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Tau Zero

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The epic voyage of the spacecraft Leonora Christine will take her and her fifty-strong crew to a planet some thirty light-years distant. But, because the ship will accelerate to close to the speed of light, for those on board subjective time will slow and the journey will be of only a few years' duration.

Then a buffeting by an interstellar dustcloud changes everything. The ship's deceleration system is damaged irreperably and soon she is gaining velocity. When she attains light-speed, tau zero itself, the disparity between ship-time and external time becomes almost impossibly great. Eons and galaxies hurtle by, and the crew of the Leonora Christine speeds into the unknown.

190 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1970

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About the author

Poul Anderson

1,414 books969 followers
Pseudonym A. A. Craig, Michael Karageorge, Winston P. Sanders, P. A. Kingsley.

Poul William Anderson was an American science fiction author who began his career during one of the Golden Ages of the genre and continued to write and remain popular into the 21st century. Anderson also authored several works of fantasy, historical novels, and a prodigious number of short stories. He received numerous awards for his writing, including seven Hugo Awards and three Nebula Awards.

Anderson received a degree in physics from the University of Minnesota in 1948. He married Karen Kruse in 1953. They had one daughter, Astrid, who is married to science fiction author Greg Bear. Anderson was the sixth President of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, taking office in 1972. He was a member of the Swordsmen and Sorcerers' Guild of America, a loose-knit group of Heroic Fantasy authors founded in the 1960s, some of whose works were anthologized in Lin Carter's Flashing Swords! anthologies. He was a founding member of the Society for Creative Anachronism. Robert A. Heinlein dedicated his 1985 novel The Cat Who Walks Through Walls to Anderson and eight of the other members of the Citizens' Advisory Council on National Space Policy.[2][3]

Poul Anderson died of cancer on July 31, 2001, after a month in the hospital. Several of his novels were published posthumously.

* Time Patrol
* Psychotechnic League
* Trygve Yamamura
* Harvest of Stars
* King of Ys
* Last Viking
* Hoka
* Future history of the Polesotechnic League
* Flandry

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 932 reviews
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,882 reviews16.6k followers
July 7, 2019
Anderson has in Tau Zero, more than any other book I have ever read or heard about, created a sense of unimaginable isolation and otherworldliness.

I am sure there is a list on Goodreads about books that must be read by a true science fiction fan, and Tau Zero by Poul Anderson should be on such a list.

Anderson was a physics major in college and this background provides a meaningful foundation for what is a great science fiction book. Perfect? No, there is some thin characterization (usually a fatal flaw in my estimation) and apparently, according to many of the other reviews on Goodreads, there are even many questions raised by his science. But like so many of Anderson’s novels, his ideas, the premise of his story, overshadows the technical deficiencies of the book.

To his credit, Anderson approaches a very science heavy book with a humanistic flair, and ultimately this is more about group dynamics than about a scientific expedition. A recurring theme in Anderson’s work is an individual or group standing and performing admirably against great odds, an “us against the world” element. Anderson also has a rare gift for taking an idea to its extreme; here he has taken the conceptual foundation of the novel’s conflict to a distant horizon whose scope may never before have been imagined.

Tau Zero is the story of the journey towards colonization of a far distant planet. The voyagers undergo an adventure through space and time of incomprehensible complexity. First published in 1970 and nominated for the Hugo Award but lost to Larry Niven’s Ringworld, this is wildly influential and scores of writers have leaned heavily upon Anderson’s example.

If you are a reader of science fiction, this one should either be in your “read” shelf or “to read”; it’s that good.

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Profile Image for Baba.
3,619 reviews985 followers
October 5, 2021
SF Masterworks 64 - an unflinchingly hard science fiction story about a group of highly trained scientists and planet colonisers stranded in space in a craft that is steadily approaching light speed, know as Tau Zero in this reality; there's some focus on the crew dynamics, but this is mostly all hard science fiction looking at the (theoretical) science of near light speed travel. Not being a big fan of hard sci-fi, this was a bit of a chore for, also I couldn't but help think of a later, and very similar, but far more fascinating spin on this concept - Star Trek Voyager :D. 5 out of 12 for this, just OK read.
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,516 reviews11.2k followers
July 28, 2011
This CLASSY SF CLASSIC concernimg a cadre of colonists setting sail to colonize a compatible star using an interstellar “Bussard Ramjet” is a superior sample of Hard science fiction. For those of you unsciencey/non nerdy types who are unfamilar with what a "Bussard Ramjet" is, I have put together the following DETAILED explanation which should explain everything:

....make sense?.....great.

My overall rating is really based on balancing what I thought were some mind-wrecking and very well described science fiction concepts with some pretty weak (bordering on dull) characters that prevented me from ever being truly drawn into the narrative tension of the plot. I figured I would just lay out the good and the bad and let you take from it what you will.

Poul Anderson does a phenomenal job of introducing and describing some REALLY, REALLY BIG IDEAS, mostly centering around relativity and the effect of high rates of speed on the subjective passage of time. Two things I want to praise Poul Anderson for at the outset are (1) his knack for explaining clearly and understandably the scientific concepts surrounding relativity without bogging down the story and (2) proving that you can do hard SF in under 200 pages and still make the story feel EPIC in scope.

The basic plot concerns a prototype starship called the Leonora Christine that employs a “Bussard ramjet" and is intended to transport a crew of 50 colonists to a distant star system in the hopes of setting up a new colony. I was curious about what a Bussard ramjet might look like and found the following picture that I thought I would share:

***NERDY NOTE: The red gas in the front is the hydrogen being collected from space that then gets compressed to the point where nuclear fusion occurs and creates the energy for propulsion that you see represented in the rear.***

So this propulsion system allows for travel at a high percentage of the speed of light which, as a result of special relativity, causes time dilation for the crew. This means that while the crew will spend about 5 years on the journey, about 33 years will have passed on Earth….at this point if you have any LSD, it might be a good idea to take some. Given the speeds that the ship travels at it takes a very long time to both accelerate and decelerate. In fact, it is intended that the first 2.5 years of the journey will be spent speeding up and the last 2.5 years will be spent slowing down.

I don’t want to give away any spoilers so I will just say that things get very interesting and Poul Anderson takes the reader on an epic journey across time and space. Big stuff, interesting stuff and very cool stuff. For this aspect of the story…4.5 to 5.0 stars.

The bad can really be summed up pretty easily. The characters are weak, two dimensional and you never care enough about them to be sucked into the story when problems arise. You have your crew from different backgrounds with various quirks and issues, none of which are very interesting or compelling. However, since the book is less than 200 pages long I am willing to be more forgiving than I would be if this was longer and I was forced to spend more time with the crew in order to get to the good parts. Plus, this really is an “idea” book and so I understand the characters being little more than filler. Still, they could have been done much better and so I give this aspect of the story…2.0 stars and a well deserved FACEPALM.

Overall, I gave this 3.5 to 4.0 stars because I thought the awesomeness of the SF “ideas” more than compensated for the weak characters, especially given how the book is under 200 pages. Definitely worthy of the title classic and one I Highly Recommend!!!

Nominee: Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1971)
Nominee: Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel
Profile Image for Apatt.
507 reviews806 followers
December 2, 2016
Tau zero

Poul Anderson is a writer's writer, David Brin, Vernor Vinge and others swear by him and Vinge even dedicated his epic A Deepness in the Sky to him. His influence on their work is fairly obvious, Anderson knew his science and was able to employ that knowledge to max effect in his fiction. He was also a natural story teller who never neglected the human element in his sf stories.

Tau Zero is - I believe - what veteran sf readers would call "diamond hard sf" where all the science in the book is based on real-world science and its application in the narrative is entirely plausible. So no teleportation, snarky robots, or little green men. I have to admit a lot of the "interstellar astronautics theory" and other scientific details went whoosh! right over my head, yet somehow Anderson always ensured that the story is never incomprehensible. I also learned a lot about time dilation and relativity that I never knew before, which will undoubtedly make me the life of the next party I go to.

The characters are fairly interesting people, led by a protagonist who is a "pragmatism personified" super stoic constable, but at least he is very articulate, not one of those cliche taciturn hero type. In any case, given the short length of the novel (190 pages) there is not all that much room to develop the characters, a lot of them seem to be defined by their personal quirks.

For some reason this book reminds me of David Bowie's "Space Oddity", not in specifics, as the story follows an entire starship crew not just one Major Tom. However, there is a sense of that "Planet Earth is blue and there's nothing I can do" sort of loneliness and hopelessness among the crew through out most of the novel. Even before the starship went out of control the crew never had any hope of returning home to the people they know due to the time dilation effect. After things go "pear-shaped" the damned thing can no longer decelerate let alone stop, heading to goodness knows where. The final destination turned out to be truly awesome.

A lot of people who ask for sf book recommendations (in Reddit especially) tend to stipulate that they don't want anything pre-70s, or even pre-80s due to the misconception that old sf books are "outdated". Their prerogative of course but it is a shame that they will miss out on older gems like this one.

Now go take your protein pills and put your helmet on.
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 30 books14k followers
March 15, 2009
Poul Anderson doesn't understand Special Relativity very well (an interstellar ramscoop spaceship can't carry on accelerating indefinitely, for all sorts of reasons). His understanding of General Relativity is even worse. Even if the Universe is cyclical, whatever would it mean to be outside the monobloc during the Big Crunch? You'd be outside the Universe.

Well... an SF writer's normal solution to problems like these is to add some sex and violence, and it works here too. Sort of.
Profile Image for Glenn Russell.
1,377 reviews12k followers
August 30, 2019

According to James Blish, Tau Zero is the ultimate hard science fiction novel.

For readers with a background in physics and math, there's certainly generous helping of science, for example: "Precisely because there is an absolute limiting speed (at which light travels in vacuo; likewise neutrinos) there is an interdependence of space, time, matter, and energy. The tau factor enters the equations. If v is the (uniform) velocity of a spaceship, and c the velocity of light, then tau equals - here the author provides the mathematical equation. "The closer that v comes to c, the closer tau comes to zero."

For non-science types like myself, there's enough conceptual framework to understand what's going on with a rocket ship moving through space. Two key points: 1) traveling close to the speed of light, time bends. So the universe and the people back on earth can age 100 years while the crew in the ship only age, say, 1 month; 2) when the crew on board encounters an unexpected force field, the ship incurs damage, propelling it to move at greater and greater acceleration with no possibility of a return trip to earth.

This is exactly what happens to the Leonora Christine and its crew of 25 men and 25 women on its mission to colonize a distant planet beyond our solar system. If you can click into Poul Anderson's sf vision, Tau Zero makes for an exciting outer space adventure. Here's some mostly non-science stuff readers can look forward to:

In this future world, Sweden is the leading global power. The crew is made up of a rainbow of nationalities, a true international crowd from countries such as Sweden, China, Russia, US, Germany, even a captain from Antarctica, And each of the 50 women and men aboard have expertise within the fields of science and technology.

Those who have talent in the arts are provided with ample opportunity to express themselves. Reymont the captain watches as molecular biologist Emma Glassgold sketches out a mural that will eventually be filled with forests and lakes. Additionally, the rocket builders back on earth had the foresight to include aesthetic considerations: all of the residential and recreational decks (its a huge rocket ship, the size of a skyscraper) are covered with a green material that's as springy as grass.

The crew can keep themselves in top shape by swimming in the pool or playing vigorous games like handball where, at low gee, players can virtually walk up the walls, making for spectacular play. I bet it does! I'd like to see a film of handball played at low gravity.

Well beyond the 21st century, these fit, youthful women and men have little social inhibition about undressing and being in the nude. Same goes for sex - at least for starters.

"I want a decent marriage," Glassgold said with a flick of anger, "and as many children as God gives me. But they will know who their father is. It doesn't hurt if I don't play any ridiculous game of musical beds while we travel. We have enough girls aboard who do." Over time, relationships are formed and fidelity is expected. In this way Poul Anderson presents two overarching dramas: the scientific challenges encounters, especially the disruption in plans caused by the force field, and the unfolding dramas of romance and relationships among the men and women. Keep in mind they are together in the Leonora Christine for years with the prospect of more years to come. After awhile, even a giant rocket ship can feel claustrophobic.

Astronomers take this unique space travel opportunity to gather critical details about the universe heretofore unavailable - gamma-ray spectra among others. Yet again an additional dimension of the novel appealing for those interested in the sciences.

There's an apparatus on board where one lies down, relaxes, and is hooked up to circuitry producing electronic stimulation to the brain to induce extraordinarily intense and lengthy dreams and hallucinations. This practice is a way to effectively deal with the sensory deprivation as a consequence of years confined within a ship. Thus, in this manner, many of the crew are able to retain their sanity. I might add here there are no direct references in the novel regarding drugs - quite a development recognizing the widespread use of a vast variety of drugs, both legal and illegal, currently very much part of daily life in countries like the US.

Many are the reflections on human nature and humankind's place in the universe. At one point, a crew member shares this thought: "A shipful of witches, devils, vampires, goblins, bogles, and spooks screaming their way down the sky toward the Black Sabbath. Well, aren't we?" That's one way of looking at it; however, I don't think I'm giving away too much by saying Poul Anderson enjoys his sf stories complete with a number of space heroes. Pick up a copy of Tau Zero and read all about it.

American science Fiction author Poul Anderson, 1926-2001

“Who can we trust with a monopoly of the planet killer weapons and unlimited powers of inspection and arrest? Why, a country big and modern enough to make peace-keeping a major industry; but not big enough to conquer anyone else or force its will on anyone without the support of a majority of nations; and reasonably well thought of by everyone. In short, Sweden.”
― Poul Anderson, Tau Zero
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,100 followers
September 24, 2015
As a novel to showcase ideas, it succeeds. As a novel to showcase misogyny and thin characters in an attempt to bring real storytelling to hard SF, not so much.

I'll talk of the good parts first. I learned, or eventually recalled something that hadn't immediately made a connection to me right away but it should have.
The word Tau has a dual meaning in the text. One is Proper Time in Physics, and the other refers to coming full circle, both of which happens in the text.
Reducing Tau to Zero means they're going faster and faster and faster to the theoretical maximum of speed, even to the point of traveling between galaxies within weeks. They're already well and deep into the relative future by necessity of going so fast, making them realize that there's nothing left to lose because they've left everything they've known far behind.

The end idea pushes them outside of the framework of an oscillating universe and gives them the opportunity to pick and choose from the cream of any galactic honeypot along any time because they're outside of the framework. It's pretty damn cool, and even if the physics isn't accurate, the base concept that turned into the impetus of such an ambitious idea novel was striking and gorgeous.

It's both better and worse than Stephen Baxter's Ring, which, in hindsight, is an updated and expanded novel to do Tau Zero better than Tau Zero. The Ring had a lot more attention devoted to character, and although I can't say it was better, precisely, I can say that the development and progression into far time was a lot more fascinating, especially with the Human/Xeelee wars and the eventual grand-scale exodus from this universe.

Tau Zero was definitely a tighter novel, focusing on time and relative distances between stellar objects all the way to clusters of galaxies to the shifting of antimatter/matter oscillations underlying the fabric of reality. It was very fun to see Bussard Ramjets going far beyond their theoretical limitations, too, but I prefer Niven's treatments a LOT better. Hell, I was thinking during most of this read that I preferred Neutron Star. But by the end, Tau Zero pulled away from most of the similar SF pack by getting fantastical. (Sorry, I have a soft spot for Bigger, Kick-Ass, and Mind-Blowing concepts.)

Though, in the end, I agree with the Hugo awards for 1970. This was a runner up, and Niven's Ringworld won. Ringworld had Woo! You can't go wrong with Woo!

And that leads me to the not so great in this novel. It's not enough to ruin it for me, but I hated the treatment of women in it. It's not much different from SO many novels of the day, granted, but this crap really grates on me. It's like reading crappy sex scenes. My eyes kind of glaze over and skim till the meat of the story comes back. Tau Zero DID have story, too, an exploration of what it means to be cast adrift into deep time, losing their anchor to Earth and the possibility of ever meeting up with anything remotely like themselves ever again. It went through despair and a great deal of military psychology and a heavy reliance on democracy/committee-speak rather than a strict authoritarian rulership, which makes sense if you're trying to appeal to an American public, and some of the best parts of it were the attempts to keep morale up.

Unfortunately, the characters never did much for me. I'm SO SPOILED by modern SF and Fantasy.

That being said, it was still a great idea novel!

(So why am I reminding myself about The Number of the Beast by Heinlein? Because his ideas were even better along weirdly similar lines, and a lot more fantastical? Possibly. It's unfortunate that it also had some weird-ass hangups and sophomoric fixations, too. I'll never win! ;)
Profile Image for Jokoloyo.
449 reviews273 followers
March 19, 2020
Four and half star mainly for the idea of the book. I imagine I would gave solid five star without second thought if I read Tau Zero when I had just started reading science fiction.

The ending was perfect for me: surprising although could be predictable. Like good mystery novels, the ending of this book was not cheating the readers.

I admit, if I seek a perfect story, this book is not perfect. The characters are mostly flat and the plot is more or less predictable. But how could you pressed many round characters into such a thin novel? The characters were squeezed into thin flat ones, reacting to the plot.
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,677 reviews5,258 followers
September 7, 2011
faster, faster, faster - to the future or to death!

fascinating ideas; less than fascinating execution. characters are often tedious, yet still manage to be surprisingly real and at times even moving. overall: dry, thoughtful, mournful, mind-boggling (a word that i probably use too frequently when writing about sci-fi)... and, in the end, rather uplifting.

that said, this is sadly a somewhat forgettable experience. and i just read it this year! i think for something to really pop for me, i need the intricacy of ideas to be paralleled, to some extent, with depth of characterization and/or complexity of narrative. perhaps this is my bad.
Profile Image for Megan Baxter.
985 reviews664 followers
May 19, 2014
I'm reading this book as moderator of a discussion on Sci Fi Aficionadoes this month. No one has chimed in yet on the discussion. It's a little lonely. The reason I'm bringing that up is because Tau Zero was the winner of our "Time Travel" theme, which has me a little bit...befuddled. I mean, yes, they travel through time, but in the same direction as the rest of us. At near light speed, so, you know, faster, or slower, or whatever. But in one direction. I guess that's time travel, but by that logic, every book that is in any way linear is about time travel.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
Profile Image for 7jane.
683 reviews268 followers
October 6, 2018
Varying between 3 and 3.5, but mostly staying on the latter end.
It's the 23rd century, and "Leonora Christine", a long-planned spaceship destined towards a distant planet 30 light years away, is launched from Stockholm. 50 people, men and women from different countries are on board, and the trip is supposed to take about 10 years). But (around the middle of the book) the ships deceleration system is damaged, and with the ship speeding increasingly towards tau zero speed and faster, it's not yet possible to fix it - only to hope a way, and a place, can be found to fix it, while galaxies and time pass by...

This was an interesting to read. You could feel the time it was written (1970) in it, though no doubt some of it could be passed as values of the century it was placed on: attitude towards nakedness (both sexes), loose relationships (vs. desire for monogamy from some passengers), and even in the slightly lax attitude towards use of .

It's funny to read Sweden being the current world-power, which shows the author's background, which draws some drunken protest from one American traveler. Another person is clearly Finnish, Dr. Urho Latvala, who even plays an accordion ::)
Other characters are also of interest, especially in relationships-level, where the main thread follows the on-and-off-then-finally-on relationship between Ingrid Lingren and Charles Raymont. Their backgrounds are quite different, and their general character is likewise. Raymont is clearly important in helping people get through crises together, both after main accident and all the mental/moral trouble of getting on with life and finding solutions - he's not stupid, just a bit rough and forceful at times; just the way he has been raised.

I don't know how accurate the science is to what people believe in today, I don't know much of it. But the end is kind of clever solution to the problem: after And not only that: they are I kind of wish I could be able to see this space-sight on film, would be trippy.

It's a short read, on some levels of its writing-time even though not too badly, and nicely surprising too. It took me a long time to finish it, having kept it on pause for some years, but finally finishing it was certainly worth it.
Profile Image for Kevin Lopez (on sabbatical).
85 reviews21 followers
September 23, 2020
Despite the not inconsiderable handicaps of an unappealing protagonist, somewhat clunky dialogue, and dated gender norms (all of which are, unfortunately, standard features of much of the science fiction of this era—the works of Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury and many others suffer from it to varying degrees; some are all but smothered by their stodginess, while others transcend their time), Poul Anderson’s Tau Zero is—warts and all—an immensely enjoyable novel, by turns sublime, exhilarating, and beautifully poetic.

Traveling on the spaceship Leonora Christine, a crew of fifty of humanity’s best and brightest, twenty-five women and twenty-five men, set out to scout and, if all goes well, establish a settlement on an exoplanet some thirty light-years from Earth. Traveling at a considerable fraction of the speed of light, the crew are well aware that they will experience relativistic effects, the most significant of which, for them at least, is time dilation. By the time they reach their destination, only a few years will have passed on the ship, while events on Earth will have advanced decades (the physics-minded among you may be raising an eyebrow at this, but for the purposes of the story, Einsteinian notions of simultaneity are conveniently elided in this case). If they ever return to Earth, however—breaking symmetry and thus rendering time dilation a salient concern—the disparity in relative elapsed time on a round-trip of such length, between an object accelerating at close to light-speed and Earth, would mean the returning travelers would be coming home to an utterly changed world, likely meeting the adult grandchildren of siblings and friends who have passed away. On the other hand, if their journey is successful and they remain to begin a settlement, at a distance of thirty light-years any messages sent between Earth and the crew’s outpost would take thirty years to arrive, while a two-way communiqué would take sixty (Anderson, a physicist by training and proud writer of “hard sci-fi,” would never countenance any superluminal travel in his story!). But the crew are professionals; they’ve all volunteered for this mission knowing the risks and ramifications, and have all more or less made their peace with them.

Soon, however, things go terribly awry. During the Leonora Christine’s journey, the ship collides with an unforeseen nebula which destroys its decelerators—and thus any hope of slowing down. Now, faced with the prospect of indefinite acceleration, and inching ever closer to light-speed (without ever overtaking it, of course), the crew will have to deal with dramatic relativistic effects far more extreme than any they could have imagined—entire eons passing by outside the ship while inside they experience mere moments.

With a plot as propulsive as the Leonora Christine’s thrusters, Anderson continues to up the ante, blending clear scientific explication (flawed in some respects, of course, but quite good in others) with a poetic flair reminiscent of Ray Bradbury’s best work. When Anderson describes the universe—the sky, the stars, the glittering nebulae and violently blazing supernovae, the intricate interplay between lightness and dark—his childlike wonderment and awe come rushing off the page in dazzlingly descriptive and poetic passages:

It loomed behind her, around her, where she circled Earth. Staring away from sun and planet, you saw a crystal darkness huger than you dared comprehend. It did not appear totally black; but it was the final night, that our kindly sky holds from us. The stars thronged it, unwinking, their brilliance winter-cold. Those sufficiently luminous to be seen from the ground showed their colors clear in space: steel-blue Vega, golden Capella, ember of Betelgeuse. And if you were not trained, the lesser members of the galaxy that had become visible were so many as to drown the familiar constellations. The night was wild with suns.
And the Milky Way belted heaven with ice and silver; and the Magellanic Clouds were not vague shimmers but roiling and glowing; and the Andromeda galaxy gleamed sharp across more than a million light-years; and you felt your soul drowning in those depths and hastily pulled your vision back to the snug cabin that held you .”

This is where Anderson is at his very best—depicting with unrestrained marvel the spectacular majesty of the universe. Together with a supremely imaginative plot, it’s what makes Tau Zero such a brilliant and memorable story, deserving of its place beside the most enduring masterpieces of speculative fiction.
Profile Image for Jemppu.
501 reviews93 followers
September 7, 2022
Fine and grand hard sci-fi, which unfortunately gets constantly distracted by tediously petty relationship drama and archaic attitudes.

Reading updates.
Profile Image for Ian.
764 reviews65 followers
April 6, 2021
This 1970 novel seems to be considered part of the sci-fi canon, and I can see why as it contains some very grand ideas and concepts. It was these that eventually won me over after what I thought was a slow start.

The novel starts with the departure of one of the first groups of people to go on an interstellar colonisation mission. There are 25 men and 25 women, who are expected to be the progenitors of a new human race on a recently identified alien world. It seemed to me that there was a 1960s “free love” vibe going on with these guys. The world of this novel has no need for dating apps, as couples form up with the absolute minimum of advance formalities. Maybe it’s because they are scientists who consider everything in rational terms. From the perspective of the 2020s, I found this aspect a bit unconvincing.

This is a short novel, about 190 pages in the edition I read, and the first 60-odd pages were a bit dull. There’s a lot of technical detail about how the spaceship is meant to operate, which I suppose is required as it links to the rest of the story. About a third of the way in we get the central event, when a problem with the ship’s propulsion drive means it can no longer decelerate, and in fact it keeps accelerating closer and closer to the speed of light. Huge time dilation effects kick in, and one of the most impressive aspects of the novel is the sense of these 50 humans hurtling through the Universe in a sealed capsule, unable to interact in any way with the rest of creation.

There’s lots of physics in the book, and lots of imagination too. I thought the science basis for the story fell apart towards the end, but decided I wasn’t going to get too hung up about that as, ultimately, this is a work of fiction. I found it an enjoyable one, and I think it would be an entertaining read for fans of hard sci-fi.
Profile Image for Markus.
476 reviews1,561 followers
April 2, 2021
A short but solid hard sci-fi classic. It strikes me that Poul Anderson is an underappreciated author, but perhaps I'm biased due to his consistent emphasis on Scandinavian matters. It's almost strange to see my little corner of the world emphasised so much in a futuristic voyage novel, but here we are.
Profile Image for Stuart.
722 reviews271 followers
February 10, 2022
A Hard SF Classic With Equal Focus on Psychology - Science is Outlandish, Characters Clunky, But Ideas are Exciting and Influence Has Been Huge
This slim book was seen as a comeback for the Golden Age of SF Old Guard vs the New Wave writers of the late 1960s, the latter full of their iconoclasm, pessimism, anti-science, left-wing views that questioned everything championed by the Golden Age - mankind brave and strong, facing a big and ominous universe with unwavering resolve and using technology to conquer new frontiers. Poul Anderson has always been a stalwart of the genre, never seeming to reach the heights of Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein, but always chugging along and prolific (a lot like Ben Bova), and also producing two notable fantasy novels, The Broken Sword and The High Crusade. I've seen his books for decades, but the only one that seemed to really stand out is this one, and it was selected by David Pringle in his Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels : An English-Language Selection, 1949-1984, so I finally got around to it in audiobook.

Given it's short length, it's had a profound influence on multiple generations of hard SF writers. It's brevity is much appreciated as the norm in recent decades for Hard SF has been doorstopper length, from 1980s flag-bearers Greg Bear, David Brin, Gregory Benford giving way to even more prolific writers like Alastair Reynolds, Peter F. Hamilton, Stephen Baxter, and more recently Adrian Tchaikovsky.

Well, keeping firmly in mind this book was written back in 1970, and Poul Anderson is a hard SF guy, not a Samuel R. Delany or Robert Silverberg, I tempered my expectations of his character explorations of the intense pressure, loneliness, and conflicts that would arise when 50 elite male and female scientists are selected to represent humanity on what is almost a guaranteed 1-way trip to seed the stars and start a new colony. And you know, he actually did his level best with an international group of scientists, all with their personality quirks and hangups. They still came off as pretty wooden and the dialog felt dated and clunky at parts, and casually sexist in others (standard for the times), but the actual picture of mental duress they were facing was genuine. Here's where some readers likely gave the book 3 stars as characterization is quite wooden vs modern writers, or felt charitable and allowed 4 stars for the effort.

Now the physics - that's a subject for debate, but I've seen enough comments that it basically is implausible in the extreme, but if accept the core assumption that the ship will continue to gain mass as it accelerates toward the speed of light (tau zero), to the point of impacting nearby planets and galaxies, I guess you can accept anything! Once that massive conceit is swallowed, he does extrapolate well, especially in such a short book, with only occasional physics info dumps. If anything, the book has inspired more fully-developed treatments with the latest theories in cosmology today, so gets kudos for that even if it doesn't stand up now, half a century later.
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,973 reviews1,984 followers
November 6, 2017
Rating: 2 stars because equations do not belong in fiction

Good story spoiled by *shudder*flinch* see above can't bear to type it again. My then-brother in law thought that I'd like the book based on my voracious reading of SF. He wasn't wrong, exactly, he just misgauged my aversion to all things mathematical. Arithmetic I'm fine with, after that it's always been a really hard slog for me.

Still, it was kind of him to make the effort and subsequent recommendations were spot-on, so he was listening. I wonder how he is doing...must be 70 by now....
Profile Image for Rachel (Kalanadi).
734 reviews1,433 followers
September 12, 2020
An interesting enough plot weighed down by frustrating characters and boring relationship drama. Intelligent characters are made into emotional fools, gendered stereotypes, and hard dictators, rather than being allowed competent action or genuine emotional care.

(Ok, they do get things done, but in between bursts of hysteria, drunkenness, and being saved emotionally by a woman having pity sex with them. I mean, for the men. The women are totally more resilient and see to the men's needs so the men can get shit done, I guess.)

This story has a strong setup, especially with the women, oddly enough, and then it all goes to pot.

It's written quite well too, though I personally think Anderson's style is more suited to fantasy like The Broken Sword.
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,635 followers
January 15, 2021
I had higher hopes for this book about space travel gone bad, but came up feeling a bit disappointed. The characters are not very engaging. Some of the science is cool - the tau idea, Bussard drive - but the story felt conventional. For a "end of the universe" story, I found that Death's End was a much stronger book. Perhaps others had more positive experiences with this one, but I can't honestly give it more than 3 stars.
Profile Image for Daniel Villines.
396 reviews54 followers
November 8, 2021
At 99.99999% the speed of light, 1 year on board a spacecraft will equal 2,236.07 years for those not on board. This is a fun and serious fact of relativity. To think about it is to arrive at the conclusion that the stars may not necessarily be out of human reach due to the vast distances between them. A star that’s 1,000 light-years away would require only six months of an adventurous astronaut’s life to reach it at that speed. All we need is technology and humans are an inventive lot. Of course, the down side to this realization is that the astronaut would never come home. He may indeed make it back to earth, but his home would have perished soon after his journey began.

This is what makes Tau Zero such a wonderful book. It takes the above fact and tells the story of its practice. It places human characters inside a spaceship and sends them on an adventure that is not that far off from being possible. Substitute a bit of imagination for technology and Tau Zero becomes real. This aspect of the book was relished and it is quintessential science fiction.

As for the book’s weakness, it appears that Anderson loved science more than people. The three lead characters, while defined by their positions and names, have very little personality or human complexity. The remainder of those on board the spacecraft are merely names that enter and exit the story as required by the plot. Overall, however, this is a somewhat minor complaint. When it comes to human adventure, the accomplishments always outlive the people involved.
Profile Image for Bart.
393 reviews91 followers
February 6, 2021

Ultimately, I can handle bad science or outdated sex stuff or weak characterization – especially in older SF. The main problem I had with this book was “Carl Reymont, a macho alpha male who beats people into line for their own good”, as a reviewer on Goodreads wrote. It is the entire ideological setup of the novel that bothered me most. Anderson writes about a character that knows best, and assumes the 50 scientists that people the ship could not function as a healthy group without a Machiavellian hero/leader/brute. It’s the kind of thinking that results in justifying violent dictatorship via elitist conceptions about the masses. Paternalistic bullshit. Yuck.


Full review on Weighing A Pig Doesn't Fatten It
Profile Image for Chris Beaton.
5 reviews
December 30, 2012

Live girlflesh

Let me start by saying that I liked this book. With my 'internal' rating system, I'd give it four stars, but GoodReads informs me that this means I "really liked" a book and I think I just "liked" it, so I'm downgrading to three... Regardless, a VERY pleasurable read, a real page turner and a superb thought experiment. But enough with the forewarning, time for some griping, cos bits did indeed cheese me off.

WHAT IT IS ABOUT SCIENCE FICTION? Why are there so many great novels that have been needlessly burdened with tedious, 2-dimensional characters, the personal lives of which are dominated by *sleeping* with as many of their brilliant fellow scientists as they can, and then getting jealous, at the same time as either striving to become alpha males or to worship them? I mean, really??? It's like the editor has stepped in and said, "ok, mister, that's enough science - time for some fucking, or we'll lose our audience!"

* They really DO think a heavily science-driven plot must be balanced with cavemen antics.
* They are more likely than other authors to have given up on the human race as barbarous savages.
* Old sci-fi was written in an era with few sexual liberties, so part of the allure of other worlds was fantasizing about other sexual freedoms (gotta say, I think there's a lot of weight to this one).
* They are more likely to not give a damn about human emotions and drama, and they just kind of fill that bit in hurriedly at the end, once they've got their awesome concepts fully fleshed out.

And don't get me wrong, sex, love, jealousy, attraction, all these are fun times. If the writing (and the psychology) is good. Here are some of my favourite bits from Tau Zero:

She whistled. 'Hey,' she said, 'I hadn't seen you before in less'n a coverall. That's some collection of biceps and triceps and things you pack around. Calisthenics?'

'M-m-m-hm.' Reymont kissed the hollow between shoulder and throat. Through the wetness he smelled live girlflesh.

'Maybe someday you'll dare trust me.' She drew close to him. 'Never mind now, Carl. I don't want to harass you. I want you in me again. You see, this has stopped being a matter of friendship and convenience. I've fallen in love with you'

Unclad, she could never be called boyish. The curves of breast and flank were subtler than ordinary, but they were integral with the rest of her - not stuccoed on, as with too many women - and when she moved, they flowed. So did the light along her skin, which had the hue of the hills around San Francisco Bay in the summer, and the light in her hair, which had the smell of every summer day that was ever on earth.

Lindgren got up, paced the narrow stretch behind her desk, struck fist into palm. 'I've assumed obligations,' she said. The words wrenched her gullet.
'I know -'
'Not to smash a man, especially one we need. And not to... be promiscuous again. I have to be an officer, in everything I do. So does Carl.' Raw-voiced: 'He'd refuse!'

Stuccoed on!?! Eeeew. And EVERY summer day? Even the ones when the sewers backed up? As you can see from the above, though, the saving grace about all this stuff is that it is EXTREMELY entertaining, even if depressingly heteroboring.

The other doozie I want to complain about before I sign off is the women. They're supposed to be scientists, but it's only the men who actually seem to *do* anything, while the women are manipulated into managing people's emotional welfare (apparently, this is ok because 'Her role demands she not be a Machiavelli type who'd play a part deliberately', and she's too dumb to notice anyway) or hysterically demanding that they be allowed to have children (She crawled from him, handhold to handhold. 'No!' she yelled. 'I know what you're after! You'll never take my baby! He's yours too! If you... you cut my baby out of me - I'll kill you! I'll kill everyone aboard!).

Hilariously, towards the climax of their voyage, when hope is at its lowest, the best insight we get into the human condition is that one of the men can no longer sustain an erection, until he gets drunk and then slapped on the back by his biceps-triceps-and-things best mate, who is not quite the captain, and keeps saying "this must be the captain's decision!", until people grovellingly say "no, Carl, you've taken us this far, the crew trust you" yadda yadda.

So, despite MASSIVE FAILURE on the human scale, I feel like I should end by reminding you, the core of this book is a wonderful thing. Essentially, something goes wrong with a ship travelling at close to light speed, such that they can no longer decelerate. For various reasons, they keep deciding that their best option is to continue accelerating, getting closer and closer to the speed of light (at which point 'tau', a variable in the equation describing something to do with light speed, is zero). Due to the effects of relativity, the speed at which they perceive time becomes massively different from the rest of the universe, and soon they see the very universe aging around them... Like all great thought experiments, there's just so much innate drama and excitement and questions in this scenario, that it's really invigorating, and it leaves you burning with ideas of all the storylines that *didn't* happen. You want to gather all the little silver balls and put them back into the machine and start it over, to see other ways they could have navigated through its intricacies.
Profile Image for The Girl with the Sagittarius Tattoo.
2,227 reviews277 followers
October 27, 2021
Whew! I can say I read it. Hard science for sure, mixed with 50 sex-crazed scientists all sleeping with each other. #nerdgoals

Earth sends a ship filled with 25 male and 25 female scientists to investigate and, hopefully, populate a world 30 light years away. But the Bussard engine is new technology and when the ship rockets through the densest part of a nebula, the deceleration system is badly damaged. The engineers keep reporting bad news that means the ship must continue gaining speed, and pretty soon they're passing through entire galaxies in the blink of an eye.


The science was so technical (and probably outdated) that I started skimming past the multi-page info dumps to focus on the cardboard cutout characters' melodramatic interactions. They were more fun(ny) and totally sexist.
Profile Image for César Bustíos.
278 reviews101 followers
January 2, 2020
"Hemos recorrido unos cincuenta mil millones de años luz. Estamos viajando por toda la curva del espacio. Si volviésemos ahora mismo al Sistema Solar, no encontraríamos nada. Nuestro sol murió hace mucho tiempo. Se hinchó y brillo hasta devorar la Tierra; se convirtió en una variable, parpadeando como una vela al viento; se hundió hasta ser una enena blanca, ascuas y cenizas. Y las otras estrellas hicieron lo mismo. Nada puede quedar de nuestra galaxia sino enanas rojas, si acaso. En cualquier caso escoria. La Vía Láctea ha desaparecido. Todo lo que conocíamos, todo lo que nos hizo, está muerto. Empezando por la especie humana."

¡Mi primer Poul Anderson!

No parece ser una novedad que existan ciertas dudas sobre la ciencia que usa el autor en la historia. A mí también algunas cosas me sonaron un poco fuera de lugar, eso teniendo en cuenta lo poco que sé (o sea, nada). Me pareció poco creíble que Reymont, el condestable en su papel de héroe iluminado, tuviera las respuestas que incluso las mejores mentes de la Tierra no se atrevían o podrían haber hecho sin su ayuda.

La dilatación del tiempo es un tema que siempre me jala, me había fascinado lo que hizo Haldeman en La guerra interminable, en menor medida lo de Silverberg con Obsesión espacial, así que esperaba mucho de este. Buena premisa, personajes principales aceptables, emotiva. Me gustó, con sus fallas y todo. No sé si es de lo mejor que tiene Anderson pero creo que el Grand Master, con sus Hugos y muchos otros premios, merece numerosos intentos.

Profile Image for Otherwyrld.
570 reviews54 followers
March 3, 2018
I remember reading this book many, many years ago and being hugely impressed with it. Decades later and the hard physics that literally propel the story is still impressive (even though the ending is now no longer accepted), but the rest of the book has aged very badly.

The problem lies with the characterisation, or rather lack of it. All of the characters are paper thin and poorly realised. Worse, this book has a major problem with the way women are portrayed which made it quite a struggle to read. It is a problem that many writers of hard science fiction often struggled with at the time this book was written in 1970, but it is such a shame that this story was so badly bogged down by what should be a fundamental part of any book.

Still, it is a classic story and it certainly has it's moments. How much you enjoy it may well lie with how much you can put aside its flaws.
Profile Image for Rose.
795 reviews47 followers
November 29, 2017
Nope, I just can’t do it. 25% is more than enough for me. The writing was awkward. The characters were awful and it was dry as dirt. I’m assuming it gets better with all the glowing reviews but I’ll never know. Movin’ On...
Profile Image for Rachel (TheShadesofOrange).
2,206 reviews3,201 followers
September 25, 2022
3.0 stars
I enjoyed some of the hard science around the space travel but I was otherwise underwhelmed by this short book. The biggest weakness was the characters. The males felt so boring and flat, while the women felt like props.
Profile Image for Miranda.
191 reviews12 followers
July 7, 2021
Let’s get a couple things out of the way. Yes, this book was written in the sixties. Yes, cultural mores have evolved since then. There still is no excuse for publishing incel propaganda. The plot is fine at best, and it’s not like this is a famous classic. (It’s the movie Speed in Space with more relativity and a lot of technical mumbo jumbo that honestly I skimmed over, because I didn’t care about these characters enough to be interested in the made up technology that might or might not save them/doom them.) Send one copy to the Library of Congress in case someone is doing a PhD thesis on sexism in 1960s science fiction, but there is no reason for this to be preserved as part of the cannon. There’s no reason to leave these lying around where someone might accidentally read it. Books are forgotten every day. Books go out of print every day. The world moves on, thankfully; we make social progress, thankfully. Let this be one of those books. This book is spreading ideas that are actively harmful to women and minorities. People are reading this book now, in the year of somebody’s lord 2021, and those people should either be appalled by the insidious sexism that is in the very core of this novel, or they’re getting confirmation of their own horrible sexist ideas.

I’ll get back to the sexism later, but even leaving that aside, which would have tanked the review even if the book had otherwise been entertaining, the male characters are flat cardboard cutouts of male stereotypes I hate. The female characters all seem to be Stepford wives that got lost and ended up on a spaceship. As for the technology. The ship drives are moderately clever, but the rest of the relatively picked over science fiction tropes and technologies are simply cloaked in thick layers of technical jargon—apparently the author found a physics textbook and decided to play some darts and didn’t know when to stop.

Now let’s talk about that sexism. I knew this was gonna be a rough time when, on like, page five, we are being introduced to the main female character and she and the male main character have the following conversation, which I have paraphrased (she doesn’t literally say Affirmative action, but she talks about how there are fewer women so they don’t have to be as qualified):

FMM: [Gives short bio, explaining how she became an astronaut]
MMM: Wow that’s really impressive, it must be hard to be a women in space.
FMM: [Flirty giggle] Oh, no, affirmative action makes it super easy—you’re in such demand. Also don’t worry I won’t be doing anything technical, I’m just here for admin and HR.

So that’s not great. As a woman in a male dominated field, who gets comments like that about affirmative action, and who is often mistaken for a secretary or an administrator, that joke is actively harmful to me and other women just trying to do our jobs. She also then exposits that there are exactly 25 men and 25 women going on the trip and they’re planning to set up a colony and she thinks MMM is the most manly/best prize so she wants to call dibs early, I guess, anyway they go off to his bunk to have sex, after she charitably promises not to nag him about how messy it is. Gay people do not exist in this book, apparently, nor do people who are asexual, or outside the gender binary, or bisexual.

Which brings us to the second of my complaints about the way women are treated in this book. I’ve never read a book that had this much Virgin/Whore complex packed into 200 pages. The author seems to swing wildly back and forth with needing all the women (no really, there is not a female character who isn’t paired up with at least one male character at a time, and if she isn’t, she’s plotting how to get paired up) to be desperately wanting to have sex with the male characters to prove how manly they are (there’s a truly astonishing sequence where three female characters are introduced to the Male Main Character in three pages and they all proposition him), but also, our Male Main Character (who is portrayed as being the emotionless, physically fit, attractive male ideal) beats up the people who is partner cheats on him with, and there’s a lot of judgement for women who switch partners “too often.” He also talks about how the women he sleeps with smell like “girlflesh” and somehow does not end up being a serial killer.

But the truly insidious bit of sexism in this book, the one that enrages me and is the driving force behind why I am writing this screed is that the women are choosing their partners because SOCIETY NEEDS THE MEN TO BE HAPPY, because the men won’t DO THEIR JOBS unless the women they want will have sex with them. There’s actually a scene where the lead scientist is having a breakdown and they’re trying to talk him out of it and he goes on this horrible self pitying response about how he can’t do it, and it’s all their fault, because no one will sleep with him. And the Female Main Character does not kick him in the balls and tell him to suck it up because no one owes him shit, she says “oh, well I guess I better have sex with this guy for the good of society.” And then later, when Our Stoic Male Main Character is having Stress, his Chinese girlfriend at the time (the portrayal of her is less racist than it is sexist, but that bar is somewhere in the middle of the earth’s mantle so it’s not like the author gets brownie points for that), realizes that what he needs is not, oh IDK, therapy, or a hot meal, or a massage, but to have sex with aforementioned Female Main Character, who he broke up with after she cheated on him (notably to cheer up a DIFFERENT male character, who was feeling homesick, who Male Main Character beat up to prove that he was a MANLY MAN and he was HERE TO LAY DOWN THE LAW) so the Female Main Character is like “Okay, fine I will sleep with this man, to cheer him up.” For those of you keeping score at home, that’s three different male characters this Female Main Character sleeps with just to cheer them up. This is some incel enabling bullshit.

(An aside about Chinese Girlfriend, who gets maybe the worst description of a woman I have ever read outside of the Men Write Women Twitter feed: “she could never be called boyish. The curves of breast and flank were subtler than ordinary but they were integral with the rest of her—not stuccoed on, as with too many women—and when she moved they flowed.” Who exactly are these women stuccoing on their boobs and their butts? They probably need medical attention. Also, who are the women whose boobs and butts “flow” when they move, and has this author ever actually seen a woman moving in his life?)

And at the end of the book, in case you thought that maybe, maybe this was a commentary on how society is bad and messed up, and we really shouldn’t think that women are only around to make men happy so they can do their oh so important oh so stressful jobs, the last chapter sends you off with a description of “A man standing next to his woman” HIS WOMAN. HIS WOMAN. LIKE SHE’S HIS LOYAL GOLDEN RETRIEVER.

Finally there’s a lot of other super problematic opinions about society that are just thrown around casually like non-consensual medical treatments, that the only way to maintain societal order is by physical force, and opiates of the masses, and that a small sect of “elites” should be making all the decisions, because the general public will be “hysterical” unless information is presented in a very specific way so their dumb brains can understand it. These elites are naturally, scientists, and mostly white and male, (the author charitably says, “At least we can trust a few of the women.”) The book also teeters on the edge of some really dark eugenics style stuff and probably only doesn’t fall in because it is too busy being sexist to have time to fit that in. There’s a lot of discussion about how they need to preserve the genetic diversity of the colony population, and how they can’t let the women go off the anti-aging drugs because otherwise they won’t be able to have babies when they get to the eventual site of the colony. The only good thing I can say about it was that at least it was short. At 200 pages I only wasted a couple hours reading at this and another couple fuming and writing this review. But you can learn from my mistakes. Don’t read this book. If you’re a good person, it will make you angry. If you’re a bad person it will make you a worse person.
Profile Image for Ints.
749 reviews74 followers
January 9, 2016
Lēnā garā esmu nolēmis aizpildīt savus robus zinātniskās fantastikas klasikā. Ja ar Padomju klasiķiem esmu diezgan labi iepazinies jau savā bērnībā, tad piecdesmito un septiņdesmito gadu angliski rakstošie autori man ir gājuši secen. Iemesls ir pavisam triviāls - kad es augu, tad tādas lietas neviens neizdeva. Tādēļ paralēli jau esošajiem sēriju projektiem esmu atvēzējies uz vēl vienu “SF Masterworks” sērijas lasīšanu.

Leonora Christine ir moderns zvaigžņu kuģis, startējot no zemes tā pēc desmit gadiem sasniegs jaunu zvaigžņu sistēmu, kuru kolonizēs. Ja nesanāks, izpētīs un griezīsies atpakaļ. Kuģis ir visu zinātnes sasniegumu iemiesojums ar piecdesmit cilvēku komandu, tas nav pirmais, kas dosies uz citām zvaigznēm, un diez vai arī pēdējais. Taču piecdesmit cilvēkiem nodzīvot kopā desmit gadus nav nekāda joka lieta.

Šķiet viss ir ok, kosmosa kuģis ar Bussarda dzinēju, ilgs ceļojums, jaunas planētas, kas gan varētu noiet greizi. Diemžēl greizi noiet praktiski viss. Kauns jau teikt par zinātniskās fantastikas klasiku, bet te nevar īsti saprast, ko autors ir vēlējies pateikt. Centrālā ideja nav slikta, kosmosa kuģis, kas iekuļas specifiskās nepatikšanās. Bet tik brīvu vispārējās relativitātes traktējumu es nebiju gaidījis (no cikla "par ko fiziķi tev nestāsta"). Es kaut kā to Lorenca vienādojumu uztvēru savādāk. Ja zinātnisko daļu vēl var pieciest un sakodis zobus varu ielikt par redzējumu, lasītāja izglītošanu un vērienu ielikt 8 no 10, tad par pārējo ir cits stāsts.

Kad atmet kosmiskā kuģa individuālos piedzīvojumus, tad rodas pavisam nelāgs iespaids. Domāju, ka rakstniekam izdevējs grāmatu atmetis atpakaļ ar jautājumu, kur te ir mūsu laikmetam raksturīgā kultūra, saule, sekss festivāls? Nabaga autors sēdies atpakaļ pie rakstāmgalda un centies uzrakstīt kaut ko no šīs tēmas. Pamatpieņēmums kuģa ekipāžas spriedzes mazināšanai ir sekss. No mūsdienu viedokļa dīvaini, ka ar seksa lietām problēmas ir tikai sievietēm, jo puikas te dominē. Tad nu rodas tāds priekšstats par seksuāli apsēstu indivīdu kuģi, kas kā liela zviedru ģimene dodas kosmosā. Līdz ar to lielākā daļa no autora morāli ētiskajiem jautājumiem noreducējas uz seksuālu šantāžu savdabīgu uzvedības racionalizēšanu. Pienākums pāri visam, visi ir racionāli, un ja vajag, komandiere pārgulēs ar astrofiziķi, lai šis atgūtu motivāciju instrumentu izstrādāšanai. Īsumā sviests. Taču nevajag sacerēties vismaz uz labu erotisko romānu, autors pārcenšas:

"Reymont kissed the hollow between shoulder and throat. Through the wetness he smelled live girlflesh."

Lai ar autors cenšas, cik nu prot, atainot bagātīgo savstarpējo attiecību tīklu uz kuģa ( lasi, kurš ar kuru kad guļ), viņam neviens tēls nav izdevies dzīvāks par kartona gabaliņu ar vārdu. Nudien ir grūti iejusties kāda varoņa ādā. Par galveno varoni varētu nosaukt Reimontu, kuģa policistu, glābēju, kārtības uzturētāju un visādi citādi atbildīgu cilvēku. Viņš vismaz autoraprāt ir izcils manipulators un krīzes menedžeris. Iespējams, ka ja uz kuģa būtu atlasīti cilvēki ar attīstības problēmām, šīs manipulācijas šķistu ticamas, taču ne jau kuģī pilnā ar profesoriem un zinātnes spīdekļiem. Rodas sajūta, ka tur nav sapulcināti Zemes gaišākie prāti, bet cilvēki pusidiotu līmenī, kas neredzēs viltu un patiesos nodomus, pat ja uz tiem tiks tieši norādīts. Reimonds disciplīnas noturēšanā izmanto visprimitīvākās metodes, un tas strādā! Apbrīnojami!

Ko es ieguvu izlasot grāmatu? Godīgi zemē nometu kādas trīs stundas. Sapratu arī kādēļ PSRS laikā šo nepublicēja, par daudz seksa, un uz zemes komunisms nav uzvarējis. Sapratu arī, ka Andersons humoristiskajos gabalos ir daudz labāks rakstnieks nekā cietajā zinātniskajā fantastikā, diezgan brīvi manipulē ar jēdzieniem un viņa interpretācija rada vairāk aizdomas par to, ka autors īsti nerubī par ko viņš runā nekā par brīnumainu negaidītu jaunu interpretāciju.

Grāmatai varu ielikt 5 no 10 ballēm, cilvēcisko attiecību sadaļa ne aprakstā nedz loģikā netur nekādu kritiku, var teikt, ka grāmatu izvelk tikai zinātniski fantastiskā daļā. Lasīt var, ja dikti interesē žanra saknes, bet nekāda prieka no tā nebūs.
Profile Image for Gabi.
698 reviews123 followers
September 4, 2021
Another older SF novel where I have my difficulties to rate it properly.

The premise of the plot is fantastic: A ship looses its ability to decelerate and has to fly on. While the crew experiences years the universe ages centuries and more. A large part of the writing is dedicated to the psychology of the crewmembers trying to cope with this, which per se is a great approach.
But here comes the negative side of this book: it is dated like hell! The human interactions are so cringeworthy that they feel like a cheap soap opera at times. This leads to a mix of an inventive and fascinating science fiction story and a horrible soap.
Therefore I give the average star rating. It would be great to see this theme picked up by a modern writer.

And before I forget it: I listened to it as audiobook and I'm afraid I have to say, the narrator is sub-optimal (to put it politely)
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