Warning: Some Spoilers Below
I'm reading this book as moderator of a discussion on Sci Fi
Aficionadoes. 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
It's a quibble, I suppose.
So, on the ship
the Leonora Christine, on her way to colonize a new world, something
goes very, very wrong with the decelerators. The accelerators are fine,
but they can't stop. They are pretty much doomed to drift onwards while
millennia and then billennia (is that a word?) pass them by. And if they
keep drifting, or, even, increase their velocity, how long can they
outlast the human race as a whole? Will they ever be able to stop? And
what would they find then?
I think I might have had less of a quibble about it being time travel
if the ship ever came back into sync with the rest of the universe
before heat death and birth of a new universe. If they'd managed to slow
down and encounter a post-human race, to have time travelled in the
sense that they have been utterly left behind and have to deal with the
future future future shock, I would have argued that that sense of being
displaced would have made it more time travel in my books.
that's the science fiction premise. But the characters are not really
strong enough to keep this one afloat. It's fine, but if you're going to
look at people in this kind of pressure cooker, it seems to demand more
character-driven drama, less science. I look at Spider Robinson's Variable Star,
which includes some of the same emotional elements, and I remember
those elements for their impact on specific people, people I can pick
out of my memory and cherish, or love, or pity, or hate. That seemed
like a better exploration of individual reactions to what happened, and Tau Zero is more focused on how you keep a tight ship running.
like Poul Anderson generally, but I can't say this is one of my
favourites. It needed stronger characters to stand up against a very
interesting concept, and I don't think any of the characters will stick
out in my mind.
I read this book as part of an attempt to read all the Hugo Nominees