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by John E. Stith
Published by Tor, 1990
Recommended by: Greg Slade
In my opinion, John Stith does not get the attention he deserves. I first encountered him through his delightful SF parody stories such as "Naught for Hire" in Analog magazine. When I remarked on them in a science fiction mailing list some years ago, another member suggested that I check out his (then new) novel, Redshift Rendezvous. Since then, I have read a couple of his other novels, and never fail to enjoy them, but Redshift Rendezvous is definitely something special.
The book is set on a spaceship travelling between the stars at the speed of 10 metres per second. That might seem to be awfully slow for interstellar travel, but Stith posits multiple layers of space. In each one, the speed of light is slower, but distances are shorter. On the level of space where the starship Redshift cruises, 10 metres per second is not much below the speed of light, and the distances are so small that the ship is virtually travelling faster than the speed of light on our level of space. This allows Stith to set up a world where relativistic effects like time dilation are part of every day experience, and where a running child literally trails a sonic boom. Of course, being a hard-SF author, he can't help but work out all the math and physics and put it into an appendix for the reader.
But of course I wouldn't be bringing this book to your attention if it were no more than a physics textbook in disguise. (I may like technology, but I'm allergic to math.) The characterisation is interesting, and the plot has plenty of excitement. The notion of a paradise world where good people of all faiths just sit around being blissful may be a little hard to swallow, but I'm willing to overlook it for the sake of making the "good guy/bad guy" dichotomy abundantly clear.
Unfortunately, Redshift Rendezvous is out of print, but Amazon.com had two copies on auction when I checked. Perhaps enough hints dropped to the publisher will encourage them to reprint it.
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