Tau Zero

Tau Zero
by Poul Anderson (1970)

During an epic voyage to a planet 30 light years away, the engines of the starship the ‘Leonora Christine’ are damaged. Unable to slow down, it attains light speed (the tau zero of the title). The disparity between time for those on board and external time becomes impossibly great. Eons and galaxies hurtle by, as the crew speed helplessly into the great unknown.

 


This is considered a classic of ‘Hard Sci-Fi”. However it’s not Anderson’s best work. A lot of his short stories are entertaining and fun. The essential problem I have with the story is that all the protagonists do nothing.

They are put in an impossible situation by the failure of the ships drive. Hurtling towards the speed of light, there is little plot development of how to overcome their problem. Instead we have melodrama among the crew. In the end the death of the universe drives the plot and nothing else matters.

The ending is ridiculous, however this was written in 1970 so maybe it was before our knowledge of an endlessly expanding universe.

The Star Plunderer is a better read.