Sunday, 3 March 2013

Tau Zero, Chapter 8

Chapter 8 of Poul Anderson's Tau Zero (London, 1973) comprises dialogue of just over two pages and omniscient narration of cosmic events for just over one page.

If a passage of dialogue is confined mainly to the words spoken, like the script for a play, then it is possible to avoid narrating from the point of view of either speaker. This passage alternates.

"Taken aback, he had no reply ready." (pp. 73-74)

- suggests that the point of view is that of the male speaker but:

"She could hear the difficulty he had in saying it." (p. 74)

- is definitely narrated from the female character's perspective.

Reymont says:

" 'I've scant use for those types whose chief interest is their grubby little personal neuroses. Not in a universe as rich as this.' " (p. 74)

Are there such people? I suppose there are. Zen meditation is about openness to the universe while letting the "neuroses" etc rise into consciousness at their own rate so that it is possible to see, understand and let go of them, not cling to them indefinitely! Greater self-awareness would have helped Reymont to cope better with a personal relationship earlier in the novel.

There are hints of a much more detailed back story for the social set up that the characters have irrevocably left behind them in the Solar System. Despite the Control Authority, Reymont speaks of local bosses in Antarctica, war lords in China and " '...the Leopards on Mars before fighting got provoked.'" (p. 74) We had been told earlier that he fought with the Zebras on Mars.

The cosmic passage describes the ship striking and passing through the nebulina, where, because of relative velocities, dust motes are as massive as meteoroids and the small nebula itself is "...a well-nigh solid wall." (p. 76) If the nebula was a proto-star, then that star with its planetary system will now never form. What a thought! We who are born and die are a minority, chosen by chance from among an infinite (?) number of potential beings. Here, an entire potential planetary system was prevented by an accidental collision that the planners of the expedition had calculated to be of negligibly low probability.

Quite a lot of food for thought in just under four pages.

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