Tau Zero by Poul Anderson (1970). This is an interesting yarn. Your heart does sink when you read inside the front cover how many tens of books Poul Anderson wrote. But Tau Zero is considered a ‘hard’ SF classic, meaning that it is scientifically accurate (here in terms of knowledge in the late 1960s). Based on relativity, tau refers to proper time that is time as we know it, i.e. measured by a clock, and tau zero being approximate to the speed of light (I think that this is right). Set in a post-holocaust new world order (the “Covenant” a sort of Swedish social democratic yet authoritarian empire bent on the colonisation of the galaxy), the latest starship – the Leonora Christine – with its multinational crew of scientists sets off. But already some way into the future the colonialist quest goes awry when the starship collides with a nebula cloud – and stuck in a space-time continuum – eventually and at great speed arrives at the collapse of the universe passing through the subsequent Big Bang, thereafter the plucky explorers happily recommence life on a new Earth. Phew. For all the science this is as much a boy’s own adventure plus the softest of sexual fantasy – including a Dr Strangelovian abandonment of so-called monogamous sexual relationships… again a sacrifice required for the future of the human race.
Among Others by Jo Walton 2010. This is a great read. And not least because it is paean to (perhaps the lost world) of public libraries and dedicated to librarians throughout the world.
Interlibrary loans are a wonder of the world and a glory of civilisation… libraries just sit there lending you books quietly out of the kindness of their hearts
It is a rites of passage story, as told in her diary by a troubled teenager Morwenna Phelps, whose family has endured a degree of insanity, or at very least an other world experience of magic, fairies and witches, living with damaged minds and bodies. Mori is a prodigious reader, with a staple diet of fantasy and SF novels It’s a relief to recognise some of the authors and titles in her canon. I’m not a fan of SF in general: I disliked the LOTR and The Hobbit as a teenager, but enjoyed the John Wyndham´s The Day of the Triffids, Frank Herbert´s Dune and Ursula le Guin’s The Dispossessed.
Among Others has such a positive outlook on life plus it is a celebration of the joys and solace of reading.
Feet of Chains by Kate Roberts (published in Welsh as Traed Mewn Cyffion in 1936), translated by Kate Gramich in 2012.
An everyman tale of the family and times of Jane and Ifan Gruffydd in rural northern Wales from the 1880s to the 1920s. Ifan is a labourer in a slate quarry and the family lives in a one-room cottage and with a smallholding, and Jane describes their efforts to make ends meet as their children to make their own way in life through education and migration and war. One son, Twm, is killed in the Great War (a war that “… no one in Moel Arian knew what to make of it really”). Realism and fatalism collide. At the end the surviving son Owen declaims:
It was the time for someone to stand up against injustice. To do something about it. Thinking about it, that was the trouble with his people. They were heroic in their capacity to suffer, and not in their capacity to do something to oppose the cause of their suffering.