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Faster-Than-Light Travel in literature.


  • Aeon 14 deconstructs FTL travel by having it developed in a setting where humanity had already extensively spread across local space via slower-than-light ships. On the one hand, FTL travel relieved overpopulation much better than STL colony ships (the Sol system was in danger of being completely mined out). On the other hand, it also made interstellar warfare possible and removed an incentive to be resource-efficient, which resulted in much technology from the golden age of STL becoming lost and the relative devastation of many star systems, including Sol. FTL is a hyperspace model that has ships transit to the "dark layer", a region of spacetime where dark matter has physical form and your velocity upon entry is multiplied by 500.
  • C. J. Cherryh's Alliance/Union series has a hyperspace drive which acts like (and uses the terminology of) a jump drive, since steering is impossible once inside of hyperspace, and all of the conditions needed to end up at the right destination need to be set up before entering hyperspace. Entering hyperspace requires acceleration to near-light speeds (and deceleration from). Also there's a bit of Time Dilation in that crews experience three days to a week (though most members of oxygen breathing races are unconscious during jump) while a couple of months pass outside.
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    • In fact, jump drives in this universe seem to obey a consistent mixture of the typical Faster-Than-Light Travel options. Jumps have to be done from and to specific areas - the 'Jump Range', far enough from the mass of the star or brown dwarf not to interfere in the jump. When you reach the other end, the mass of your destination star brings you back out of jump. It's implied that messing up your calculation on targeting that destination is a bad idea. Other ships moving in the same frame of space/time relevance to you can throw your jump out - on one occasion nearly throwing a starship into Epsilon Eridani. However, the ship doesn't actually exist in real space between the two points.
  • Animorphs had a hyper drive that utilized something called zero-space, or Z-space. In one prequel book, the Yeerks, spying on humans, discover footage from Star Trek showing FTL travel in the physical world without Z-space and are stunned until they realize that it's fiction. This form of FTL travel has a very large flaw. The distance between places in Z-space shifted constantly, so a trip that takes days today could take months tomorrow.
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  • The Antares series uses a naturally-occuring Portal Network of "foldpoints", which provide instantaneous transportation between star systems. However, each foldpoint only connects to one other foldpoint, foldpoints are usually found on opposite sides of the star, and crossing a system can take weeks.
  • In Mikhail Akhmanov's Arrivals from the Dark and Trevelyan's Mission series, all interstellar races use the contour drive for FTL travel. The drive is relatively simple in design and has ridiculously low power requirements compared to most other FTL drives in fiction. It does, however, require incredibly precise calculations in order to arrive at a target location. Additionally, smaller drives tend to burn out after one use, so are usually used in communication drones. It jumps outside our universe and jumps back at the new location, which is a nearly-instantaneous process. While, theoretically, it's possible to jump anywhere in the galaxy, it would be nearly impossible to make the necessary calculations, which are thrown off by distance and gravity. Fleet often arrive dispersed throughout the target system, as each ship jumps individually.
    • Later novels reveal the presence of an ancient Portal Network left behind by the Daskins. One of the nodes is located in Jupiter's atmosphere and is more commonly known to us as the Great Red Spot (which is large enough to fit up to 3 Earth-sized planets). Only the Lo'ona Aeo know how to use these to cross great distances in a relatively short time.
    • The fourth novel of the Trevelyan's Mission series has the titular character discover a device on a remote planet that acts similar to the Iconian gateway from Star Trek. In the epilogue, he learns to control it using his latent Psychic Powers and uses it to step from the planet onboard a ship where he is expected to negotiate with an advanced race of Technical Pacifists.
      • In the fifth novel, he uses this ability to get around the galaxy, to the point where his bosses don't even bother sending a starship to take him to his next assignment and just tell him to use "his own means". It's implied that he uses the same dimension (called Limbo) that all starships use. The Metamorphs are capable of performing teleportations through Limbo as well, but their ranges are severely limited compared to Trevelyan's (no more than a few AUs for a tiny object).
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  • Isaac Asimov's Nemesis: Tessa Wendel's work on superluminal flight is what lets Earth reach the titular star in a matter of days, while it took Rotor two years to reach it at light speed.
  • Parodied, like most SF tropes, in Bill the Galactic Hero by Harry Harrison, with the Bloater Drive which expands the ship to larger than galaxy sized, then shrinks it slightly off-center so that you coalesce a few lightyears from your starting point. It's also mentioned that other methods of FTL exist but are not viable. Specifically, subspace exists, but any ship sent into it literally shakes itself apart.
  • In Gordon R. Dickson's Childe Cycle books, space travel is achieved through a series of jumps, where the ship is annihilated at one spot and reconstituted in another. The jumps not only have to be extensively calculated (the ship must be located absolutely in the universe, and its destination point must also be exactly calculated, to the same degree), the jump itself has a psychological effect on the crew and passengers, so the more often the jump, the greater the psychic shock and the closer the people on board get to insanity. Tranquilizers are made available to help lessen the experience, but cannot nullify it. This is a subplot point in Dorsai!, where the effect is shown during a raid on a planet - something nobody thinks possible.
  • The Confederation of Valor has Susumi space. Enter it, and you can emerge on the other side of the galaxy exactly when you departed, at least from the perspective of a realspace observer. For the traveler, it takes several hours. It also requires very precise calculations for safe travel; making even a tiny mistake can destroy a ship completely.
  • The FTL used by Iain M. Banks' The Culture works by having a ship attach its engines fields to the Energy Grid, the barriers between nested universes. There's a Grid between this universe and an ultraverse (an older, outside universe), and between this and an infraverse (a younger, inside universe). The view is described as flying between walls of sky and water. The fields "push" off them to accelerate, and create traction against the grid to decelerate. Normal cruising speeds are relatively slow, taking years to cross the galaxy, and taking two years to reach a Magellanic Cloud. Travel between galaxies is hampered due to the Grid changing properties in the space between.
  • Marcin Podlewski's duology Depth is named after a subspace that can be "jumped into" with the use of deep drives. In theory, Depth can instantly connect any two points in the universe, but due to immense power and navigational calculations required to perform a jump, the most commonly practiced limit is traveling 15 light years per jump. The technology also has various limitations that have to be taken into account when planning a journey; the main one being that living beings have to be rendered unconscious using Stasis drug for the duration of the jump, as traveling through Depth awake almost always drives organic lifeforms insane.
  • In the Discworld, due to the intense magic field required to keep something like a world on the back of a giant turtle existing, light actually travels at a speed similar to sound. "Faster than light" broomsticks have appeared in the series where due to a massive magical boost, they exceed Mach I and this also the speed of light. Shown most prominently in Equal Rites, where Granny Weatherwax and Esk outrun the rising sun's light and "catch up with the night."
  • In Dune, the Spacing Guild holds a monopoly on space travel for most of the series. Using "Holtzman engines" to fold space (instantaneous or near instantaneous travel), ships are piloted by psychic Guild Navigators who can see into the future, enabling safe transport through the universe. The downside? Activating their precognitive power requires the Navigators to breathe Spice gas, which mutates them - eventually to the extent that they can't live without it.
    • But in the sequels their abilities were mimicked by technology... as was EVERYTHING, as the proscriptions from the Butlerian Jihad and the general distaste for genetic engineering were holding back the advances of technology - as long as they had the spice, nobody was interested in figuring out better ways to get around. One of Leto II's goals was to break this stasis and allow humanity to go forward.
    • Further, the prequels show that technology was already on a path to making Holtzman engines safe, but dogmatic rejection of anything that is remotely reminiscent of a thinking machine forced the development of Guild Navigators to bypass the edict.
    • In the pre-prequels set during the Butlerian Jihad, another (unnamed) kind of FTL drive exists, which takes days, weeks, or months to cross interstellar distances. This slower method of FTL travel is favored until the advent of Guild Navigators, because without a Navigator, each use of a Holtzman fold drive has a 10% chance to send its starship to never-never land forever. There were computers developed to solve this problem, but the strictures of the Jihad meant they had to stay secret.
    • One of the implied problems of using the Holtzman drive is the possibility that you might jump into another ship with the drive that's already where you want to arrive. The idea of the Guild Navigators is that they use the limited precognition the Spice gives them to see the risk and avoid it. Unfortunately, later refinement of the idea of precognition includes the idea that anyone with precognition cannot use it to see anyone else with precognition, creating a possible problem with the whole scheme. (Precogs apparently perceive other precogs as "holes" in their vision, so possibly the Navigators avoid other ships by carefully steering away from anything that looks like a blind spot?)
    • After becoming the first Navigator, Norma Cenva learns to fold space without a Holtzman drive, but she's unique in that regard, as, prior to her mutation, she was an extremely-powerful Sorceress of Rossak (they're pretty much extinct by the time of the original novel).
  • David Weber's Empire from the Ashes trilogy features both warp drives and hyper drives. They're usually so ridiculously large that most ships the size of a planetoid only have enough space to mount one or the other. Each type has its advantages:
    • Hyper is something of a cross between the "jump" and "warp" versions of FTL travel. Travel is not instantaneous, and the ship is moving through an alternate dimension (warp), but once you're in hyper, you're stuck until you get to your destination (jump). It is, however, the faster of the two drives.
    • Enchanach is pretty much the classic warp drive. Although it's slower than hyper drives, it allows for maneuvering. It also causes a massive gravitational disturbance that is weaponized in the second book, for the purposes of creating a No Warping Zone and Star Killing.
  • In the Ender's Game series, humans have a Subspace Ansible, but not FTL ships. This is a point revealed and exploited in the early books.
    • Even the slower-than-light drives of their starships require some Applied Phlebotinum to work — they can instantly go from a standing stop to 99+ percent of light speed and back, without having to muck about with all that tedious accelerating (which would normally take years, unless you wanted to squish the passengers).
      • In the last book of the Ender's Shadow parallel series it was stated that Artificial Gravity was used for rapid acceleration/deceleration.
      • The author can't seem to decide how this method of interstellar travel works, as it changes from book to book. For example, in Speaker for the Dead, it's specifically stated that no acceleration/deceleration takes place and that only a tiny amount of energy is required for the relativistic jump. In a later novel, a warship doesn't want to spend months/years (from an external viewpoint) decelerating and just fires a missile at near-relativistic speeds. In the Earth Unaware prequel, the Bugger/Formic/Hormiga ship is using a Ram Scoop drive that allows it to achieve relativistic speeds but requires the collected "gamma plasma" to be periodically expelled through "pores" all over the ship (which also serves as its meteorite defense system).
    • In Xenocide, the properties of the Subspace Ansible are utilized by a sufficiently powerful computer mind to move ships in the same way as information, allowing for truly instantaneous FTL travel. To their credit, the characters exploit this for all it's worth in fending off a planetary invasion force, up to and including Teleport Spam, and later offer it to humanity at large in return for leaving the AI alone.
  • The Engines of Dawn used all three types at one point or another. The titular Engines seem to travel through Hyperspace Or Subspace, which the local religion insists is the body of God. When the university's Engine is murdered by terrorists, a student points out that the gravity manipulator they've been using to study black holes can be used as an Alcubierre Drive. At the climax, an experimental Jump Drive is used to escape having another Eldritch Abomination installed in the ship. They all have side effects, too. The Engines induce severe boredom (but it's possible to, with the right equipment, listen to really pretty music); the black hole method could either spaghettify or fatally irradiate the ship, and the jump drive makes everyone really, um, frisky.
  • Charles Stross's The Eschaton Series (including Singularity Sky and Iron Sunrise, among others):
    • The series happily accepts that FTL travel implies time travel. However, a singularly powerful AI from the future (the previously mentioned Eschaton) protects causality (and ultimately, its own existence) by being able to see causality violations after they occur, then use its own (much better) causality violating weapons to obliterate the offender with godlike levels of overkill.
    • There are about six known methods of FTL travel: two use Quantum Entanglement, which is useful for transmitting information but useless for transporting anything else, one is basically an Alcubierre Drive and is mentioned as being extremely dangerous and difficult to use, the one used by the fleet in the first book seems to be of the Jump variety. This one is the easiest to use (which isn't saying much), but runs the risk of violating causality. Finally, there are a few forms of travel that humans don't understand yet, such as the Eschaton's wormholes.
  • The Cassini Division, part of Ken MacLeod's Fall Revolution series, uses wormholes and time travel to have a paradox-free FTL system. The end of the wormhole where you want to go is carried by an STL vessel to the destination. Once established, to go from A to B you make the trip instantaneously but jump forward in time from A's point of view: if you go 5 light years, you exit the wormhole at B five years after you left (from A's perspective). If you travel from B to A, you go back in time the same amount, so from B's perspective you arrive at A 5 years before you left. Combinations of wormholes that create paradoxes fall apart, so you can't leave A and travel back in time to before you left. This means that you can have two systems that have "real time" communication with each other through the wormhole that are nevertheless separated in time from one another.
  • In the Firebird Trilogy, people travel from planet to planet in the Whorl by "jumping" into Slip Space, which is a "quasi-orthogonal space" which allows the ships to travel vast distances in days rather than centuries.
  • In Murray Leinster's 1945 short story "First Contact", FTL travel is only possible in a perfect vacuum. At the time, many astrophysicists believed that interstellar space was completely particle-free, which later turned out not to be the case.
  • Implied in The Flying Sorcerers by Larry Niven and David Gerrold, where the astronaut is trying to explain to the stone age natives how he got to their planet: "I went around...the distance".
  • The Forever Man uses jump drives that work by making the ship occupy every point in the universe at once, and then reconstituting it at the point one wants it to be. However, it requires proportionally longer calculation times for longer jumps (for example, from one end of the galaxy to the other would take about a century), so they use short jumps with time to re-calculate in between.
  • Joe Haldeman's The Forever War uses "collapsars" (an old name for black holes) to instantaneously jump up to thousands of lightyears to the next collapsar along the ship's vector at entry. Unfortunately most collapsars are far from any inhabitable system, the nearest one to earth, "Stargate", is one lightyear away, so starships still need to spend several years at relativistic speeds. This adds up to enough time to make you poor because of inflation while simultaneously having enough dosh to swim in, and massive sociological upheaval.
  • In the short story FTA by George R. R. Martin, a scientist trying to develop a hyperdrive applies for a research grant to the bureau responsible for establishing practical interstellar travel. They turn him down, and he appeals, pointing out that in hyperspace, where the laws of physics are different, the speed of light is not necessarily the same as in our universe; therefore spacecraft could reach the stars in a short time without violating Einstein's theories. They turn him down again, because they developed a working hyperdrive years earlier, but it's useless for interstellar travel because in hyperspace the speed of light is slower than in our universe.
  • In Ursula K. Le Guin's Hainish novels, while faster-than-light communication is possible with the Subspace Ansible, all travel between stars is done with NAFAL ("nearly-as-fast-as-light") ships. The principle on which these work is not described in detail — presumably traveling "nearly" as fast as light would still require some Applied Phlebotinum. The time dilation resulting from the speeds NAFAL ships achieve serves to underscore just how distanced the traveler becomes from their home — while to them the trip might have taken mere hours, anywhere from decades to centuries would have passed on their home planet, all their friends would have aged and died, and so on. And you need to get outside the system before activating the drive, unless you want the sun to explode. However, in three later short stories set in the same universe, Le Guin describes the development of faster-than-light ships, based on the principles of the Ansible. She focuses on the impact their appearance has on society and individual lives.
    • Faster than light ships were developed in that universe just immediately after ansible. Their popularity was hindered only by the small insignificant fact that the jump (just as instantaneous) tended to kill passengers. So these ships were used only for cargo or, essentially, as Inter Stellar Ballistic Missiles. Only thousands years later the way to keep passengers alive during the jump was discovered, and it basically made the jump a mystic experience, with slipping concentration threatening to throw you into an Alternate Universe... partway, while your friends either remained "where" they were, or going their own ways...
  • In His Majestys Starship, the aliens possess a "step-through" drive, which relies on the theory that atom-sized wormholes are constantly appearing and disappearing all around us. The step-through drive finds one that leads to where you want to go, expands it to the size of a ship, and holds it open long enough for everyone to step through. For an added bonus, once the wormhole is open, ships without step-through drives (i.e. human ships) can use it.
  • In Andrei Livadny's The History of the Galaxy series, all FTL travel is achieved via hypersphere, an anomalous dimension existing alongside ours. In terms of topology, it more-or-less resembles an actual sphere with multiple arbitrary "layers". Every sufficiently large stellar body creates an energy imprint in hypersphere. Each star has "tension" lines stretching to nearby stars known as "horizontals" (they're, basically, chords, if you remember your geometry). There are also "verticals", stretching from stars deep into the center of the anomaly. The humans first discovered FTL travel during the historical launch of the first extrasolar colony ship, the Alpha, possibly the largest human ship ever built. It featured three massive fusion engines that could accelerate it to half the speed of light. The drives were activated, and the ship vanished. It was only later discovered that the sheer power of the engines tore a hole in space-time into hypersphere (the engines were actually sabotaged by a rival Mega-Corp; they were supposed to blow up, not tear a hole in space-time). The first FTL drives were, essentially, particle accelerators meant to punch holes in space-time, so ships can "ride" along the horizontals to their destination. Later designs substituted it for a better combination of two generators: a low-frequency hyperfield generator to "submerge" a ship into hypersphere and a high-frequency generator to "surface" it. This only scratches the surface of hypersphere, and there are several novels in the series that explore its nature deeper (both figuratively and literally). Interestingly, only one other race besides humanity has managed to develop a hyperdrive. Everyone else used static hypergates that first had to be moved into place by sublight.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy had hyperspace, which seems to be a kind of warp drive, the effects of which are "rather unpleasantly like being drunk" (as felt by the drink!). To avoid that tedious mucking about in hyperspace, the Heart of Gold uses an Infinite Improbability Drive, a jump drive which altered the laws of probability, causing the (actually real, but incredibly unlikely - thus, nigh-infinitely improbable) spontaneous relocation of all the particles in a ship to some other place. The even more advanced Bistromathics system relied on the chaotic multidimensional mathematics generated by going out to a fancy restaurant (from when and how many people will be arriving to divvying up the bill), and carried an onboard bistro as part of its drive system.
    • There's also the principle that nothing in the universe travels faster than bad news. Someone built a starship powered by bad news, but they were so unwelcome anywhere they went that there wasn't any real point in being there.
    • "R is a velocity measure, defined as a reasonable speed of travel that is consistent with health, mental well-being and not being more than say five minutes late. (...) R17 is not a fixed velocity, but it is clearly far too fast."
  • FTL travel in Honor Harrington is accomplished by "translating" into hyperspace, in which normal local-space movement is amplified severalfold. Hyperspace is organized into bands named after the letters of the Greek alphabet; a starship first translates into the alpha band, and from there can translate into the beta band, then the gamma band, etc.. The higher the hyper band your starship is in, the greater the multiplication factor when determining your "apparent velocity" through normal space; a ship traveling at 0.5c in the delta band is traveling through normal space at 912c, for example. In keeping with the nautical theme of the series, hyperspace is criss-crossed by "grav waves" which will tear your ship apart unless it projects "Warshawski sails", and these sails allow the ship to "ride" the grav wave at even greater speeds.
    • There are also naturally occurring points that act as instant-travel wormholes to distant locations.
    • Local-space travel, both in and out of hyper, uses a gravity-manipulating drive that has the extra bonus of allowing its users to behave as if they were really seagoing vessels — this is a bonus because, for Honor Harrington, read "Horatio Hornblower".
    • Gravitic sensors also allow for some limited short-range FTL communication: initially directly from sensing the gravitational waves, and later, as Weber learned that gravity only propagates at lightspeed, he retconned these into sensing the instantaneous RIPPLE along the edge of hyperspace that grav waves induce.
  • Featured in The Host however it is also stated that even with faster than light travel, the closest planetary system takes at least a decade to reach (the furthest ones require centuries).
  • In the Humanx Commonwealth series by Alan Dean Foster, ships use the posigravity, or Kurita-Kinoshita drive (Named for the scientists who invented it). Ships are said to look like a balloon stuck on the end of a plunger. The suction cup looking part of the ship generates a gravity field that pulls the ship along. Changing the shape of the gravity field changes how matter behaves and allows the ship to exceed the speed of light, taking it into "space-plus". KK-drives are very dangerous and sophisticated computers are needed to keep everything working properly. Due to dangers imposed by the drives there are restrictions in where they can be used.
    • Dangers like gouging significant chunks out of a planet's surface, setting off hurricanes and earthquakes. Flinx's ship is unique because the Ulru-Ujurrians figured out how to circumvent the problem.
    • There's also a piece of Fridge Logic in this drive method: the system apparently violates the Third Law of Motion in that there's no counterforce opposing its forward acceleration. This can only work if you accept that the drive field simulates mass without actually having any, a Hand Wave if there ever was one.
  • In the Hyperion Cantos they use a sort of wormholes to travel. Unfortunately making them work requires a Farcaster to be built near any planet they will link to, so the people they send to build them are faced with the problems of relativity. Some time is spent exploring the implications of this technology, from houses that have rooms on a dozen planets and all their steps going downward (think about it) to riverboat rides across all the coolest places in the galaxy, to terrorists who destroy a beacon knowing that the army won't show up for decades and finally mass suicides and starvation when the whole network fails. There are also spaceships that go faster than light using the Hawking Drive, which "tunnels under space" but they require the passengers to be put into "cryogenic fugue" (both because it's rather slow and due to constant hallucinations), and incur a lot of missed time on the traveler's part.
    • Later on, they invent the Gideon Drive, which is much faster than the Hawking Drive, but has the drawback of killing everyone aboard, so unless you are an AI or possess Resurrective Immortality (the bad guys tend to be either one or the other), there is little point in using it.
  • In the Into the Looking Glass universe there are a few ways to travel. The eponymous looking glasses function as instantaneous travel worm holes. A warp drive is also available based on some abandoned precursor technology. There appears to be another hyperspace lane that is accessible but isn't as used in the stories being late comers to the plot.
  • In the Jacob's Ladder Trilogy, Jacob's Ladder is a Generation Ship which travels at sublight speed. However, faster-than-light travel is introduced in the third book, invented on Earth and used by a different set of colonists to reach their destination world first.
  • In the Legacy of the Aldenata there appear to be three types of FTL drive kicking around. One allows for travel to any point you care to name but is slower and consumes horrendous amounts of energy. The second uses a similar drive but you can take the highway between gravity wells to speed up and consume less energy at the cost of being similar to a portal network. The third is a mass based worm hole generator, it lets you jump from one surface of a planet to another.
  • In The Lost Fleet, both Jump Drives and Hyperspace gates are used. Jump Drives only work using specific points between two solar systems. Going long distances requires multiple jumps from system to system. Gates had become so ubiquitous at the start of the series that the jump points had all been forgotten about until the recently defrosted main character points out that, yes, they still do exist, and yes, their ships can still use them.
    • It's pointed out that a number of systems were devastated economically after the invention of the Hypernet, as gates were only placed in "important" systems. Whereas before, a number of systems were prospering due to all the traffic they were getting as in-between systems (think highway exits), the new method of traveling means no one visits them anymore. So, it's not so much that the people of the future have forgotten about the existence of this mode of travel, it's just become so obsolete, especially for warships, that there doesn't seem to be a reason why the sailors have to think about them (although, logic would indicate that they would have had to make at least one jump in order to get from an Alliance system to a Syndic system, since it's unlikely for a single system to have both an Allianec and a Syndic hypergate).
    • The Genesis Fleet prequel series takes place only decades after the invention of jump drives. The result is similar to the Aeon 14 example below - wars and rampant piracy. This is because STL travel makes it impractical to conquer a planet in another star system, and expansion is limited by the speed of light. However, with the second colonization boom following the jump drive invention, Earth and the Old Colonies can no longer reliably protect the outlying colonies. This will eventually lead to the formation of The Alliance.
  • Sergey Lukyanenko:
    • The premise of The Stars Are Cold Toys duology is that 20 Minutes into the Future humanity invents the "jumper" device, which allows any ship to instantaneously jump through folds of space in a given direction about 12+ light years. The distance is always the same, making proper calculations necessary (meaning, you often have to jump to the "side" in order for your next jump to take you where you need to go, if your distance to the target is less than 12+ light years). The jumper has some interesting properties, such as completely draining the ship of power. Also, any data storage device currently under power is instantly wiped, requiring a computer to be booted up and restored from back-up disks after each jump, while the ship's batteries recharge. Also, humans experience extreme euphoria during the jump, something that cannot be matched by sex, drugs, or alcohol (and astronauts are trained accordingly, such as full expense-paid trips to tropical locations with free-thinking women). At the same time any (except for 2 species) alien either dies or goes insane during a jump. Since most human technology has remained the same, launches are still achieved via expensive and toxic chemically-powered rocket boosters. Jumping in low orbit is strictly forbidden, as the results are quite unpleasant for those planet-bound (hurricanes, etc.). Aliens have their own means of FTL travel, likely through hyperspace, but their trips take months. Later on, a race of Human Aliens is discovered, which appears to have combined the two methods to create a highly-efficient way of interstellar travel without any unpleasant side effects (i.e. they enter hyperspace and start jumping from there, while their tame AIs make calculations a breeze). There are also Portal Networks found on worlds near the galactic core.
    • Lukyanenko's Genome books feature an interesting variant of Subspace or Hyperspace. The book describes it as a sixteen-dimensional tunnel entrances to which have to be set up ahead of time (althogh some ships don't need them). The weirdest part comes from the fact that there is only one tunnel in the universe. All other entrances/exits are merely the tunnel's imprint on our four-dimensional space. Navigators have to be careful in calculating the entry vector and speed, which determines where you will exit and have to be able to keep the sixteen-dimensional map of the galaxy in their heads. Normally, this is seen as a Spec-only job, although one Natural manages to be very effective at it. Additionally, the Dances on the Snow prequel reveals that early FTL travel was fatal to women for some unexplained reason, so all women had to travel as Human Popsicles in order to survive the trip. Hence, most spacers have developed a patriarchal attitude towards women, often refering to them as "cargo". By the end of the novel, though, genetic therapy has been developed to correct this flaw.
  • In The Machineries of Empire, ships travel between the skies using mothdrives. What exactly a mothdrive is and how it manages to achieve FTL is left unexplained, but it's mentioned that it's an exotic technology.
  • In many of Anne McCaffrey's series (particularly, The Ship Who...... series), FTL travel is possible, but obscenely expensive. Trips between star systems still take months or years (with the bulk of travel spent slowing the ship down safely). In the Talents series, ships are simply thrown through space and teleported via Psychic Powers.
  • In Leinster's Med Ship stories, FTL travel is achieved using the "overdrive", which creates a pocket of Subspace or Hyperspace around the ship that allows it to travel at a large multiple of the speed of light (approximately one light year per hour).
  • Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle described the Alderson Drive in The Mote in God's Eye (1975), which requires the traveling vessel to be located in particular points in space before they could travel between systems, and even then the 'jump points' only connected in pairs. The Trope Codifier for portal drives not involving fixed stargates.
  • Newton's Wake by Ken MacLeod features both a network of wormholes (called the Skein), and starships with warp drives (which are ridiculously expensive to build, but nonetheless possessed by every major galactic power). Both are based on technology left behind by super-human intelligences after a particularly violent technological singularity. The causality-violating properties of FTL are hand waved away and later made into a plot point by having a character explicitly state that some incomprehensible cosmic laws simply prevent both the wormhole network and starships from ever being used to violate causality — if you plot a course or enter a wormhole that would let you travel into the past and change it, the FTL simply wouldn't work, or would take a longer route than seemingly necessary, or something else would occur to simply make the causality violation not happen.
  • The FTL travel in the Night's Dawn Trilogy is of the "jump" variety, which author Peter Hamilton goes into great detail describing. Adamist starships must be spherical, and everything must be retracted when they jump. If any sensors, antennae, or heat dumps are extended during a jump, the spherical event horizon collapses them down to neutron star density. Furthermore, Adamist FTL makes use of orbital mechanics; when jumping near a planet, the ship must be in an orbit lining up with their destination, and need to be sufficiently out of the planet's gravity well (though it is possible to jump from a Langrangian point. However, it's not advised). Edenist voidhawks and blackhawks, on the other hand, utilize "swallows" and "distortion fields" that mean they can jump pretty much to and from anywhere, under any conditions. One once jumped inside an orbiting space colony. Although it's mentioned that this is only possible - or at least feasible - because the space colony doesn't have "true" gravity, but merely rotates to simulate gravity on its inner surface. This implies that the Eden hawks do at least need to take local gravity into account when jumping, although it isn't specified whether the presence of a gravity well would prevent a jump or simply make it more difficult/dangerous.
    • The Kiint, on the other hand, have personal, universe-spanning jump drives apparently built into their genetics. It's never specified what actually causes it, but seeing as Haile (a newborn Kiint) can designate normal humans for inclusion in their emergency exodus from Tranquility; and that the Kiint "human" observers also have this ability, it makes sense for it to be inherent to genetic code. After all, surely the highly-effective scanners the humans employ at every possible occasion would detect any embedded technology?
  • Larry Niven:
    • Known Space has hyperdrive that only travels at one set speed of a light year in about three days; the discovery of a higher level of hyperspace with a greater speed has major ramifications for that 'verse. This hyperdrive was never invented by a planet-bound species due to gravity's effects; the wandering Outsiders sold it to younger races (they never use it themselves, feeling it too risky.) It also allows faster than light communication in the form of "Hyperwave". Hyperdrive can't be used near gravity; this was later subject to retcon so that Niven could have a twist ending to the Ringworld series, but many fans are disgruntled with the explanation that replaced it.
    • In the first Ringworld novel, the Quantum II hyperdrive is described as being much faster. However, it's also Awesome, but Impractical, as its size means that it leaves almost no space in even the largest General Products hulls, making it useless for trade or warfare.
  • The "skip drives" used by the Colonial Defense Forces in John Scalzi's Old Man's War series are actually interdimensional travel, with no way to return to your "home" universe. Thankfully most universes are so similar that you'd never be able to notice any differences.
  • In Greg Egan's Orthogonal trilogy, because of the way spacetime works, there is no universal speed limit, and achieving FTL speeds—from one perspective, achieving infinite velocity—is a surprisingly simple matter. Of course, you stop moving forward through time and end up in Another Dimension, but that has its own useful applications.
  • In Paradise Lost, the blow Abdiel land to begin the battle in Heaven is said to be faster than sight, meaning that Abdiel moved his sword more quickly than the light the moved from his sword to the eyes of those around him. It's subtler than most examples, but this certainly paints the angels at war as exceeding the speed of light.
  • Colin Kapp's Patterns of Chaos describes a jump drive which works by principles resembling sympathetic magic: the ship has a 3-D star map, and sets up its jump by creating a pattern of ultra-fine copper wires, "defining positions and axes and measuring critical paths," between the simulated stars in the map. When the drive activates, the ship no longer exists in the space-time continuum, but is actually in the "ersatz galaxy in the subspace cavity deep within its own guts" — it's inside itself.
    Stories still survived of spacemen who claimed to have seen the copper bars straddling the stars at the end of a subspace jump. Bron was not certain about this, but he did know that technicians caught in the subspace cavity during the jump had observed the ionization trail of their own ship speeding from web to web. Those of them, that is, who managed to recover from the shock.
  • In The Pentagon War, simultaneously detonating two very expensive (and immensely destructive) phased-antimatter bombs — if they're pointed directly at one another — creates a permanent tunnel through parallel space between the two Ground Zeroes, allowing instantaneous travel and communication. By the time of the war, the five major star systems have all become "linked" to one another by creating a few of these "hyper holes".
  • Over the course of its long run, Perry Rhodan has come up with a variety of FTL drives. To name just the three 'standard' ones actually used in our galaxy over time:
    • Transition drive: Involves complex and time-consuming navigational calculations to avoid ending up somewhere you didn't want to go, then the ship basically teleports through hyperspace in no time at all. Drawbacks include physical strain on the crew which gets worse with increasing jump distance and massive 5-D shockwaves that make it easy to detect and possibly track ships using this method. The first faster-than-light drive seen in the series, and for about the first hundred issues the only one.
    • Linear drive: After reaching a certain minimum speed (relative to what is never addressed, but it's generally a substantial fraction of c) with its sublight drives, the ship enters not-quite-hyperspace and flies on at possibly several million times the speed of light. (Originally introduced with seat-of-the-pants navigation being possible, later on each individual 'lap' was implied to be pre-set after all.) Takes more raw travel time than the above, but avoids its associated problems as well. This would remain the standard intra-galactic mode of FTL travel for well over a thousand years after reaching sufficiently widespread distribution; both it and the above were less well-suited for extragalactic travel due to eventual converter burnout limiting their maximum possible range.
    • Metagrav: The modern standard, it has much the same feel as the linear model above, but the ship actually enters hyperspace proper encapsuled in a so-called 'Grigoroff field'. It allows for higher performance and can be used for both intra- and intergalactic travel, which previously generally called for two distinct drive systems on the same ship. One possible problem with it, though one rarely encountered except for plot purposes, is that suitably catastrophic failures of the Grigoroff field can strand the ship in another universe altogether from where its prospects of returning are uncertain at best.
  • In The Radiant Dawn, the Wutner craft uses faster than light travel. According to Word of God, the Wutner craft is of the "warp drive" type, though the book doesn't state how the Amath'navar works.
  • In Harry Harrison's short story "The Repairman", hyperspace is featureless by itself, so a ship entering cannot determine where it is, where it moves, or even whether it does at all. As such, humanity builds special beacons all over the galaxy, allowing for position triangulation by their individual codes.
  • The Revelation Space universe of Alastair Reynolds is a notable aversion; "lighthugger" ships can reach very high fractions of c, but it still takes years or decades to travel between star systems. It's later revealed that faster-than-light travel is possible, but is a Very Bad Idea - entire civilizations have retroactively removed themselves from existence by violating causality this way.
  • Drives in The Sirantha Jax Series provide jumps through Grimspace, which is a plane of psychedelia and flame which only the navigator (called a jumper) can chart courses through. An interesting facet of Grimspace is that a number of "buoys" were placed there to mark points where ships could jump back to normal space, but none know who put them there.
  • John DeChancie's Skyway series has faster-than-light truck travel, along a road built by Precursors which uses artificial Kerr-Tippler objects (wormholes, basically) to transport matter along various sections of a road that, altogether, runs over the surfaces of hundreds of planets.
  • E. E. “Doc” Smith:
    • In the Lensman series, considered by many to be the original space opera, avoids the issue entirely by allowing its spaceships to exceed lightspeed in normal space using the Bergenholm, a device which (temporarily) cancels inertia. The catch is the ship's inertia returns instantly if the device fails or is switched off, with potentially catastrophic results if the ship's intrinsic velocity is greatly at odds with its surroundings. Ships making planetfall or meeting in space have to turn off their Bergenholms and match velocities before they can dock and matching velocities sometimes takes longer than the trip itself.
    • In the Skylark Series, FTL travel is achieved by shrugging and saying "looks like Einstein was wrong." Spacecraft can undergo plain old Newtonian acceleration right past light speed. The exotic reactionless drive used also allows for insane accelerations, ranging upwards from the hundreds of thousands of gravities without ill effects. It should perhaps be borne in mind that the first book in this series was written in the 1920s, when special relativity was still doubted by many physicists. Going against Einstein was far less of a departure from physics in those days than it is today.
  • In John Maddox Roberts' Space Angel the titular ship uses the "Whoopee Drive" which instantaneously transports the ship to the desired destination but must be initiated from well outside a solar system. Thus, interstellar space travel begins with several months in normal space. The transition is tough on folks and the crew takes medication, straps down, and even clamps on vomit and, er, other bags to handle the side effects. One veteran comments on his experience taking troop carriers through with only netting to separate the men. However, the captain appears to actually enjoy it and it's hinted that she rides the Whoopee Drive without the usual precautions. In an unusual aversion, there is no hypersleep during the long months of pre-jump travel; the crew is kept quite busy with maintenance and repairs.
  • Oddly, C. S. Lewis' The Space Trilogy never mentions traveling faster-than-light in the context of space, but in the Earth-set That Hideous Strength. Even then, what's moving faster-than-light isn't any type of ship, but the raw energy coming off Perelandra, the Oyarsa of Venus. In her the most powerful force of the universe is put off more than in any human imitation of it, for she is Charity itself and projects love in those around with more speed and force than the Sun ever could with its photons.
  • In the Star Carrier series, all known races use a "warp" drive of sorts. The humans call their the Alcubierre Drive after the Mexican scientist who first proposed it. The use of the drive is only possible with gravity projection allowing ships to accelerate to near-light-speed velocities, and use the resulting relativistic mass to make the Alcubierre drive work.
    • It's also revealed that the Sh'daar have a number of Tipler cylinders that act as instantaneous portals between two specific points (they also allow the Sh'daar to rule a galactic empire from their own time in the distant past, as the cylinders connect through time as well).
    • Normally, the use of the Alcubierre drive requires one to be at the outskirts of a star system. However, the fourth novel reveals that the Sh'daar began to give their subject races (at least, those fighting humans) technology to allow in-system jumps for Hyperspeed Ambushes.
  • SA Swann's Terran Confederacy universe uses tachyon drive ships, invented using equations obtained from the alien Paralians. These travel instantaneously as far as their occupants are concerned, and take a few weeks to cover 20 ly as far as the outside universe is concerned. Prior to that, interstellar travel was by artificial wormhole.
  • Used in H. Beam Piper's Terro-Human Future History novels. Hyperspace is very, very boring and a full interstellar jump takes weeks, meaning that pretty much everyone has a hobby to pass the time (such as music, landscape painting, or history). One line in Little Fuzzy implies that there is a bit of time dilation, although no actual time travel.
  • In John Meaney's To Hold Infinity and Nulapeiron Sequence trilogy, interstellar voyages are achieved by traveling through mu-space, which is fractal in structure, and in order to navigate it, the first generation of pilots had to have their eyes removed so that the mu-space navigation equipment could be connected to the visual cortex.
  • Tour of the Merrimack goes by the assumption that Einstein's equations prohibit going at lightspeed, not beyond it. The FTL engine also goes faster the less power it gets, because energy requirements increase as one approaches C. It also requires power to slow down.
  • David Brin's Uplift series uses pretty much all of the above in one form or another. The warp drives in the Uplift universe rely on altering probability. They also give the ship in question after-images, which getting increasingly more improbable the longer the drive is used. And apparently certain modes of hyperspace travel can be shaped by the crew's thoughts...
    • You have hyperdrives that propel you into one of five levels of hyperspace (A-E). Each level has different pros and cons - A space is safe, but only useful for short jumps; E space is a reality where ideas manifest physically and is nigh impassable due to carnivorous memes. Hyperspace is only useful for short-range travel, though, due to the dangers of the probability drives use; "Transfer Points," knotted holes in the fabric of space-time, are the only practical way to cross galactic distances. Any place without a transfer point is inaccessible, which prevents travel out of the five linked galaxies. At the end of Heaven's Reach, the Transcendants use a wave of Handwavium "concept" as a warp drive to propel colony ships to other galactic clusters.
  • Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga takes the Our Wormholes Are Different route, with a series of wormholes depicted as lines between various worlds. Jumps ships can "jump" the wormholes if a pilot with cybernetic implants guides the ship through the five-dimensional space inside. A few seconds passes for the crew, but the pilot experiences hours during the jump. Given the odd nature of the pilots' experiences, though (one pilot hallucinated that he was the color red) this time stretch may be artificial. There can be many different wormholes along a single route, and they may be spaced several days of travel apart. Bujold has said that she hand waved the wormholes intentionally, preferring to get on with the plot.
  • Christopher Stasheff's Warlock of Gramarye series uses H-space and an isomorpher. The way it works is through a bit of Applied Phlebotinum which essentially retranslates whatever is there into a string of numbers on the "wall of eternity." Speed through H-space is dependent on the size of the craft and the power of its computer; the more powerful the computer, the faster it can "translate" the data. The issue of FTL radio is also addressed, although it is not stated how it is accomplished. One of the key plot points in the series is that Telepathy and Teleportation are instantaneous independent of distance (although some psi's don't have the range normally) and FTL radio does have lag time.
  • In H. P. Lovecraft's The Whisperer in Darkness the Mi-Go are able to fly faster than light because Einstein is wrong (it was written in the 30s).
  • In Will Save the Galaxy for Food, there exists Trebuchet gates, which are huge mass-driver cannons that encapsulate ships in a warp bubble and fire them off, with the bubble wearing out when the ship is where the crew wants to be. There are also Quantunnel Booths, which are interplanetary teleporters that generate, as the name suggests, macroscale quantum tunnels for long enough to make crossing the universe feel like walking through a turnstile. They still need a receiving gate on the other end, so they married the two, using drone-controlled gates launched by Trebuchet to find habitable planets, and then opening a quantunnel to the new world and building a colony around it. This has put all the spacers out of business, by the way.
  • Harry Turtledove's Worldwar: Invented by humans in Homeward Bound and demonstrated to the Race when the Commodore Perry arrives in orbit of Home after leaving Earth's orbit 5 weeks ago. The previous ship, the Admiral Peary, was a Sleeper Starship that took 30 years to make the same trip. In fact, the figure "5 weeks" is misleading, implying a "warp" drive of sorts. The drive is actually of the "jump" variety and is instantaneous (some Techno Babble about strings). However, it only works if the ship is not near any gravity distortions, such as those created by stars and planets. It took 2.5 weeks for the Commodore Perry to leave the Solar System, and another 2.5 weeks to go from outside the Tau Ceti system to Home's orbit. The second FTL ship, the Tom Edison, is mentioned to be a little faster in terms of acceleration, meaning it would also cut down the trip.
  • A Wrinkle in Time has the "tesseract", which is described as folding two points of space and time so they are adjacent to each other, allowing for near-instantaneous travel.
  • In the Xandri Corelel series, this is called slinging. It's so difficult and dangerous that pilots aren't allowed to do it without ten years of training, and they usually take mild stimulants first. Xandri loves watching slings, since her synesthesia causes her to experience lots of wonderful sensations.
  • Stephen Baxter's Xeelee Sequence series intended to deconstruct this trope's implications in physics: here, Faster Than Light travel also results in paradox-free Time Travel (a main character in the novel Exultant accidentally travels back to meet himself from "two years ago"), which both sides in humanity's war with the Xeelee regularly exploit.
  • The Young Wizards series has worldgates, which are essentially stargates that come in wizard-created versions and manually designed/natural phenomenon. Usually nearly instantaneous, when the distances are too large, it can cause nausea and unconsciousness in humanoids.
  • Vernor Vinge's Zones of Thought:
    • In A Fire Upon the Deep, ships use the "stutter drive" variant — a Jump Drive that makes (comparatively) short jumps, but at a rate of many jumps each second, resulting in a seemingly smooth journey for the passengers. This shapes space combat in the setting — warships maneuver by trying to synchronize or de-synchronize their jumps with those of nearby enemy ships. Because of the weirdness of the Zones of Thought that form a major part of this book's universe, how quickly the drive works — and whether it works at all — depends on where in the Galaxy one attempts to use it. In the region that includes our Earth, the laws of nature seem to work as we believe they do today, and faster than light travel is still quite impossible.
    • This is emphasized in the prequel, A Deepness in the Sky, which is an interesting aversion of this trope. The book takes place entirely in the "Slow Zone", the region of the Galaxy where FTL is impossible. There is plenty of interstellar travel in the book, and all of it slower-than-light, with different human civilizations building Ramscoop starships capable of reaching relativistic speeds. Medical science has dramatically increased the human lifespan and suspended animation has been perfected, allowing a single human lifetime to include many interstellar journeys. The people interstellar voyagers leave behind grow old compared to them, but often still survive long enough for more meetings.


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