- Paperback: 192 pages
- Publisher: Gollancz; New Ed edition (9 Feb. 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0575077328
- ISBN-13: 978-0575077324
- Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 1.5 x 19.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 115,885 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Tau Zero (S.F. MASTERWORKS) Paperback – 9 Feb 2006
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'The ultimate hard science fiction novel' James Blish
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 many Hugo and Nebula awards, and also winning the Gandalf (Grand Master) Award.
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Top Customer Reviews
This week I thought I would go slightly retro and take a look back at some classic 1970s hard science fiction with Poul Anderson’s Tau Zero. This is the story of the stricken interstellar colony ship Leonora Christie, which suffers damage to its deceleration systems, forcing the ship to continually accelerate using its relativistic “Bussard Drive.” The crew experience delirious disparity between the years on-board the ship, and the eons of time passing beyond the whickering electromagnetic force shields of their lonely vessel.
A veteran of the genre since 1947, Poul Anderson demonstrates with this novel just why he was so lauded as a science fiction writer. The ideas and premise of the novel are a fascinating thought experiment, extrapolated through a lean and tightly-plotted 189 pages. The novel’s science could be daunting perhaps to a novice, but I do enjoy reading sci-fi which has done its homework. Anderson avoids breaking Einstein’s theory of relativity, going into exhaustive detail to ensure the novel maintains a rock solid air of plausibility.
The only real cheat is the Bussard engine’s ability to avoid near infinite mass at significant fractions of c. Physics has moved on in some areas covered by the book (particularly at the thrilling climax), but that shouldn’t matter in the slightest. Tau Zero feels in a way like a Jules Verne novel for the twentieth century. A fantastical voyage that, whilst it may prove to be errant in certain details, remains remarkably prescient and grounded in solid science of the time.
However, as with the best science fiction, this novel is not just a stolid technician’s manual on intergalactic flight, but a conversation on monumental ideas.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.
The story starts slowly as the main characters linger on their last evenings on Earth, detailing the chaos and resolutions that have occurred and why the Swedish are now in control. They don't know it, but this is going to become meaningless to them.
Once travelling fast outside the Solar System, the spacefarers' lives settle in to a round of maintenance, hobbies and partner swapping. I wasn't convinced that there would be a swimming pool. Then a collision occurs which damages the ship propulsion system. They can't slow down. They can't turn off speed, because that would remove the shield of ionised particles created by the propulsion system which is stopping them from being irradiated. In order to get to a safe place to turn off the system, they need to put more speed on first. This would also reduce the potential for damage from other impacts, because although they can't achieve lightspeed, the smaller the tau - the difference between their speed and lightspeed - the more massive and fast they become, relative to the rest of the universe.
Keep those words in mind - relative to the rest of the universe. At the same time as we're watching a breakdown in discipline, or hearing a report on how long life support is going to last, we're also being told what the ship now consists of in comparison to the rest of matter and time.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Plot is brilliant characters let it down. Short so worth the time to read for the plot.Published 4 months ago by Conor
It has taken 50 years of reading science fiction for me to find this book. It is certainly a classic, and the basic idea develops from mundane ( a voyage of a mere 30 light years)... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Mr. C. M. J. Little
Its like a soap opera on a spaceship with some stuff about time travel.Published 12 months ago by Amazon Customer
This is a book by a quality author and it shows. Physics, imagination and universe-encompassing go together to make for a fascinating, if hard to grasp, journey into the far... Read morePublished 17 months ago by Martin Baxter
This is an interesting read of the older school of SciFi. Thus it pre-dates the PC-culture by which prominent critics now value a work. Read morePublished 24 months ago by Patrick Mullane
Very stimulating concept; not hugely exciting but thought-provoking.Published on 16 Mar. 2015 by hawker