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Starman's Quest by Robert Silverberg

Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed. Minor spelling and typographical errors have been corrected without note. Variant spellings have been retained.

_Author's Preface_

This was my second novel, which I wrote when I was 19, in my junior year at Columbia. I've written better ones since. But readers interested in the archaeology of a writing career will probably find much to explore here.

Robert Silverberg 17 May 2008

FOR BILL EDGERTON

1933-1956

_Prologue_

The Lexman Spacedrive was only the second most important theoretical accomplishment of the exciting years at the dawn of the Space Age, yet it changed all human history and forever altered the pattern of sociocultural development on Earth.

Yet it was only the _second_ most important discovery.

The Cavour Hyperdrive unquestionably would have held first rank in any historical assessment, had the Cavour Hyperdrive ever reached practical use. The Lexman Spacedrive allows mankind to reach Alpha Centauri, the closest star with habitable planets, in approximately four and a half years. The Cavour Hyperdrive--if it ever really existed--would have brought Alpha C within virtual instantaneous access.

But James Hudson Cavour had been one of those tragic men whose personalities negate the value of their work. A solitary, cantankerous, opinionated individual--a crank, in short--he withdrew from humanity to develop the hyperspace drive, announcing at periodic intervals that he was approaching success.

A final enigmatic bulletin in the year 2570 indicated to some that Cavour had achieved his goal or was on the verge of achieving it; others, less sympathetic, interpreted his last message as a madman's wild boast. It made little difference which interpretation was accepted. James Hudson Cavour was never heard from again.

A hard core of passionate believers insisted that he _had_ developed a faster-than-light drive, that he had succeeded in giving mankind an instantaneous approach to the stars. But they, like Cavour himself, were laughed down, and the stars remained distant.

Distant--but not unreachable. The Lexman Spacedrive saw to that.

Lexman and his associates had developed their ionic drive in 2337, after decades of research. It permitted man to approach, but not to exceed, the theoretical limiting velocity of the universe: the speed of light.

Ships powered by the Lexman Spacedrive could travel at speeds just slightly less than the top velocity of 186,000 miles per second. For the first time, the stars were within man's grasp.

The trip was slow. Even at such fantastic velocities as the Lexman Spacedrive allowed, it took nine years for a ship to reach even the nearest of stars, stop, and return; a distant star such as Bellatrix required a journey lasting two hundred fifteen years each way. But even this was an improvement over the relatively crude spacedrives then in use, which made a journey from Earth to Pluto last for many months and one to the stars almost unthinkable.

The Lexman Spacedrive worked many changes. It gave man the stars. It brought strange creatures to Earth, strange products, strange languages.


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