by Travis Taylor
Review by Ernest Lilley
Baen Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 0743488628
Date: 01 December, 2004 List Price $22.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Robert Anson Heinlein and E.E. ?Doc? Smith would have loved Warp Speed, and not just because it?s a conscious tribute to them both, but because the author has managed to update their ideas and bring them to life in a post 9/11 twenty-first century.
Neil Anson Clemons is a forty-something physicist working with nanotech and dreaming of developing an ftl drive. Such a thing is theoretically possible, the author assures us, and includes an appendix to back up his claim. All you have to do is bend space-time around a ship so that the local speed of light goes way up and you?ve got ftl. The theory is out there, but the math is way to hairy to go into, and the energy requirements are somewhat greater than all the energy mankind has produced over the course of its existence.
I?m of two minds about Warp Speed. While it?s clearly an ode to Heinlein (the main character is named Anson?as in Robert Anson Heinlein) it?s guilty of considerably greater reductionism than even RAH would have committed. Instead of considering human nature at length, Taylor falls back on super-science to solve all his problems. As his scientist hero?s powers grow throughout the book his finesse wanes, until he?s reduced to ?solving? problems of international politics with what might as well be all out nuclear war, but with clean bombs. RAH wouldn?t have done it. Really.
Now, if this is where the story stops, the author will have created a fun, if seriously flawed adolescent physicist?s wet dream, and in itself that?s not actually a bad thing. It?s more fantasy than SF, despite the extensive discussions of nano-scale and mega-power physics, because nothing ever has any consequences that can?t be beaten down with more power. On the other hand, if this is the first book in a trilogy, then the author has an excellent opportunity to show that you can?t actually solve problems with brute force, a lesson that one hopes is not wasted on policy makers post Iraq.