science story, it does not work all that well for all.
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Charles Pellegrino is a scientist working in paleobiology, astronomy, and various other areas; a designer for projects including rockets and nuclear devices (non-military propulsion systems), composite construction materials, and magnetically levitated transportation systems; and a writer. He has been affiliated with Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand National Observatory, Brookhaven N ...more
“Imagine yourself taking a stroll through Manhattan, somewhere north of 68th street, deep inside Central Park, late at night. It would be nice to meet someone friendly, but you know that the park is dangerous at night. That's when the monsters come out. There's always a strong undercurrent of drug dealings, muggings, and occasional homicides.

It is not easy to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys. They dress alike, and the weapons are concealed. The only difference is intent, and you can't read minds.

Stay in the dark long enough and you may hear an occasional distance shriek or blunder across a body.

How do you survive the night? The last thing you want to do is shout, "I'm here!" The next to last thing you want to do is reply to someone who shouts, "I'm a friend!"

What you would like to do is find a policeman, or get out of the park. But you don't want to make noise or move towards a light where you might be spotted, and it is difficult to find either a policeman or your way out without making yourself known. Your safest option is to hunker down and wait for daylight, then safely walk out.

There are, of course, a few obvious differences between Central Park and the universe.

There is no policeman.

There is no way out.

And the night never ends.”
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