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Tau Zero

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  12,732 ratings  ·  725 reviews
This Hugo Award finalist, “justifiably regarded as a classic” (, is the tale of an epic space voyage where time dilation goes horribly wrong.
Aboard the spacecraft Leonora Christine, fifty crewmembers, half men and half women, have embarked on a journey of discovery like no other to a planet thirty light-years away. Since their ship is not capable of travel
Kindle Edition, 230 pages
Published September 18th 2018 by Open Road Media Sci-Fi & Fantasy (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
 ·  12,732 ratings  ·  725 reviews

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Aug 31, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Jul 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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
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 attitudes.
Richard Derus
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
Michael Finocchiaro
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. ...more
Chris Beaton

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
Feb 05, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

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 Machia
Sci-Fi & Scary
Apr 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“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
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...
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
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 07, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
James Fallon
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
Oct 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
G.R. Reader
Feb 17, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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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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