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Tau Zero [Kindle Edition]

Poul Anderson
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: $8.99

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Book Description

Poul Anderson's book Tau Zero stands out in the genre in large part because it does precisely the thing that one so rarely sees in science fiction: it takes a keen interest in the emotional lives of the characters in the novel, which the novel combines this with a general fascination for all things scientific. In Tau Zero, these two often competing themes in the genre work together with a synergy that makes the novel much more than just another deep space adventure story.

From practically the very first page, Tau Zero sets the scientific realities in dramatic tension with the very real emotional and psychological states of the travelers: you have the time factor and their emotional response to the consequence of traveling at this high rate of speed and the time that has passed. This tension is a dynamic that Anderson explores with great success over the course of the novel as fifty crew-members settle in for the long journey together. While they are a highly-trained team of scientists and researchers and therefore professionals, they are also a community of individuals, each of them trying to create for him or herself a life in a whole new space (or literally, in space).

It isn't too long, however, before the voyage takes a turn for the worse. The ship passes through a small, uncharted cloud-like nebula that makes it impossible to decelerate the ship. The only hope rather, is to do the opposite and speed up. But acceleration towards and within the speed of light means that time outside the spaceship passes even more rapidly, sending the crew deeper into space and also, further into an unknown future.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Acclaimed science fiction writer Poul Anderson (1926-2001) was born in Bristol, Pennsylvania. After earning a degree in physics from the University of Minnesota, he moved to San Francisco where he lived with his wife and writing partner, Karen.

Anderson was a prolific writer with more than one hundred titles to his name. He wrote from a unique position and point of view having a deep understanding of science as well as a keen interest in Norse mythology. While Anderson had written some fantasy novels, including The Broken Sword (1954), Three Hearts and Three Lions (1961), and A Midsummer Tempest (1974), his reputation rests primarily on the strength of his science fiction.

Anderson's first science fiction novel was the 1954 Brain Wave, and it is considered by most to be a classic in the genre. Anderson liked to write series of novels, including his popular Time Patrol works beginning with 1981's Guardians of Time. He also wrote novellas and many short stories.

To his credit, Anderson has numerous science fiction awards including three Nebula awards, seven Hugo awards and the SFWA Grand Master Award (1997). But it is perhaps for the 1970 novel Tau Zero that Anderson will be best remembered. Anderson's last novel, Genesis (2000), won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award (2001) for best science fiction novel of the year.


Editorial Reviews

Review

Poul Anderson´s Tau Zero is an outstanding work of science fiction, in part because it combines two qualities that are often at odds in this genre: an interest in the emotional lives of its characters and a fascination with all things technological and scientific. In Tau Zero these components are not merely fused; they work together with a remarkable synergy that makes the novel much more than just a deep space adventure story.

The novel centers on a ten-year interstellar voyage aboard the spaceship Leonora Christine, and it opens with members of the crew preparing for their departure from earth. It is an especially moving departure because they know that while they are aboard the ship and traveling close to the speed of light, time will be passing much more quickly back home. As a result, by the time they return everyone they know will have long since died. From practically the very first page, therefore, Tau Zero sets the scientific realities of space travel in dramatic tension with the no-less-real emotional and psychological states of the travelers. This is a dynamic Anderson explores with great success over the course of the novel as fifty crewmembers settle in for the long journey together. They are a highly-trained team of scientists and researchers, but they are also a community of individuals, each trying to make a life for him or herself in space.

This is the background within which the action of the novel takes place. Anderson carefully depicts the network of relationships linking these people before the real plot begins to unfold. The voyage soon takes a unexpected and disastrous turn for the worse. The ship passes through a small, uncharted, cloudlike nebula that makes it impossible for the crew to decelerate the ship. The only hope, in fact, is for the ship to speed up. But acceleration towards the speed of light means that time outside the spaceship passes even more quickly, and the crew finds itself hurtling deeper into space

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.

Product Details

  • File Size: 495 KB
  • Print Length: 200 pages
  • Publisher: RosettaBooks (June 29, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003XVYLEY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #98,998 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Full-speed SF September 13, 2000
Format:Mass Market Paperback
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 develops into a meditation on life, the universe and everything. 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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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Classic But Clumsy September 21, 2006
Format:Paperback
Poul Anderson's Tau Zero is one of the most revered Science Fiction classics - and with good reason. However, that doesn't mean it isn't sometimes tediously boring, the characters aren't one-dimensional, and the writing isn't down right clumsy. What saves the book from being chucked on to the ash heap of oblivion is the saving grace of most classic sci-fi - namely, one heck of a good idea. In Zero, Anderson acknowledges our collective desire to visit the stars and our yearning for a light speed drive to get there. However, asks Anderson, what would happen if such a device malfunctioned and we couldn't slow down? As we traveled fast and faster through space-time (yes, Anderson adds the temporal component) not only would we get farther away from Earth, we'd also move far into the future and the universe, itself, might appear to age right before our eyes! Now that's a scary concept! Such creativity makes up for a lot. That's why anyone who really likes the above situation would probably enjoy the book. However, be prepared to put up with some coal among that diamond of a concept.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I wish I'd read the short story instead August 22, 2008
By taogoat
Format:Paperback
This book is based on Poul Anderson's short story "To Outlive Eternity," and I wish I had skipped the book and read the short story instead.

The plot is based on a great idea, which justifies it as a classic of hard science fiction, but I don't think it's enough to sustain an entire novel. Too much of the book is like a boring soap opera -- people are fighting, having affairs, etc. You don't get to the brilliant idea till the very end, and by then I was just ready for the book to end.

The short story is in his collection "To Outlive Eternity and Other Stories," which can be found on Amazon.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Bussard Ramjets were hot stuff in '60s SF. Authors who were tired of the conventions of faster-than-light (FTL) travel, which is really little more than a handy way of getting the story to planet X, loved the idea of a scientifically plausible stardrive. Putting it simply, a Bussard Ramjet works by collecting interstellar hydrogen in magnetic fields at the front of the ship, squeezing them in a fusion reactor, and squirting the result out of the back at near the speed of light. It overcomes the problem all spacecraft face, where any practical starship is all fuel and reaction mass and no payload, by collecting its fuel on the way. The original free lunch, as it were. A Bussard Ramjet can theoretically reach any speed short of the speed of light. A side-effect of relativity theory is that, for the occupants of the ship, time passes more slowly the closer the ship approaches the speed of light. The factor by which time slows down is known as tau. So if tau is .5 the journey will seem to the travellers to take only half as long as it does to observers at rest. The faster you go, the more tau reduces.
Hence the title. In this hard-SF novel - expanded from a short story - the ship Leonora Christine sustains damage to her externally-mounted braking system while travelling very close to the speed of light. Unfortunately, it is impossible to go outside the ship to fix it as the density of interstellar matter in the vicinity is so high that it will kill anyone who goes outside the hull. The only way to deal with this is to travel to an intergalactic region where matter density is lower. To only way to get there within the crew's lifetime is to accelerate until tau is close enough to zero...
So far, this is a great SF story premise.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
By 2theD
Format:Paperback
Emerging from the Golden Age of science fiction rose Poul Anderson, whose first novel, Vault of the Ages, was published in 1952. Through the next two decades, Anderson more than dabbled with historical elements in The High Crusade (1960) and The Corridors of Time (1965), future history in Three Worlds To Conquer (1964), and also with conventional spaceships in The Makeshift Rocket (1962) and The Star Fox (1965). He hadn't written a "hard science fiction" until Tau Zero, but he stuck to his romantic roots even after the popularity of Tau Zero. Largely hitting the mark more often than not, Anderson's novels tend to be loquacious--even poetic at times--and nostalgic; in Tau Zero, this romanticism is infused with science savvy and sexual swashbuckling. No doubt it had won the Hugo award for best novel in 1971!

I had read this in 2007 and held romantic notions of the ship's near-luminal voyage through space and time. I wanted to reread this to dispel any fantastic notion I held... or to simply enjoy a great novel during my 5-day island holiday. Like the first time, I wasn't disappointed.

Rear cover synopsis:
"During her epic voyage to a planet thirty light-years away, the deceleration system of the Leonara Christine is irreparable damaged.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice mix
This presents a healthy mix of science with emotional development of the various characters.
Some of the emotional stuff is a bit too soap opera but the scientific portions... Read more
Published 29 days ago by Ronald Smith
2.0 out of 5 stars I wand HARD SF not sappy romance as a cop-out
I want HARD SF not sappy romance as a cop-out. If the book doesn't call for a BA in STEM, I'm not interested. If it has a female character, I'm not interested.
Published 1 month ago by Doug J.
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
There was a lot of physics and ostensibly accurate math and projections - a bit too dry for me.
Published 1 month ago by Peter Fitzgerald
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece of science fiction
This considered one of the classics of the scfi genre, and for good reason. The scientific speculation is great in and of itself. Read more
Published 2 months ago by John T. Price
5.0 out of 5 stars Tau Zero
This is a space odyssey tale unlike any other I've read. Fifty colonists, made up of scientists and ship crew, are heading off to a planet in Virgo in the expectation that when... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Clare O'Beara
5.0 out of 5 stars Tau Zero
Great book
Published 3 months ago by Robert F. Carson
4.0 out of 5 stars A survival story at relativistic speed
When (and if) humanity ever reaches out to colonize the galaxy, such efforts will depend upon the development of propulsion systems capable of acceleration to relativistic speeds. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Andrew W. Johns
4.0 out of 5 stars Tau Zero Review by WH
Tau Zero is a science fiction, adventure novel about a team of 25 men and 25 women sent from Earth in the starship Leonora Christine to explore a new star system and look for... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Willie Houchens
2.0 out of 5 stars For all the hype this book gets, it was ...
For all the hype this book gets, it was a lot lamer than expected and it had some glaring scientific inaccuracies that basically ruined the book.
Published 3 months ago by Matt
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended.
I was assigned this book in college 30 years ago--and have re-read it since--one of the only Sci Fi novels that works well as literature and science. Highly recommended.
Published 3 months ago by George
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