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Looking for a book starting with the abandonment of war torn earth. Scientists discover how to distort time for people and objects. They use that distortion to slow their perception and aging.

Distortion is drastic enough to allow robots to move about for chores/cooking in the distorted blink of an eye.

As they colonize planets, factions revert to the original timeframe and live normally. Both parties work with each other to continue scientific discovery with the slower people losing some creativity.

One of the final scenes involves an explorer reaching the end of the universe before passing.

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    Hi, welcome to the site. In roughly which year did you read this book, and when do you think it might've been published? Also, do you recall any details about the cover? Feb 24, 2022 at 4:34
  • Does this answer your question? Help remembering a story where partial stasis is taking place
    – Otis
    Feb 25, 2022 at 4:57
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    @Otis - For the time being, I'm going to vote to leave this open, since the confirmation of DavidW's answer being correct came from a separate account to the one that posted the question. It likely is the same person, but until they confirm that by merging the two accounts, I always err on the side of caution in situations like this. Feb 25, 2022 at 5:32

1 Answer 1

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This is Charles Sheffield's Between the Strokes of Night (1985).

Cover of "Between the Strokes of Night" showing a spaceship in orbit around a life-bearing planet with a face-on spiral galaxy in the sky above.

Time is not distorted, it's just people's perceptions that are changed by being greatly slowed in a metabolic state derived from the hibernation state of bears. People in the slow state (S-space) experience reality at 0.0005 (1/2000) the rate of people in normal state (N-space); objects moving at normal human speed are invisible to them, but a sub-light journey of several light years takes only weeks of experienced time.

The explorer who lives to the end of the universe transitions to an even slower rate, T-state, which runs thousands of times slower than S-space (and millions of times slower than N-space).

starting with the abandonment of war torn earth.

Earth isn't initially war-torn, but the widespread multiple launches to move the U.N. Institute of Neurology (which is experimenting with sleepless states) into orbit are used as cover for a first strike.

"Hey! Hans, I thought you said the total was two hundred and six? The readout shows two hundred and fourteen and it's still going."

"What!" Hans swivelled his head to look, the rest of his body turning the other way to give low-gee compensation for the movement. "It can't be. I scrounged every ship that would fly. There's no way..."

His voice faded. On the screen, a fountain of bright points of light was spouting upward. It centered on an area of southeast Asia.

Scientists discover how to distort time for people and objects. They use that distortion to slow their perception and aging.

It's not an actual distortion of time; it's a change in the rate at which the organism operates and perceives:

"No. Each of them is fully conscious. In that condition you feel normal except for a few subtle differences. But their metabolisms have been drastically slowed—two thousand times slower than usual. That's S-space, and it changes your perception of everything. In one of our seconds, light travels three hundred thousand kilometers. In one of theirs, it travels six hundred million kilometers. To us, Sol is eighteen light-years away. To them, it's only a little more than three light-days. That's why we heard that the Immortals can travel between the stars in days—their days. Time passes so slowly for them that what feels like a day to us they experience as less than a minute."

This changed perception extends to apparent gravitation and light:

Then even a millionth of a gravity would be perceived by them as a four-gee field. They have to live in freefall. They have no choice about it. But they perceive a four-millionth of a gee as normal gravity.

"Frequency shift," said Sy at once. "Let's see. Two thousand to one. So the wavelengths your eyes could see would be two thousand times as long. Instead of yellow light at half a micrometer, you'd see yellow at a millimeter wavelength. Where would that put us?"

There was a hush.

"The Big Bang," whispered Kallen.

"The three degree cosmic background radiation," said Rosanne. "My Lord. Peron, you were seeing leftover radiation from the beginning of the Universe—actually seeing it directly with your eyes."

They do also age more slowly, even allowing for the time rate factor given by S-space:

"How long does an Immortal live?" asked Sy. "It's obvious that nobody can be truly immortal."

"Seventeen hundred years."

There was another long silence. Finally Elissa said: "You mean seventeen hundred subjective years? That's two thousand times seventeen hundred ordinary years back on Pentecost—three million four hundred thousand. They live three million four hundred thousand years!"

Distortion is drastic enough to allow robots to move about for chores/cooking in the distorted blink of an eye.

But the robots certainly made my life confusing. When I first found myself in S-space I thought I was going mad. Those machines were a big part of the reason. The other people on the ship could make things happen by magic. They asked for something to be done, or they asked to be taken somewhere, and it was accomplished instantly.

factions revert to the original timeframe and live normally.

It's not so much that they revert, but since it's not possible to have children in S-space, they need to keep colonies in N-space as a source of recruits. These are mostly from the original set of starships that left Earth right after the war (like Eleanora which founded Pentecost), but a group does split off from S-space culture to pursue the problem caused by the destruction of G-class stars.

Both parties work with each other to continue scientific discovery with the slower people losing some creativity.

The problem is not that the people in S-space are less creative, it's just that people in N-space have 2000 times as much time to work in. This leads to what Judith Niles refers to as "the Mayfly solution." The idea is to accelerate scientific progress in order to prevent the destruction of all G- and F-class stars that humanity has colonized:

"The right question, then: do I think a second facility in normal space has a better chance to succeed than one in S-space? The answer: maybe. Just maybe. I thought of many options, but I never seriously considered the Mayfly solution."

One of the final scenes involves an explorer reaching the end of the universe before passing.

We are close to the end now—mere seconds on my subjective clock.

All outside light has gone. The cocoon is closed. What happens next will be simple, and very sudden.

The curvature of the region that I occupy will exceed critical value.

A new, self-contained region of spacetime will be formed. Its matter content, converted to raw energy, will be that contained within the volume bounded by the contracting Kermel Objects.

And I? It seems to me that I represent that matter content, in its totality.

I, Sy Day, will cease to exist in my present form. I will become a universe.

Let there be light?

You can read a more complete summary on Wikipedia.

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    I have been looking for this book for over a decade! Read it when I was 12-14 and 29 now. Thank you so much @DavidW !! Without any details beyond plot, finding this has been difficult to say the least. Even the cover picture in my head was wrong.
    – alexx933
    Feb 25, 2022 at 3:18
  • @alexx933, it's had a few different covers over the years.
    – Mark
    Feb 25, 2022 at 23:59
  • @alexx933 - Are you the same person who asked the question at the top of the thread? I ask, because you posted this comment using a different account. If you are the same person, and you can no longer access your previous account, please consider merging the two accounts by following the instructions provided here. Doing so will enable you to formally accept this answer by clicking on the check mark beneath the voting buttons, and you'll also regain the reputation you earned with your previous account. May 5, 2022 at 3:26

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