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A Trip To The Stars

A Trip To The Stars

4.5 11
by Nicholas Christopher

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At a Manhattan planetarium in 1965, ten-year-old Enzo and his young aunt, Mala, are separated, an event that profoundly alters the rest of their lives. In an epic tale of love and destiny, A Trip to the Stars charts their paths over the next fifteen years as they search for each other and, in the process, discover themselves.

As Enzo and Mala cross


At a Manhattan planetarium in 1965, ten-year-old Enzo and his young aunt, Mala, are separated, an event that profoundly alters the rest of their lives. In an epic tale of love and destiny, A Trip to the Stars charts their paths over the next fifteen years as they search for each other and, in the process, discover themselves.

As Enzo and Mala cross continents and seas on their separate journeys, they encounter a dizzying array of people: an arachnologist in New Orleans, an asteroid specialist, a wounded B-52 navigator in Vietnam, a professional mind reader, a maverick NASA astronomer, and countless others. All of them are searching for things they have lost — loved ones, opportunities, enlightenment. Through them Mala and Enzo discover a world steeped in mystery, romance, and intellectual adventure.

A Trip to the Stars is both a love story and a coming-of-age story that shows us what happens when we lose what matters most. Fusing imagination and suspense with remarkable narrative skill, Nicholas Christopher builds a story of tremendous scope that lingers in detail and sensation long after the last page has been turned.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Breathtaking coincidences, magical occurrences, dramatic confrontations, mystical beliefs, the influence of astronomical phenomenon and the intriguing confluence of fate and chance are plot elements that bubble like champagne in Christopher's (Veronica) brilliantly labyrinthine new novel. The theme of lost and found--people, opportunities, knowledge, cultures--permeates the two stories that run parallel in a buoyant, suspenseful narrative that spans 15 tumultuous years. In 1965, an orphan named Loren is celebrating his 10th birthday by visiting a New York planetarium with his adoptive aunt, Alma Verell, when he is kidnapped. He is taken to meet his wealthy, benevolent great-uncle, Junius Samax, who whisks him off to his home in the opulent Hotel Canopus in Las Vegas, where Loren learns his true name, Enzo, and some clues about his maternal parentage. Under Samax's genial protection and tutelage, Enzo enjoys a privileged life and a rich education, as he meets the distinguished scholars who come to stay with Samax, a patron of the arts and an indefatigable searcher after arcane knowledge. But Enzo remains tensely aware that another resident of the hotel, Samax's niece, Ivy, is determined to destroy him. Meanwhile, 20-year-old college classics major Alma, an orphan herself, is frantic at Loren's disappearance. After a police investigation reaches a dead end, she flees to New Orleans, changes her name to Mala Revell, and allows herself to be bitten by a rare Stellarum spider, whose venom endows her with psychic ability. Enlisting in the navy, Mala goes to Vietnam as a nurse, where she falls in love with Geza Cassiel, a wounded airman. After an idyllic few days together, Cassiel is given a new, secret assignment--and disappears. Having now lost two people in her life, Mala begins years of island-hopping in the South Pacific, throwing herself into the '70s counterculture of drugs, booze and promiscuous sex. A tragic accident halts her downward spiral, and her spirit is ready for renewal when fate sends radiant proof of cosmic inevitability, closing one of the concentric circles that gird this complex story. Enzo's quest, which has been a mirror image of Mala's, as the same people have entered both their lives over the years, comes full circle a short time later, in a series of shocking revelations and a regenerating reunion. As background to this intricate narrative, Christopher interweaves erudite details of such subjects as arachnology, vampire lore, quincunxes, architecture, celestial navigation and space exploration, Zuni legends, Greek philosophy--to touch on only a few; despite a few didactic lapses, this material proves intriguingly relevant. Fans of Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale will discover a kindred spirit in Christopher's literate prose and exuberant storytelling techniques. Author tour. (Feb.) FYI: Harcourt Brace will publish Christopher's seventh book of poetry in April. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal - Library Journal
In the first pages of this new work by novelist/poet Christopher (The Creation of the Night Sky), ten-year-old Loren is kidnapped by his great-uncle Junius and raised in wealth and learning, leaving his distraught Aunt Alma behind to search for him. Eventually, she joins the navy and is sent to Vietnam to serve on a hospital ship (it is 1969), then wanders through the South Pacific. Throughout, her path runs parallel to Loren's, and Christopher gracefully intertwines their stories, crafting an intelligent, multifaceted tale sure to keep readers on their toes. Alma and Loren are both vividly developed. As he explores dreams, fantasy, and memories, Christopher successfully blends a love of astronomy, travel, and architecture with intriguing bits of arachnology and space travel. Enigmatic but touching; recommended for most libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/99.]--Shannon Haddock, Bellsouth Corporate Lib. & Business Research Ctr., Birmingham, AL Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Brian Morton
This is a large, lavishly inventive novel, with a huge cast of characters and a dizzyingly elaborate plot... A Trip to the Stars is best read as a contribution to the literature of the fantastic—an American descendant of The Arabian Nights—and as such it's thoroughly satisfying, an erudite and artful entertainment.
The New York Times Book Review
Chicago Tribune
Extraordinary... a dizzying ride... and elegant, idiosyncratic work of art.
New York Times Book Review
Hip Sexy... a novel in which anything can happen... Mr. Christopher is a superbly lyrical and descriptive writer.

Product Details

Publication date:
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5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.30(d)

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Chapter 1: The Planetarium

We had voyaged far into space and now we were returning. Before leaving the solar system, we orbited the moon and several planets — skating along Saturn's rings, probing Jupiter's red spot, and skimming the icy mountain ranges of Uranus. We trailed a comet and threaded a swarm of meteors. And after Pluto, we were out among the stars: glittering clusters, bracelets, and crescents that swirled around us. We followed the long curve of the Milky Way, past Alpha Centauri, the first star beyond the sun, and witnessed the explosion of a supernova and the collapse of a neutron star into a black hole. Traveling two hundred light-years to the red star Antares, we took a long look at the next nearest galaxy, Andromeda, and then reversed course.

In the darkness, to the jagged strains of electronic synthesizers and the roll of timpanis, the crowd was hushed, padded seats tilted back, necks craning, as we made our return journey at the speed of light. I clutched the armrests of my seat and blew away the motes of dust tumbling around my head. Against the spectral glow from the overhead projectors, my aunt's silhouette shone black. Her hair smelled fresh, even in the stale metallic air of that windowless place. It was cold there too. I had my coat buttoned up to my throat and inside my boots was curling my toes to keep them warm.

Finally the blue and white sphere of the earth reappeared before us, suspended in the void, and the godlike voice of the announcer thanked us for taking "A Trip to the Stars," which was what they had called this show, running from Thanksgiving to Christmas. There was a burst of applause and a clatter of seats snapping into place as everyone stood and the houselights came up and the great domed ceiling went black. The electronic music faded away, replaced by a slow ragtime waltz as the ushers opened the doors in the back.

Pulling on my cap, I preceded my aunt to the nearest aisle and felt her hand lightly on my shoulder, guiding me. We had come to this old planetarium at the northern tip of Manhattan to celebrate my tenth birthday. The show had been sold out and the large crowd, closely packed, buzzing with conversation, poured up the narrow aisles of the circular room. We slid into the stream of bodies and were carried along with it. I could see nothing but people's backs and hands. Scents of perfume and sweat filled my nostrils and then the smoke of cigarettes as people began lighting up.

When we reached the back, my aunt took my hand and picked up her pace. Her grip was gentle, but firm, her suede glove soft against my palm. It was only when we had stepped out into the pale winter light — the wind on the sidewalk swirling dry snow, ticket stubs, and programs alike — that the crowd dispersed enough for me to look up at her in order to speak.

And then I could not say a word.

The woman, who was pulling me hard now to a blue sedan idling at the curb, was not my aunt. Until she opened the rear door and pushed me in, I thought she must have mistaken me for another child. Then, before stepping in after me, she looked me full in the face and betrayed no surprise.

A man was behind the wheel wearing a brown coat and a brown homburg tilted low. Even before the woman had pulled the door shut, he threw the car into gear and sped away.

"Hey!" I cried. But as I coiled up to dive for the left-hand door, the woman flipped open her handbag, fished out a black atomizer, and hurriedly squirted a cloud of perfume into my face. My eyes stung and I started coughing. A scent like Easter lilies caught sharply in my throat. I felt woozy, and my heart slowed to the point that I could hear its beats in my ear, broadly spaced, like a distant drum. Everything blurred, as if a gauzy filter, woven of shifting colors, had been placed over my eyes.

"Stop crying!" the woman snapped, not at me, but at the man behind the wheel, as she removed her gloves. They were black suede, like my aunt's.

My hands and feet tingled, then felt heavy, as if my bones had turned to iron. My tongue was thick. When my eyes cleared a short time later, I stared out the window trying to read the street signs. Even if I could have, it wouldn't have mattered: our route, filled with twists and turns, was impossible to follow. We had entered a factory district of narrow streets, rusted loading ports, and broken sidewalks. Pigeons lined the eaves of the warehouses. In the vacant lots bums rubbed their hands over the jagged flames in oil drums. I still felt light-headed, but my vision was less blurred. And already my heart was speeding up and the heaviness was draining from my limbs.

The woman beside me was a complete stranger. She was young — older than my aunt, but still in her twenties. And she was pretty like my aunt, tall and slim with long, light brown hair; but my aunt's eyes were bright blue, and this woman had brown, nearly black, eyes that were darkly made up. I thought again of diving for the far door at a red light or when we slowed for traffic, but we ran every light and there was no traffic on those streets.

We pulled up abruptly at a white brick building beside a vacant lot. The building occupied half the block. Caged windows sealed and dirty, it looked like another factory that had closed down a long time ago. The large doors at its loading zone were chained and padlocked. Its paint was peeling, but the whiteness of the building's facade stood out among the dark gray buildings that lined the rest of the street. The sign over its entrance had been corroded by the elements: only the letters chine — the fragment of a word — remained legible. A man wearing a white coat and oversized gloves was crisscrossing the vacant lot with a metal detector, stepping gingerly over the shattered glass and strewn twisted rubble. He peered back at us over his upturned collar, then turned his eyes back to the ground.

Our driver, frozen behind the wheel, lit a cigarette. His smoke filled the car. He had never turned his head, and I had failed to glimpse his reflection in the rearview mirror.

The woman opened the door and gripped my hand again. "Don't be afraid," she said, her first and only words to me. But her face, rigid and severe, did nothing to allay my fears. My heart was racing now, and the moment I was on my feet, stiff and weak-kneed, I had trouble catching my breath. I wanted to bolt, but managed only token resistance, yanking my arm briefly from the woman's grip and feeling utterly helpless as she led me me into the building through an unlocked metal door that slammed shut behind us.

My first sensation was the smell of burning tar. The air was just as chilly as it had been outside. I felt the small clouds of my breath condense on my cheeks. But I could see nothing. As the woman led me by the hand, I stumbled every so often and she pulled me that much harder. We made successive ninety-degree turns along a dank, narrow corridor, with fine cold dust swirling by us. I heard wind howling faintly in a distant shaftway.

Suddenly we stopped and a door slid shut behind us. We were still in pitch-darkness, standing in a large room that was descending through space. Its floor hummed beneath my feet, cables whined overhead, a distant generator whirred. I started shivering. Where was this woman taking me? And where was my aunt now, I asked myself as the elevator carried me deep beneath the abandoned factory, little knowing that it would be fifteen years before I saw her again.

Copyright © 2000 by Nicholas Christopher

Meet the Author

Nicholas Christopher is the author of two previous novels, The Soloist and Veronica, seven books of poetry, and a nonfiction book, Somewhere in the Night: Film Noir and the American City. He lives in New York City.

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Trip to the Stars 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked this book up in San Francisco, in some book store, it was on sale for like $4, I thought, what the hey. So, when I actually got around to reading it, I hadn't realized that this book would become one of my all time favorites. I just finished it, and I can't get it out of my head. It's just so intricate, fun, and packed with odd characters and odder circumstances that you just wish you were there too, watching this whole book fold out. The best book ever. Buy it, and cherish it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Awesome book! Intriuging and thought provoking. In the end it all comes together!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I must say the this is one of the best books I have read in quite awhile. Aside from a few minor details and some obscure, unnecessary information, this book was very well writen. It all ties together nicely at the end, although it is somewhat far-fetched. I honestly had trouble putting it down. The complex characters were well developed and complimented each other nicely. At some points, however, I felt as though the author was questioning my intelligence by pointing out references and coincidences that should have been left for the reader to pick up on. I highly recommend this book; it's complex, fast-paced, challenging and though-provoking.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is an intelligent form of art. It opened my eyes to new places in the world, and put words to what I'd often felt but could not express. I relished every word, and re-read some of my favorite parts. Some of the astronomy references in the book were obscure -- but the point and theme of those references does come out. I am amazed by this authors mind, and am anxiously awaiting another novel.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This was compelling and magical from the very first page. The distant stars seem to infiltrate and influence Enzo's and Mala's lives, leading them to their intertwined destinies. Coincidences abound -- just as they do in real life. I'd like to give this five stars. But a subplot involving vampires drags it down to pop culture level. And the copy editing deflated many of the magical moments. For example: saguaro cacti don't grow in Utah -- ONLY in southern Arizona and northern Mexico; Four Corners is in southwestern, not southeastern, Colorado; hibiscus don't grow on vines; stucco is used on walls, not roofs, unless you like leaky ceilings; the Rio Puerco is not blue; a direct flight from Albuquerque to Honolulu? I wish I could find one! But maybe that was part of the magic...?