Just Read: Tau Zero

Poul Anderson´s Tau Zero is a wonderful fast paced book. I can see why it’s a classic.

The novel centers on a ten-year interstellar voyage aboard the spaceship Leonora Christine to Beta Virgo. While it opens with the male and female protagonists getting ready to leave Earth; Tau Zero is already setting up  the scientific realities of space travel. These people all know they are not coming home. He tries to focus the dramatic tension with the emotional and psychological states of the fifty crewmembers–a highly-trained team of scientists and researchers– settle in for the long journey together. They all have different backgrounds, some are astronauts, some have never been in space before.

My only complaint at all is that the Christian characters came off a little too priggish at times, the others came off a bit too hedonistic. I think this is just because of when it was written. (1970) This after all when Americans and Europeans saw a huge shift in views on education, gender roles, religion, and promiscuity. And Anderson was showing that even in this small group of fifty there are vastly different perspectives on these subjects.

However that honestly doesn’t matter, because while Anderson tries to show an interest in the emotional lives of his characters, I actually felt his interest was more about the ship, the Leonora Christine. The descriptions of the science and the ship are amazing. The voyage takes a disastrous turn when the ship passes through a 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 and through time. I found myself skimming the “emotional” stuff and reading in depth the ship chapters.

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