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Tau Zero

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  11,137 ratings  ·  658 reviews
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
Paperback, 190 pages
Published February 1st 2006 by Gollancz (first published 1970)
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Philip Weiss I think that the problem might that be the author had trouble switching from the technical issues to the to relationship issues. The technical descrip…moreI think that the problem might that be the author had trouble switching from the technical issues to the to relationship issues. The technical descriptions of the issues faced by the crew were written in a very matter-of-fact style. That same style doesn't work well with the writing related to inter-personal relationships.(less)

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Average rating 3.86  · 
Rating details
 ·  11,137 ratings  ·  658 reviews

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Aug 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 fa
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 desc
Nov 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 boo
Manuel Antão
Jun 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

SFional Lorentz Transformations: "Tau Zero" by Poul Anderson

“Consider: a single light-year is an inconceivable abyss. Denumerable but inconceivable. At an ordinary speed – say, a reasonable pace for a car in megalopolitan traffic, two kilometers per minute – you would consume almost nine million years in crossing it. And in Sol’s neighborhood, the stars averaged some nine light-years part. Beta Virginis was thirty-two distant. Neverthe
Jul 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 r
Dec 20, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
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.
Sep 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 th
mark monday
Aug 16, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Megan Baxter
Aug 27, 2013 rated it liked it
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 l ...more
Glenn Russell

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 th
Oct 06, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Kevin Lopez
Sep 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Richard Derus
Nov 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
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
Mar 05, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fine and grand hard sci-fi, which unfortunately gets constantly distracted by tediously petty relationship drama and archaic gender attitudes.
Chris Beaton
Dec 28, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction

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
Rachel (Kalanadi)
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 me
Lilyn G. | Sci-Fi & Scary |
Apr 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
“It’s going to be lonely in space, Carl, so far from our dead.” This quote struck me harder than I thought it would. I read it a few times, actually, examining its impact on me. Looking at what it really means. It’s hard to imagine what it must be like. Humans have the phrase “Leave everything, and everyone you know behind” but for people on an interstellar space ship? They take that saying as far as it can possibly go.

Tau Zero has it’s faults, but they’re not many. One of the things I didn’t li
Nov 29, 2017 added it
Shelves: didnotfinish
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...
Alex Hiatt
Dec 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone; anyone interested in exploring science fiction.
Until recently my experience with science fiction has been limited to pretty much Arthur C Clarke, whose books of course I love. Now that I have begun to branch out, I see the possibilities the genre has to offer. I will look back on Poul Anderson's "hard" sci-fi novel Tau Zero as one of the reasons I fell in love with sci-fi all over again.

The book follows a group of colonizers sent from Earth to start anew on a more-or-less Earth-like planet orbiting a star a few light-years down the road. The
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 re
Feb 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The novel begins in a garden of sculptures. Taking a stroll their last night on Earth, Charles Reymont and Ingrid Lindgren walk by Orpheus, Pegasus, and Rodin’s “The Hand of God,” all artistic representations of mortal man’s insignificance in the cosmos. A fair warning for people about to disembark on an intergalactic voyage! And yet, these mythical beings were all sculpted by man; one of them, we are informed, by a particular man named Carl Milles. Surely that proves that mankind is the true cr ...more
Feb 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science-fiction
I was far more tolerant of Tau Zero before I learned (while looking up publication dates) that Harry Martinson’s Aniara had been a primary inspiration for Poul Anderson in writing this book. Aniara is one of the best science fiction books I’ve ever read. Tau Zero is a poor imitation that strips away Aniara’s strengths and adds no virtues to compensate.

Aniara is the story of a ship of thousands of colonists, escaping a dying Earth, that is thrown off of its course and left shooting out of our sol
James Fallon
May 07, 2011 rated it it was ok
I've waited awhile to read this book with high hopes of a great science fiction tale.I did read some reviews before hand but not alot,so i braced myself for the flaws.

The main storyline itself was very good and was the only thing that kept me interested to be honest...even if the science is a little out dated by todays discoveries.But my main problem was the characters.

Dull,boring ,robotic and very 2-D is all i can use to describe them.I felt no connection to any of them, even forgot there names
Neil Hepworth
Holy crap is this a hard book. So much advanced math it makes my head hurt. At only 200 pages, I thought I’d be able to read this puppy in twenty-four hours. Ha! Fat chance. It took me three summer days to slog through this classic. (No wonder the poor book is out of print.) The premise is so cool, though: a small colonist spaceship breaks its brakes and accelerates towards the speed of light and the end/beginning of time! And all based on real physics (for the time). But then the author goes an ...more
Jul 07, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: science-fiction
Sometimes when a fairly competent author makes a blunder, gives inaccurate scientific demonstrations and incorporates in his fiction a technology which was rendered impractical even at the time of its proposal, you get novels like these.

Here is a brief summary of the plot: A Spaceship employed with Bussard ramjet engine, which is used to continuously accelerate a ship to near-luminal velocities, sets off for a colonization mission to a near star. Apparently, the Bussard ramjet engine is supposed
Oct 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A constantly accelerating ship alomost reaches lightspeed then loses the ability to decelerate. As billion years pass by in the outside universe, time runs slow for the crew. They leave the galaxy, they even leave the local clusters. Trying to decelerate and find a new home. But their time almost stops. They try to find a way to repair the ship but the universe is now rapidly dying around them... What do they do when they reach the end of space time? How does it effect the crew's psychology?

Dec 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: scifi
Wow, talk about the very defintion of big idea science fiction. This is it and I loved it. It's a relatively short novel but still tells a really good story. A group of colonists launch an experimental ship for a nearby star. The ship malfunctions and they find they are moving faster and faster unable to slow down. From here, the hard science from the beginning of the story gives way to a real mind-bender of an odyssey that has to be seen to be believed.
G.R. Reader
Feb 17, 2016 rated it did not like it
In an interesting example of observer-dependence, readers who know nothing about physics will imagine Tau Zero is a triumph of hard-science SF, while those who've got even a nodding acquaintance with the subject will groan over the constant stream of misunderstandings, fudges and flat-out lies.

People in the first group may think this has something to do with Einstein's theory of relativity. But they're wrong.
Feb 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
As every year, one of my bookish New Years resolutions is to try and read more classics. Especially those in the 'SF and Fantasy Masterworks' series.
So how did this 50 year old sf novel compare to it's modern brethren? I must admit, quite good. In less then 200 pages, Poul Anderson manages to do what Neal Stephenson did on 800+ pages in Seveneves. And Poul Anderson did it better.

Tau Zero follows a crew of a spaceship on one journey and the troubles they get into.
+ Short and precise book. No word
Oleksandr Zholud
I like a lot of Poul Anderson ‘s works but this has left me unimpressed. This novel was nominated for Hugo in 1971 and it really has some strong ideas and the mind-blowing scale.
A new interstellar expedition is prepared. The ship, Leonora Christine, has to transport 50 colonists (divided equally by sex) to the system 32 light years from the Sun, but due to the relativity of time, only 5 years should pass onboard. One of the main protagonists is Charles Reymont, who works as a constable on the sh
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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 a

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