BORROWED TIDES by Paul Levinson
TOR, March 2001
Man has discovered a new space drive and is at the verge of its first intersteller travel--the only problem is that they have fuel enough only for a one-way trip. Relying on ancient native american teachings, scientist Aaron Schoenfeld believes that he could use Alpha Centari's gravity to catepult the starship back to earth, eliminating the need for additional fuel. Together with a small group of scientists, Aaron sets out on the starship.
During the journey, one of the passengers seems to develop a psychic ability to transform the worlds of Alpha Centari. They are then caught in a time warp of some kind, and seem doomed to repeat their journey forever.
Paul Levinson writes well and almost pulls this novel off. Unfortunately, BORROWED TIDES leaves too many logic gaps for it to be fully enjoyed. It is difficult to imagine a multi-year interstellar trip that requires continuous acceleration, yet this is what Levinson depends upon (without explaining). A more standard aproach with an initial acceleration and terminal deceleration would have eliminated much of the conflict but would have been scientifically more believable. Too often, Levinson's scientists make statements and then immediately go against their decisions or ignore them. Schoenfeld announces that no visit to the Alpha Centari planets is possible, then sends one of his scientists to visit the planet. The group decides to play with logic, increasing the mass of their ship by creating biomass (possible since they are moving backward in time and their fuel and water is being constantly replenished), yet Levinson never bothers telling the reader whether they carried out this plan or what the consequences were.
BORROWED TIDES has all of the makings of a very good book. Science Fiction readers are likely to be sympathetic to the critical step toward the stars; the native american legend of a river that flows two ways is well set up and holds high potential; the discovered alien ship, the passenger's psychic abilities, and the time twist all make intriguing plot devices. With Levinson's smooth writing, this book should have been a winner. Instead, read it for its potential and near-brush with something truly special even though it falls short.
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