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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite terrifying
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...
Published on 19 Nov. 2001 by Mark Grindell

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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A paradigmatic SF book, for all the wrong reasons
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...
Published on 15 Jun. 2012 by Runmentionable


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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A paradigmatic SF book, for all the wrong reasons, 15 Jun. 2012
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This review is from: Tau Zero (S.F. MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
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.

Tau Zero is highly regarded by a lot of SF fans, possibly because it reasserted "traditional" SF virtues at the height of the New Wave era, possibly because it at least tries to have some characterisation and human interest, and possibly because Anderson was so widely liked in the SF world. To be fair, while he was never a great writer, he was far from negligible, and he wrote much that is better than this.

I read to the end with increasing annoyance but stuck with it because I was genuinely interested in what happened to the ship. I didn't care about the people on it though. Which is odd, because I'm not normally a huge fan of hard SF. So: five stars for the idea, one star for the characterisation, three stars as the halfway point between the two.
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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite terrifying, 19 Nov. 2001
By 
Mark Grindell "Mark Grindell" (Driffield, East Yorkshire) - See all my reviews
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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
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful, thrilling, perfectly paced adventure., 17 Feb. 2009
By 
S. James (U.K.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Tau Zero (S.F. MASTERWORKS) (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
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read for any sci-fi fan, 22 Aug. 2013
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This review is from: Tau Zero (Kindle Edition)
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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4.0 out of 5 stars High Concept Hard Science Fiction, 22 July 2014
By 
Theo (Gondwana) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Tau Zero (S.F. MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
Tau Zero deals with an expedition of human interstellar explorers accidentally sent on an eonic journey through the cosmos, courtesy of the time dilating effects of near-light space travel. This is serious hard science fiction, with no fantastic leaps of superscience assumed. Purists of today may quibble that some of the science has been re-written since 1970 when the book was first published. But by the standards of its own day, this was as realistic as things got. Indeed, the vessel in which our travelers make their epic journey bears more than a passing similarity to the interstellar ramjet described by Carl Sagan in his television series Cosmos, first screened a decade later. If you're reading this review on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk, I'll include a link to a YouTube clip in which Sagan describes that ship in the comments section below.

What prevents Tau Zero from being a 5 star book for me is the lack of psychological depth in the characters. Although Anderson himself would've been just 15 at the time of the Pearl Harbor attacks, throughout this book one can't help but hear the voice of that cohort of science fiction writers for whom World War II was the defining event of their generation: a group of authors who, as a whole, seemed more interested in giving expression to a single provocative idea than in exploring the inner workings of the characters who lived it out.

With that in mind, one also can't help but compare this work to that of other science fiction writers publishing at around the same time. J.G. Ballard, although only four years younger on the calendar, is a generation removed in his fundamental approach. It's also impossible to avoid comparing this book to The Forever War - published just 5 years later and grounded in very similar science, but again, generationally removed in its subtlety of human portraiture. It is tempting, if perhaps a little harsh, to say that Tau Zero reads like a story about stick figures by comparison.

Nevertheless, for all its limitations, this is a novel that any serious fan of science fiction must read. Certainly, it is essential reading for anyone with even a passing interest in understanding where the genre has come from, or who still nurtures a lingering fondness for futures past.

Theo.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The neo lost-at-sea novel, 2 May 2006
By 
D. M. York (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Tau Zero (S.F. MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
This is one stunning story, in concept and execution, detailing how a small crew of an interstellar starship react when they realise due to an incident during their voyage that they will never be able to return home.

In terms of space-novels this is the single story that has most accurately been able to give an impression of the sheer vastness of space and time, and what pointless forgetable little blips human lives are in it. The story itself is comparable to an old lost-at-sea story, the crew is stranded aboard their ship, not entirely certain that they will ever be able to find a place to call their home again. In many ways this crew almost becomes a microcosm of the human species in the ways that they interact together and ultimately how they survive with each other.

An truly inspired story, I would consider an essential for any science fiction reader.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book; helps you understand physics as well.., 23 Feb. 2006
By 
A. Morley (Ripley, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Tau Zero (S.F. MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
Tau Zero has been called the greatest hard science fiction novel of all time and I think there are few people that would disagree with that. As I am not a massive fan of this kind of SF I was pleasantly surprised when the novel managed to sweep me in into its simple yet descriptive narrative, well-thought out theoretical physics and interesting personal relationships.
The story is of a space ship with a crew of 50 (25 men, 25 women) who set off on a long voyage to possibly colonize another planet when mid-way through their journey their engine is damaged and they keep accelerating forever. This in itself is a great premise as the author can explore ideas like inertia, time-dilation and a theoretical type of near-light speed engine all so well-explained that even somebody with just a cursory knowledge of physics would understand. What gives it life though, is the 60’s-influence through the whole book. As in keeping with other novels of the time seemingly everyone is sleeping with everyone else. I didn’t mind this until a particular passage where a woman offers herself to a needed scientist who hasn’t got any in a while. It just seemed a little too optimistic to me. I’d like to believe that a pretty woman would offer herself to me if I was feeling depressed and I was a vital team member but it just doesn’t seem realistic. Maybe in 1970 it was. I was also strangely disturbed by the future presented where Sweden is the near-fascist world ruler. Quite chilling because the author wasn’t being sarcastic.
The book is quite short at 190 pages and it does go by pretty quickly but because the subject is about one ship and its voyage there are no annoying sub-plots or out of place scenes thrown in to shore it up. Neat little book!!
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard novel with a soft heart, 6 Nov. 2008
By 
G. Lyon (Oxford) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Tau Zero (S.F. MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
As the blurb on the front cover suggests this really is hard sci-fi at its finest.

The novel opens with a rendevous between a man who turns out to be the mission security officer and a woman who is to be second in charge on the ship. What they arrange is a relationship of convenience for onboard and after - they take a deposit before.

Their mission is to colonize a like Earth planet in another solar system. On board are 25 men and 25 women who will have to pair off on or before arrival in order to populate the new planet. The mission would take lifetimes if not for the ability to travel at almost the speed of light. Relatavistic effect means that time will move slower on the ship the faster they go whilst time outside will seem to accelerate. Simple.

Not so simple. There is a malfuction after a collision which means that they can not slow down while they are within the galaxy - so they must leave it and in doing so travel so far into the future that they will have left everything they know behind. Then the crew start to break down and relationships become strained, especially when the two mentioned protagonists seperate because of an infidelity.

The action is good and the tense atmosphere on board is thrilling. How far from home must they travel? How far into the future must they go? How will they cope? What we have here is a story of a love that spans and transends space, time, infidelity, the universe and creation itself.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Full-Speed SF, 13 Sept. 2000
By A Customer
A space-ship designed to travel at speed, carrying explorers intending to colonise a distant star, gets into a bit of trouble and has its deceleration mechanism knocked out. Result - ship goes faster and faster and cannot stop. But this is no precursor of Speed for the space adventure generation. Despite the somewhat two-dimensional aspect of most of the characters, Anderson's novel quickly develops into a meditation on life and it's meaning within the universe. As the ship reaches almost unimaginable speeds, the universe outside the ship begins to observably age, leading to an inevitable conclusion with perhaps unexpected consequences. A well-handled science fiction meditation on the meaning of existence
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great story, 8 April 2014
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This review is from: Tau Zero (Kindle Edition)
Interesting plot, good characters and a brilliant ending (no, I won't spoil it). Well worth a read for any Sci-Fi fan.
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Tau Zero (S.F. MASTERWORKS)
Tau Zero (S.F. MASTERWORKS) by Poul Anderson (Paperback - 9 Feb. 2006)
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