- Save 10% on selected children’s books, compliments of Amazon Family Promotion exclusive for Prime members .
Tau Zero (S.F. MASTERWORKS) Paperback – 9 Feb 2006
|New from||Used from|
- Choose from over 13,000 locations across the UK
- Prime members get unlimited deliveries at no additional cost
- Find your preferred location and add it to your address book
- Dispatch to this address when you check out
Special offers and product promotions
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
'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.
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Top customer reviews
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.
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. This story appears to have been written before the general acceptance that a giant black hole is at the centre of the Milky Way and doubtless other galaxies, but there is plenty of astrophysics told in relatable ways.
Ultimately this is a story about the endurance of hope and the human spirit; about endeavouring to stay alive and find a better future against astronomical odds. Tau Zero is not a long book and deserves to be read by anyone who wants to understand spacefaring and relativity.
Would you like to see more reviews about this item?
Most recent 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...Read more