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Tau Zero (Gollancz SF collector's edition) Paperback – 18 May 2000

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz; New edition edition (18 May 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575070994
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575070998
  • Product Dimensions: 13.6 x 1.6 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,915,722 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Book Description

'The ultimate hard science fiction novel' James Blish --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Poul Anderson (1926-2001) was born in Pennsylvania of Scandinavian stock. He started publishing science fiction in 1947 and became one the great figures in the genre, serving as President of the Science Fiction Writers of America, winning multiple Hugo and Nebula awards, and was named a SFWA Grand Master. He collaborated regularly with wife, Karen, and their daughter is married to noted SF writer Greg Bear. Poul Anderson died in July 2001.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Runmentionable on 15 Jun 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Tau Zero exemplifies much that came out of the pulp SF tradition. On the credit side, the idea is brilliant, and it's eloquently described in the Amazon "Product Description". The novel is probably SF's most thorough attempt, at least at time of publication, to explore the implications of relativity for travellers on a starship that's approaching light speed.

The trouble is, those implications are so far-reaching they don't really leave any room for a plot - they ARE the plot. Anderson correctly realised he needed some strong human interest to make this into a novel. Unfortunately, he wasn't up to the task of providing it. The weak characterisation, which comes as standard with a lot of SF, is more of a problem than usual because Anderson is trying so hard to avoid it, but failing so badly. The attempts at characterisation mainly come from dialogue rather than action, and said dialogue is among the most excruciatingly implausible you'll ever encounter (I kept hearing Tony Curtis, in Some Like It Hot, imploring "No-one talks like that!" as I read it). The cast speak in psychobabble paragraphs rather than demotic conversational language. And they all sound the same, so it's really hard to tell who's who. The only character who stands out at all is the hero, the ship's security chief Charles Reymont. Unfortunately, he's a Randian superman, or, in plain English, a complete eejit, and he causes irritation after irritation as he goes through his obligatory duties of demolishing straw man arguments and giving some sweet space lovin' to the women on board, all of whom, as nothing more than wish-fulfilment figures, can't resist whatever it is he's packing in his spacesuit.
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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Mark Grindell VINE VOICE on 19 Nov 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book moves quite slowly, and the only flaw is that it could be quite a bit longer.
Now then, I have to say this, with as much care as I can. This is THE only ScFi book I have ever read where it is certain, quite certain, that everything could actually happen. This is quite a remarkable claim, and I have to be very cautious! Perhaps some of the real terror in the book is becasue of this extreme realism. The ship could be built. The navigational difficulties would indeed be related to the spacial distortions of the star field. And the red shift and blue shifts are just like that... What we know about relativity points to the bizarre flight of the ship really holding up.
Poul makes a real attempt to convey the awful separation and exile of the inhabitants. To lose not only the earth... but anything which could remotely be called human, or even his descendants... This is the basis for the worst sort of nightmare for many of us. The claustrophobic nature of the ship and the equalling unsatisfactory nature of the relationships... And yet, there is an ending which satisfies in some sense.
This is novel in which there is a overwhelming, quite overbearing sense of grandeur. You will probably read certain sections quite frequently - I have literally worn out previous editions. But beware, you will feel a strong empathy for these lost souls, and my goodness, it would be nice to make sure that you don't sleep alone, Pascal was right when he spoke of the terror of the great spaces.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By S. James on 17 Feb 2009
Format: Paperback
'Tau Zero' achieves a very difficult task. This is a 'Hard' sci-fi book that bases a story upon what could be some confusing scientific ideas. Time dilation and relativity are the key ideas that propel the story. Were they presented in a way that was superfluous to the story, or incomprehensible to the reader, the book would flounder. Instead, it soars.
The crux of the plot is simple. A 'generation ship' a vessel full of families that will take several generations to reach it's destination, is sent to establish a colony on a distant planet. During the journey, there's an accident, and the ship is left unable to reduce it's speed. As the vessel accelerates, the time outside the ship speeds by faster and faster, meaning that days, months and eventually years pass in what the helpless crew would perceive as meer seconds. Unable to stop or get off the ship, the protagonists hurtle towards the edge of the universe, and the end of time itself.
Tau Zero is a success because it balances characterisation, scientific concepts, and a compelling plot perfectly. The story is more than a show-case for clever intellectualism and the drama as the crew resolve a problem only to face something much greater is superbly written. Anderson expertly portrays the fear, hope, despair, ingenuity and even tedium experienced by the heroes on their eon-spanning journey as the story heads towards an amazing, but credible ending.
If there's anything bad to say about the book, it's the rather tepid scene-setting at the start. But once the ship is underway and the plot properly kicks in, it's an utterly thrilling, white-knuckle ride that's as smart as it is entertaining.
I read it one sitting during a night-shift at work, and, ironicaly, didn't realise where the time had gone. A superb story.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By GoodOldNorthernLad on 22 Aug 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This story is a brilliant thought experiment into the implications of relativity, and also a damn good page-turner. Definitely one of those must-reads for any lover of sci-fi.
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