Charles Pellegrino
Flying to Valhalla (1993)
Reviewed: 2004-12-21

Pellegrino's first novel follows the expectations for its kind: a flurry of ideas, occasionally awkward writing, a first sample of the concerns and quirks the author will revisit in later works. Flying to Valhalla chronicles the first crewed human mission to a neighboring star system. After Pellegriono pitched his ideas for some years to the scientific community, he went ahead and embarrassed them all by writing science fiction. A rough concept developed by Pellegrino and a co-worker, the Valkyrie design is a reasonably plausible antimatter rocket. The novel details the first voyage to the Alpha Centauri system, the unexpected discovery of intelligent life there, and the consequences arising from first contact.

At the core of the book is the same issue so chillingly explored in the author's subsequent novel The Killing Star. Relativistic bombardment can sterilize planets, there is no defense, and if there is even the most minuscule chance that a neighboring civilization might launch a strike, this kind of existential risk requires preemptive action. What started as an innocent adventure turns grim when Earth ponders that the pilot of the first Valkyrie may have gone insane and that the harmless natives of Alpha Centauri A-4 might turn into eventual competitors.

As usual, Pellegrino himself makes a cameo as "Robert Tuna" and indulges in some of his pet ideas and obsessions. Yes, there is an entirely gratuitous mention of the Titanic, and yes, there is life in the ocean under the ice crust of a cold world. Rather more irritating are the segments dealing with the protagonist's premonitions where the author plays around with ideas about repeating history and communication across the Big Crunch and Big Bang so bizarre he can't bring himself to believe in but finds altogether too fascinating to pass up. The body of the novel is succeeded by an afterword and further notes explaining which details are not fictional and which are autobiographic elements.

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Christian "naddy" Weisgerber <>