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Tau Zero [Kindle Edition]

Poul Anderson
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 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 was born in 1926 in Pennsylvania and educated at the University of Minnesota where he gained a degree in physics in 1948. Among his many fine novels are BRAIN WAVE, THE AVATAR, WAR OF THE WING-MEN and THE BOAT OF A MILLION YEARS, as well as the Fantasy Classics THREE HEARTS AND THREE LIONS and THE BROKEN SWORD.

Product Details

  • File Size: 337 KB
  • Print Length: 200 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0575070994
  • 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: #81,066 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
25 of 27 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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32 of 36 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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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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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five stars because it sticks with you March 8, 2006
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I was telling a friend about this book recently, but I couldn't remember the title or author. No problem-type "bussard ramjet big bang novel" into Google and the first listing is for "Tau Zero. My point is, I couldn't remember the title, but the details of the book have stuck with me since I first read it darn near 20 years ago.

The other reviewers who have mentioned the less-than-perfect characterization of crew personalities and conflicts are right. But that's not what you remember. You remember the plot, and the crew's reaction to the plot. There is one part, quite near the end, which will stick with me forever. I won't spoil the book for you, but the ship is travelling through space, and shuddering every few seconds. When a crew member explains what causes those shudders, you may very well shudder yourself.

Read this one. You'll remember it for a long time.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard SF July 24, 2002
Format:Paperback
If you like your SF hard and technical, Tau Zero is worth taking a look at. The main premise of the plot is based around relativity. The faster the ship goes, the 'slower' time becomes for the ship and its crew. With the result that the crew can travel immense distances in, what is for them, a few years time; and literally watch the universe age.
This is an intriguing premise, but the book, short as is, reads slow. Characterization is not well done. The crew seems to come apart psychologically too fast. After all they knew when they started they wouldn't see Earth again, and would be journeying for at least five years. I just don't believe a handpicked crew, would panic and despair in a few years, even if the universe around them had aged hundreds of millions of years.
And Sweden ruling the world?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
excellent product. exactly as advertised and arrived very promptly
Published 7 days ago by Andy R
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding 5 Stars - Space Opera
Outstanding science (or enough to fool me), great story line

Found this one list of best space opera's, was # 3 on the list
Published 23 days ago by Michael L. Shanks
5.0 out of 5 stars quick and thought provoking read
This book dives into some interesting questions about the universe and human society. I read this book becasue it deals with sublight speed interstellar travel ( similiar to the... Read more
Published 25 days ago by Brian
4.0 out of 5 stars Tau Zero
A very realistic plot that leads to a disaster and keeps you in suspense to the vey last page,
Published 1 month ago by ssyc
4.0 out of 5 stars You cant put this down!
An excellent piece of storytelling with a very unexpected twist in the tail. The physics in the book is of university standard till the penultimate chapter. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Dr. B.
3.0 out of 5 stars I found the physics interesting but a little unsatisfying at ...
I found the physics interesting but a little unsatisfying at the end. There was really very little plot and I found the characters very underdeveloped.
Published 1 month ago by Toby Allsopp
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic
This book is exactly, EXACTLY, what I wanted to read. I was learning about relativity, and was thinking about the concept of continuously flying faster and faster out into space. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Ryan
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good SF story, but poor human relationship story telling.
Although written in 1970, the story is amazingly correct about the effects of the theory of relativity over an interstellar starship with 50 humans traveling close to the speed of... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Alberto C. Pinto
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful read
As with any story, any number of criticism can be made. But, just as much, so can compliment. I have always enjoyed Poul's work. He is a wonderful storyteller. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Michael
4.0 out of 5 stars High Concept Hard Science Fiction
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... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Theo
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