Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Warp Speed by Travis Taylor
There used to be a sub-genre of science fiction called "hard" science fiction. It dealt mostly with advanced technology and its effects on human culture at large, or the people who developed it - maybe both. Warp Speed by Taylor takes us back to the realm of hard SF. In fact, this is the kind of hard SF that engineers and physics nerds dream about.
As you might imagine from that intro, the hero of this tale, Anson, is a physics professor, with perhaps a bit of an engineering bent. He and his two doctoral students, Becca and Jim, have discovered a quantum effect that they believe could have application as a faster-than-light drive for spaceships. Everything else that happens follows quite logically from there.
In order to power the drive one must have a source of power vastly greater than what is available through conventional sources, but fortunately, Becca comes up with a concept which uses nanomachinery and an odd physical principal to generate all the power needed. Also fortunately, Anson has befriended an Air Force officer, Tabitha, who is high in the councils of the black budget community within the U.S. and she is able to get them the funding they need to produce the power generators and the warp drive engines.
When they're attempting to test the engines in space for the first time, on a space shuttle flight, the bad guys (we think they're probably Chinese) sabotage the mission and steal the technology for themselves. The warp drive technology, it turns out, can also be used as a weapon far superior to the atomic bomb, and the book descends into a race against time, to see who will get control of the new technology, and the world.
If you enjoy a novel that's not all that long on plot, but filled with a ton of scientific speculations, you'll really like this one. It reminded me of early SF, like Rocket Ship Galileo by Heinlein.