I still swear I remember watching one of the moon landings on TV. I was barely five years old when Apollo 17 sent the last men to the moon, so maybe I am mistaken, but I am sure this is one of my earliest memories.Going Interstellar
is a collection of short stories and essays by notable science fiction authors and physicists with the obvious theme of going interstellar
. This book appears to be a labor of love, published by Baen, that stalwart of hardcore hard SF nerds. These people (the editors and authors) really, really want to see us launch interstellar missions. There is a certain sense of futility in their cause, which is evident when even the most optimistic of the non-fiction essays acknowledges that the technological and economic challenges dwarf anything mankind has ever attempted, but still... it's possible
! It could be done!
Certainly not in our lifetimes, though.
Every story sticks to the strictly plausible, or at least mostly plausible, so there is no FTL travel here, no wormholes or aliens, and no other "super-science." All the technology is, if not currently possible, at least within the realm of our current understanding of physics.
The non-fiction essays describe the means by which a ship could be sent interstellar distances: antimatter, fusion, and solar/beamed energy sails. Each one has potential and is theoretically possible, each one also has some major drawbacks that physicists refer to as "simply a matter of engineering."
The stories ranged from "okay" to "pretty good." All are fairly typical SF short stories built around the theme of interstellar colonization. Since they were all limited to known physics, there are basically three options for a starship: unmanned; sleeper ships in which the passengers are kept in some sort of suspended animation for most or all of the trip (this, of course, is another "matter of engineering" that currently remains purely hypothetical technology since no one has figured out how to bring back to life something that's been cryogenically frozen); and generation ships. There are stories with each option featured.
My favorites were probably Lesser Beings
, by Charles E. Gannon, in which humans go to the stars and continue being their old warlike selves; Lucy
, by Jack McDevitt, in which Artificial Intelligences are the first to pilot starships; Twenty Lights to the "Land of Snow"
by Michael Bishop, featuring a sleeper ship called the Kalachakra
carrying a group of Tibetan Buddhists; and The Big Ship and the Wise Old Owl
, by Sarah Hoyt, in which the inhabitants of a generation ship have to uncover a mystery before they reach their destination. These stories I would give 4 stars each to; the others, by Ben Bova, Louise Marley, and Mike Resnick, were okay but only 3-star reads for me. YMMV.
Overall, a 4-star book for anyone who is a true space nerd or physics geek.