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Tau Zero (SF Collector's Edition) (Gollancz SF collector's edition) Paperback – 2000

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Paperback, 2000
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Editorial Reviews

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.

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Product Details

  • Series: Gollancz SF collector's edition
  • Paperback: 190 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz; paperback / softback edition (2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575070994
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575070998
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (100 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #317,845 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By J. L. Probert on 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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35 of 41 people found the following review helpful By S. Singer on 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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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By taogoat on August 22, 2008
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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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Michael Dea on 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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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 5, 1998
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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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Dave Millman TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 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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