Randy McDonald (rfmcdpei) wrote,
Randy McDonald

[REVIEW] Michael McCollum, The Sails of Tau Ceti

There have been many mentions of past appearances of worlds of Tau Ceti in science fiction, but so far as I know, few have have brought up Arizona-based science fiction writer Michael McCollum's 1992 The Sails of Tau Ceti.

Michael McCollum, The Sails of Tau Ceti

I read the book again wanting to really like it. McCollum was a very active hard SF writer in the 1980s and 1990s, at least from my young perspective as I bought interesting-looking new titles in used book stores on Prince Edward Island. His bibliography in his German Wikipedia article is extensive. (Curiously, the article has no English-language counterpart.)

The ideas behind The Sails of Tau Ceti is certainly audacious. Centuries after the mysterious nova destroyed Tau Ceti that 25th of August, 2001, the inhabitants of our industrialized solar system detect a light sail craft apparently pushed into interstellar flight by the light of the nova. Starhopper, the first prototype starship, is repurposed to intercept the craft before it enters our solar system. Carrying, among others, the software engineer Tory Bronson, they rendezvous with the craft only to discover that it is a crewed vehicle, an O'Neill-type habitat housing tens of thousands of hexapodal Phelans fleeing the ruin of their home system and seeking succor in ours. Bronson is convinced to represent the refugees and their case to humanity.

What"s the secret?Collapse )

A minor kibbitz. The Phelans are noted as sending ships not only to our solar system but to Epsilon Eridani, Epsilon Indi, and Alpha Centauri, in other words the three closest Sun-like stars to our own planetary system other than lost Tau Ceti. Looking at the Internet Stellar Database, the Phelans had other options: Omicron 2 Eridani, or 40 Eridani, is closer to Tau Ceti than Epsilon Indi (10.2 light years versus 11.5), while 82 Eridani is just two thousand astronomical units further from Tau Ceti than Sol (both roughly 11.9 light years from the Phelans' home system). Especially if the pre-nova Phelans were aware of humanity through our radio pollution and uncertain about our attitudes towards alien refugees, in-universe wouldn't the Phelans have explored other, potentially safer, options. (I'm guessing that the data on the location of Sun-like stars in the neighbourhood of Tau Ceti that's a simple Google search in 2013 was more problematic 21 years ago.)

Good ideas, but nothing compelling.Collapse )
Tags: book reviews, reviews, science fiction, tau ceti
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