Hugo & Nebula Awards: Best Novels discussion

Tau Zero
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Monthly Reading: Discussion > June 2018 "Tau Zero" Discussion <Caution! Spoilers May Be Present!>

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message 1: by Art, Stay home, stay safe. (new) - rated it 2 stars

Art | 2546 comments Mod
Group Read #9


message 2: by Oleksandr, a.k.a. Acorn (new) - rated it 3 stars

Oleksandr Zholud | 3992 comments Mod
Finished it just yesterday. Here is my review:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

Her wee can have spoilers, so what everybody thinks about a separation from mankind, is it such a trauma, especially for those, who move to colonize a new world? I think the drama was over the top.


message 3: by Kateblue, 2nd star to the right and straight on til morning (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kateblue | 4070 comments Mod
OK, done. It was ok.

Here's my review, pasted here because I can't figure out how to do the slick links like Oleksandr . . .

__________

Recommended For hard science buffs, perhaps
Review This was read for the Goodreads Book Club "Hugo & Nebula Awards."

This Hugo award nominee includes many fascinating science facts. Though I have read science facts more entertainingly explained in many other authors' works, there's much that's interesting about the expanding universe and the big bang theory here. But ultimately I was bored because the characters were underdeveloped. I could never really get involved with any of them. And character is the most important aspect of a book, to me.

There was unnecessary detail about the structure and future history of Earth. Unnecessary because Earth has no part in the story, the story just starts there.

Detail about characters were either overdone or underdone. For example, the detailed backstory of the captain misled me because he ended as a minor player abandoned for most of the book, lapsing into an unexplained apathy. Yet there were not enough background details about Reymont, who ends up being the major character in the last half of the book, but whose background remains a mystery throughout. Because he's the total jerk/master at arms guy who keeps everybody in line, the lack of background makes him an unsympathetic character.

Plus, Reymont's rationale for actions with Ingrid Lindgren were totally unclear all through the book. First he's jealous, then he's not, no explanation of this change. And Lindgren--something I read at the beginning led me to believe she came from royalty, or at least from big shots, and this never was explained or developed. Why bother to include it if it's not important? She didn't have an attitude creating actions that required explaining, unlike Reymont.

And then there were all these minor characters whose names weren't even necessary. I have trouble with names anyway, so I gave up. It turned out that that characters were all so interchangeable, it didn't really matter.

Plus, a minor quibble. It would have been nice if there had been a clearer explanation about how long all of this took. I could not tell if 5 years had passed, or 20.

So, if you are a hard science buff who is interested in the expanding universe, then maybe this is for you. But a non-fiction science book by a good author might explain the science in a more entertaining and memorable manner.

I find it somewhat telling that Poul Anderson has been nominated for Hugo and Nebula awards 12 times (for 10 different novels) and yet he has never won. Food for thought.

At least I didn't hate it. (less)


message 4: by Kateblue, 2nd star to the right and straight on til morning (last edited Jun 09, 2018 06:48AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kateblue | 4070 comments Mod
Oleksander said:

"everybody thinks about a separation from mankind, is it such a trauma, especially for those, who move to colonize a new world? I think the drama was over the top."

I think that the author made up a way to get some conflict going. You can't have a story with no conflict. But I think the conflict was misplaced.

First, how did some of these idiots pass the psychological screening? I mean that one guy was a jerk from the beginning, unnecessarily so. Yet any conflict from his turned out to be minor, and then after that, he was a great guy, somehow. And that one lady was obviously a basket case from the beginning.

About being separated from mankind--you would think that the scientists, at least, would have been thrilled and fascinated. Maybe not the technologists and the cooks, but the scientists, surely. Plus, all the colonists knew they would never see Earth again, so why are they so freaked out?

I do worry about the future of man, but we are going to die out someday, so why get depressed when we probably had a good run, particularly with colonies being planted. Though I get that the uncertainty might be nerve-wracking.

Plus, it should have been the spacemen who freaked out. The spacemen might have been going back, so they are more likely to get freaked out. Maybe the book should have been set up so that the spacemen were supposed to leave the colony of scientists and return to Earth. Then, it would make sense that they could freak out, leaving the scientists running the show.

So what other conflict could Anderson have picked? I suppose more breakdowns. How about plant mutations that made their air replenishment and food systems get strange?

I mean, yes, I agree that the characters were acting contrary to the way you would expect. Drama definitely was over the top, yet boring because the characters were not well crafted. Perhaps if the characters had been fleshed out, the drama would have been more believable.


message 5: by Oleksandr, a.k.a. Acorn (new) - rated it 3 stars

Oleksandr Zholud | 3992 comments Mod
Kateblue wrote: "There was unnecessary detail about the structure and future history of Earth. Unnecessary because Earth has no part in the story, the story just starts there. "

First of all, great review!
The Swedish empire is maybe relevant when you think about the times when the Cold war and nuclear annihilation was a possibility. Sweden is a way out of this that allows move funds from military to interstellar ships


message 6: by Oleksandr, a.k.a. Acorn (new) - rated it 3 stars

Oleksandr Zholud | 3992 comments Mod
Kateblue wrote: "Plus, Reymont's rationale for actions with Ingrid Lindgren were totally unclear all through the book. First he's jealous, then he's not, no explanation of this change. And Lindgren--something I read at the beginning led me to believe she came from royalty, or at least from big shots, and this never was explained or developed."

Reymont has his feelings side/immediate response, which is jealousy and rational side/later response which is 'I don't deserve her, I'm closed like a crab in the shell, and that's for the good of the ship"

Ingred's royalty roots I guess to give her a bit of aloofness and coldness


message 7: by Kateblue, 2nd star to the right and straight on til morning (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kateblue | 4070 comments Mod
I your explantion of the ingrid issue, makes sense, though I'm not sure she's really that cold. But I just think there are extraneous and distracting things in the book. Until they hit the neo-nebula, I kept expecting an explanation, like maybe the other passengers would know her status and treat her differently, or something. Which would eventually lead to an explanation and/or confrontation/discussion with the others--remember--there must be conflict! It could have been an interesting plot point. But there was nothing like that.

But re Reymont . . . I think the crab in the shell you describe must be and interim state--it's not the one I mean. Later, he opens up. By the end he is willing to share women with other men.

The fact they are starting a new human race doesn't convince me because their numbers are too small to start with. They would have to be polygamous and track births for future generations on the expected planet even if ships carry many more than the 50 here. No others can show up for a long time after they arrive. Or maybe they are monogamous now, but in the next generations, they're strongly controlled for maximal gene spread? (In any case, their kids are going to love being forced to marry certain other kids for gene pool reasons.)

To me, it seems as if he just changed. I agree that people can change, but Anderson does not really make me believe or understand that change. That's the problem. Not that I don't see it, that I don't believe it.


message 8: by Oleksandr, a.k.a. Acorn (new) - rated it 3 stars

Oleksandr Zholud | 3992 comments Mod
Kateblue wrote: "The fact they are starting a new human race doesn't convince me because their numbers are too small to start with. They would have to be polygamous and track births for future generations on the expected planet even if ships carry many more than the 50 here. ."

Setting aside the problem of why they still stick to old, 'natural' birth, while even in time of writing there was research on artificial methods... maybe it is because even SF writers aren't that progressive.

It was mentioned in the novel that they should exchange partners to maximize diversity, but I guess they view it as a series of monogamous partnerships, not long enough to raise kids but for a year or two.


message 9: by Kateblue, 2nd star to the right and straight on til morning (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kateblue | 4070 comments Mod
I agree it seems weird that birth is still a one on one proposition given futuristic spaceships. Yet doesn't it seem that it is just our world with a different political structure? It seems like the present except for the spaceships.

See, I think that the entire geopolitical background is unnecessary to the novel. I wonder if the whole reason for the background is to put Sweden in charge. I don't know much about him, but it seems as if Anderson is all about his Scandinavian background. I think it is good that he reminds us self-centered U.S. readers that it's not always about us!


message 10: by Bryan, Village Idiot (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan | 480 comments Mod
Great reviews of the book! I just finished it over the weekend. I agree with what everyone is saying about the human interactions/reactions.

I can see a sadness and loneliness come over everyone when they first realized everyone they knew would be gone forever. Even if you move and never plan to see everyone you know again, it is different to know they are gone and you CAN'T see them again. There is an emptiness that follows that knowledge, but not one that should last for as long as it did.

The interrelationships between the crew was juvenile at best. It could have been a teen drama.

Another way to add drama, to build on what Oleksandr said, would be to kill off some people. Then you have less of a gene pool and the male:female ration would be off. Then you can have interesting drama on how to deal with that. Or be progressive and have a few that are homosexual.

What redeemed this book for me was the ending. The end of the universe and then it's rebirth! Completely improbably they would have survived that and for them to be able "shop" for the perfect planet afterwards. But, it was still pretty awesome.

I also thought the whole Tau idea was interesting. I'm going to have to look that up and see if it is a thing or not.


message 11: by Kateblue, 2nd star to the right and straight on til morning (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kateblue | 4070 comments Mod
Please let us know about the results of your Tau idea research!


message 12: by Oleksandr, a.k.a. Acorn (new) - rated it 3 stars

Oleksandr Zholud | 3992 comments Mod
tau is a thing in the sense that it is a relative time, which is a function of velocity and speed of light.
Here is wiki's article on the subject https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_di...

note that the formula is the same as in the book, namely "A year after she started, Leonora Christine was close to her ultimate velocity. It would take her thirty-one years to cross interstellar space, and one year more to decelerate as she approached her target sun.
But that is an incomplete statement. It takes no account of relativity. 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

square root of (1-v^2/c^2)

The closer that v comes to c, the closer tau comes to zero."


message 13: by Kateblue, 2nd star to the right and straight on til morning (last edited Jun 14, 2018 11:53AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kateblue | 4070 comments Mod
Interesting. I took one look at the page Wikipedia page and went, "Huh?"

You may have to wait for Art to talk about this with . . .


message 14: by Art, Stay home, stay safe. (last edited Jun 21, 2018 09:43PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Art | 2546 comments Mod
An excerpt from a Scientific Americas magazine.
June issue, 2184.


"It has passed nearly fourty years since the iconic Leonora Christine took to the stars, carrying aboard the gargantuan vessel the most advanced array of technologies along with some of the greatest minds in all branches of sciences relating to colonization of a new world. In the recent years however, research in the field of behavioral psychology has yielded suprising results that might cast doubt on chances for success of the mission.

According to years of data gathered using both computer simulations and limited human trials, researchers believe that the very technology that allows for colonization of stars located light years away from Earth might be the project's downfall. The data shows that person who is experiencing effects which occur during acceleration of a vessel powered by a "Bussard Interstellar Ramjet" engine towards the speed of light, undergoes a range of emotional and psychological breakdowns. The longer the person is influenced by the acceleration of the vessel he is traveling in, the moodier and more annoying he becomes. The occurrence has been aptly dubbed WLB Syndrome*(see footnotes) and it sparked much deserved public interest.

We've had the honour of getting an exclusive interview with the leader of the Leonora Christine project, Mike "Don't worry 'bout it" Stronzino:

"Thank you for finding the time to answer some of the questions that have been resurfacing since the recent developments in psychology."

Mike: "It is both my pleasure and duty to address whatever unease public might feel in regards to one of the most ambitious projects of the human race"

"For decades experts have been voicing their unease at how a tiny miscalculation can be fatal, especially when we are dealing with a "dartboard" located 32 light years away..."

Mike: "Let me interrupt you there for a moment, we are talking about space here and though Lenny Chris is a big girl I doubt that she will be encountering any obstacles along the way, I mean what's the worst that can happen in space, get cloudy?" *chuckles*

"However, had something indeed gone wrong, is the ship equipped with all the necessities which can ease the burden for the crew?"

Mike: "According to our calculations even two years into the voyage, our "best and the brightest" will be still sucking on the Sauvignon Blanc, and even if it comes to worst they still ought to have enough booze to get $hitfaced while the universe around them is imploding. Oh, as an afterthough we also installed a pool"

"An original, many would even say rash decision. Isn't weightlessness going to be pose a certain difficulty once vessel is in the open space?"

Mike: "Weightlessness - smleightnessness, it's a ship for chrissakes, what's a bit of water to it. Speaking of gravity, in case crew has to experience weightlessness, out of a crew of several hundred people we have two experts who can teach others how to handle themselves in case anything happens to our gravitational support."

*Mike takes a sip out of a flask, while mouthing word "Sauvignon" and giving the interviewer a wink before continuing*

Mike: "Besides, along with the basic provisions we have also provided vinyl records, Halloween decorations, bamboo flute, Han Dynasty bowl and plenty of other vital for survival objects."

"In an unlikely event of a disaster are there any protocols in place that ensure the safety and survival of the crew?"

Mike: "Sure, were anything to happen within first year of the voyage (yeah right!), the crew has strict orders not to come back to Earth under any circumstances. Coming back to Earth would just be silly at this point, I mean duh! The ship has self-sustaining capabilities and as long as the pilot is quick enough to dodge all them incoming star clusters, they can just keep moving around indefinitely. The bastards are going to outlive us all!"

"The last question is regarding the WLB Syndrome and how do you think it will affect the crew?"

Mike: "Hey, those shrinks have been coming up with nonsense for centuries now, first it was about wanting to bang your own mother, then it was homosexuality, depression after that, PTSD my foot! Now they come up with another bunch of letters just to scare more people into buying extra pills."

"Thank you Mr.Stronzino for the insight into your amazing program and we hope to receive our first communication from the crew of Leonora in a few year time."

Mike: "Sure thing, don't worry 'bout it!"

The project leader did not seem in the least perturbed by the revelations surrounding the WLB syndrome and maybe the fears are ungrounded, still next time when you drive off on a family vacation and your child starts getting the "are we there yet?" attitude, is it the impertinence of youth speaking or is the earliest symptom of the Whiny Little Bitch Syndrom associated with the accelerated object hurling itself through space and time?"

Footnotes:
* WLB Syndrom - Whiny Little Bitch Syndrom


message 15: by Oleksandr, a.k.a. Acorn (new) - rated it 3 stars

Oleksandr Zholud | 3992 comments Mod
Great interview, Art! As for unusual objects - it is personal luggage, just recall the earlier read of Heinlein's Farmer in the Sky, where he was able to get scout uniform and accordion on board :) why not a Han bowl?
And there is not a gravity but constant acceleration that keeps things in place :)
Cheers
*drinks moonlighter whiskey made onboard from blood, sweet and tears of the bickering crew*


message 16: by Bryan, Village Idiot (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan | 480 comments Mod
Lol, that was great!


message 17: by Kateblue, 2nd star to the right and straight on til morning (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kateblue | 4070 comments Mod
Wonderful. When is YOUR novel coming out??


message 18: by Art, Stay home, stay safe. (new) - rated it 2 stars

Art | 2546 comments Mod
Oleksandr said: *drinks moonlighter whiskey made onboard from blood, sweet and tears of the bickering crew*

Har har, pour me a double shot of that!


message 19: by Bryan, Village Idiot (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan | 480 comments Mod
Oleksandr said: "*drinks moonlighter whiskey made onboard from blood, sweet and tears of the bickering crew*

I'll take a shot made from O neg blood please.


message 20: by Gabi (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gabi | 560 comments Necroposting:

I just read the book and even though the character writing was extremly dated I liked the psychological approach of what would happen with the moral and mood of the crew when they realise that they live on after the end of humankind. The plot was fascinating. I would love to see this premise tackled by a modern author.


message 21: by Oleksandr, a.k.a. Acorn (new) - rated it 3 stars

Oleksandr Zholud | 3992 comments Mod
I'm glad you liked it!


message 22: by Gabi (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gabi | 560 comments Oleksandr wrote: "I'm glad you liked it!"

I'm not exactly liking it. The personal part was quite cringeworthy in the depiction. I still think about the rating. If I weigh the character part heavier it's 3 stars at best, if I concentrate on the cosmic part it would be more along 4 stars. But I'm really fascinated by the premise of it all.


message 23: by Art, Stay home, stay safe. (new) - rated it 2 stars

Art | 2546 comments Mod
I agree about the massive cringe that accompanies the book back to back.
I think the book is more focused on the characters and personal stuff so I didn't have any trouble judging it.


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