Tau Ceti by Kevin J. Anderson and Steven Savile
The Stellar Guild Series, Book 1
Published by Phoenix Pick, 2011.
ISBN: 978 1 61242 047 9
Paperback: $7.99; Ebook: $4.99
Review by Mark Yon
The premise of this new science fiction series is an old one but a good one: in the tradition of the old Ace Doubles, we have two stories in the same book. In this series we have one by an established well known author, the other by a less-well-known protégé. Unlike the old Ace Doubles, the two stories are set in the same universe.
In this first book, the larger tale is Tortoise and Hare , by Kevin J Anderson. In this, we have something of a Heinlein YA vibe, with the tale centred on two mentored characters. In the first, Jorie Taylor is a fourteen-year-old girl born on the good ship Beacon, a generation spaceship making its way to a new start on Sarbras, a planet orbiting Tau Ceti. Seen as Earth’s last hope, Earth has been left decaying under a barrage of solar storms and a scenario of overpopulation, increased pollution and resource scarcity.
The journey at sub-light speeds is a long one. The tenth captain, Kora Andropolis, is mentoring Jorie to be her replacement, the eleventh Captain of the Beacon and the generation that seems most likely to be living upon their arrival at Sarbras.
In the two hundred years since the Beacon’s departure, Earth has recovered from its civil wars and strife, though now run by a new dictator, President Jurudu. Dr. Andre Pellar and his scientist-mentor, Dr. Max Chambers-Osawa have discovered the ability to fly faster-than-light (FTL). Jurudu realises he has the chance to conquer Sarbras himself. He puts Andre in charge of the FTL programme and sends a team to get there ahead of the Beacon. A race ensues, between the relatively free pioneers of the Beacon and the militaristic repression of Jurudu.
The second tale, Grasshopper and Ants, written by Steven Savile, is about 65 pages long and continues the tale that deals with the consequences of the first. Jurudu escapes to Sarbras and the the colonists find that there are penalties for those colonists who have travelled faster-than-light, when they develop symptoms that lead to death. The solution to the ‘disease’ is rather disappointing, though the conclusion to the tale is satisfying. It’s a slightly more romantic tale that carries on from the first without having to spend as much time setting up the situation and being able to build upon the characterisation.
Together they’re great solid reads, not too deep, not really telling us anything new, but great entertainment. There’s excitement, action, romance and fundamental values at stake. It’s clear that we have two different writers, but both tales are cracking reads, in a style reminiscent to me of the old Analog magazines.
For those wanting that old style SF vibe, in the style of YA Heinlein (Farmer in the Sky, Podkayne of Mars) or more recently Allen Steele’s Coyote series, these will keep you greatly entertained. I wouldn’t mind reading more stories set in this universe myself.
Review by Mark Yon, January 2012