Nicholas Christopher:
A Trip to the Stars
Nicholas Christopher
  A Trip to the Stars  
Nicholas Christopher    



an excerpt

  Nicholas Christopher's latest novel, A Trip to the Stars, gives new significance to the term astrology. All of his books, from the novel, Veronica, to the collection of poems, The Creation of the Night Sky, have a magical astral way about them. Here the lives of characters named after stars or derivations of the word "star" are lived in locations named for constellations and in towns named with the stars in mind or with a particularly strong vantage of them--Las Vegas, Honolulu, Naxos. One character is memorizing an entire meteor belt in order to recreate a lost planet in his mind by locating and arranging each asteroid spun off in its explosion. Another is an airforce pilot with a particular knack for celestial navigation who becomes an astronaut and voyages into deep space before falling again to earth. He also happens to have an angel's name and a hero's physique. Angel names are another enchanting key running through this story. Christopher's writing is full of scholarship and yet he reads like a page-turner. The pace, compass, and artistry of this story are breathtaking.

A Trip to the Stars is written with a dual narration spanning fifteen years. In 1965, Loren Haris, a young boy who has been repeatedly orphaned, is kidnapped from the Hayden Planetarium to the Hotel Canopus in Las Vegas by his great-uncle Junius Samax. There he lives in splendour amongst an array of scholars in quest of the long lost and the hard to find. As Loren embarks on the at-home education of my dreams, he adopts his birth name, Enzo Samax, learns more than a few things worldy and otherwise and believes all the while that his aunt is aware of his happy fate. They barely know each other but she is his closest relative after the death of her mother and before that her sister, who had adopted Loren/Enzo.

The only thing Alma knows for sure is that the people she cares the most about have a tendency to vanish. When neither the police nor private detectives find a trace of Loren, her life spins out of control. She renames herself Mala, is bitten by a celestially clever spider, volunteers for the Navy Nursing Corps and is sent to Vietnam as an x-ray technician on a ship called the USS Repose. It is there that Mala encounters Geza Cassiel and falls deeply in love only for him to disappear following a covert mission undertaken immediately after their much-anticipated idyll.

All of this occurs within the opening fifth of five hundred pages that span the heavens and the earth in pursuit of life, love, family and the wisdom of the ages. Christopher manages to weave great disparity into brilliant symmetry throughout A Trip to the Stars. It is prefaced with a quote from the ascetic and poet mystic Hasan of Basra:

I saw a child carrying a light.
I asked him where he had brought it from.
He put it out, and said:
"Now you tell me where it is gone."

That light can be glimpsed in the prose of Nicholas Christopher.

In this issue of Bold Type, you will find an interview with Nicholas Christopher, a poem from the soon to be published collection Atomic Field: Two Poems (Harcourt Brace), which was written during the final drafts of A Trip to Stars, an exclusive audio reading from the novel, and an excerpt.

--Catherine McWeeney
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  Photo of Nicholas Christopher copyright © Marion Ettlinger

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