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Looking for the title of a book where a small number of people (5-10) are passengers on a space ship that constitutes a time traveling MacGuffin. They travel in P-space (may have the wrong name, as I was unsuccessful using Google with this term) which allows them to move forward in time by slowing down their own local time, while the ship is in normal space time.

The ship is entirely automated by robots. This seems magical to them as the robots operate in normal space time while their slowed reactions in P-space prevent them from seeing the robots. The robots feed them food that is necessarily cold, as it takes them substantially longer to eat the food in normal space time than their perception in P-space. The food tastes odd as it is both spicy to provide any flavor at all to them, and bland because their taste buds don't work properly in P-space.

There is an accident or other plot device that requires a character to leave P-space. To transition they go into a chamber with a hatch (a time-lock?) where they are somehow converted to normal space time. In normal space time the view outside the ship through the windows is completely different due to the light/wavelengths perceived differently in P-space.

It is decided to go further into the future. To do this they use an even higher level called ?Q-space?. They are eventually successful in reaching their goal of witnessing the end of the universe.

I read it in approximately 1983, so publication would have been no later than 1985. It may have been a much older story from '70s, '60s or earlier.

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    Shades of Tau Zero, methinks
    – Valorum
    Commented May 3, 2022 at 18:49
  • 3
    The central idea (of people perceiving time differently to travel at sub-light speed, but still arrive in a reasonable time) is the basis of "Between the Strokes of the Night" by Charles Sheffield. He also talks about "S-Space". But I don't recall anything about seeing the end of the universe.
    – user23087
    Commented May 3, 2022 at 18:53
  • @user23087 - I think they've conflated two stories.
    – Valorum
    Commented May 3, 2022 at 19:06
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    This is definitely mostly Between the Strokes of Night; the food is exactly out of that.
    – DavidW
    Commented May 3, 2022 at 19:07
  • Yes, Between the Strokes of Night. Tau Zero seems very close on the hard-science and relativistic nature of the ship, but the Wikipedia page does not jar many memories. Between the Strokes of Night has the N-space/S-space/T-space bit, "magic" done by robots, the spoiler, and was publshed 1985. A lot of the Wikipedia page doesn't quite fit my memory, but that's the one.
    – Doug
    Commented May 3, 2022 at 19:27

1 Answer 1

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I'm sure you're thinking of 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.

The travelers are a small crew on a spaceship plus their "guests" from a recruiting game that took place on the planet Pentecost. (The hero and his friends were labeled "troublemakers" and shipped out-system.) Space travel takes place at sub-light speeds, but by living in "S-space" where people live at a perceived and metabolic speed of 1/2000 the normal rate, a centuries-long trip will take only a few (experienced) weeks.

The ship's robots aren't fast - they don't even move at a walking pace in normally-experienced time - but to people in S-space they are so fast they're invisible:

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.

Food, besides not being served hot, tastes much different:

Everyone seemed to take it for granted that Peron would now eat and drink the same things as the rest of them. When he arrived there were already five or six different dishes on the table—all of them unfamiliar. He found something that looked like a fish fillet, but clearly wasn't. And there were several pseudo-meat products, each flanked by some kind of vegetable. Nothing tasted quite the way he expected—and all the food was cold.

The others seemed surprised when he mentioned that. Ferranti looked at Garao and at the linguist, Atiyah, then shrugged.

"I should have mentioned that to you before. You won't get hot food in S-space. Better become used to it cold."

There are cabinets that allow people to transition between S-space and N-space (normal space):

Peron was tempted to open the door of the container. Instead, he went to an empty one that stood near to it, and opened that. The internal controls appeared quite simple. There was a three-way dial, a timer with units in days, hours, and hundredths of hours, and a manual switch. The switch setting showed only an N, an S, and a C. The C position was in red, and below it stood a written notice: WARNING: DO NOT USE SETTING FOR COLD (C) WITHOUT SETTING TIMING SWITCH OR WITHOUT ASSISTANCE OF AN EXTERNAL OPERATOR.

In S-space the view outside is completely different:

"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."

Sy uses a later-discovered even-slower time mode to experience the birth of a new universe:

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?

Note: most of this answer was cribbed from my previous identification of this book.

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