The Burning Bridge

Cover image for


Published: 1960
Language: English
Wordcount: 10,723 / 39 pg
Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease: 83.6
LoC Category: PS
Downloads: 6,378
Added to site: 2007.09.10 18158

Usually there are two "reasons" why something is done; the reason why it needs to be done, and, quite separate, the reason people want to do it. The foul-up starts when the reason-for-wanting is satisfied ... and the need remains!

Show Excerpt

out the air lock or loafing on the surface. You wouldn't believe how blue the waves could be. They tell me on Rustum you can't come down off the mountain tops."

"But we'd have the whole planet to ourselves," said Teresa Zeleny.

One with a gentle scholar's face answered: "That may be precisely the trouble, my dear. Three thousand of us, counting children, totally isolated from the human mainstream. Can we hope to build a civilization? Or even maintain one?"

"Your problem, pop," said the officer beside him dryly, "is that there are no medieval manuscripts on Rustum."


"I admit it," said the scholar. "I thought it more important my children grow up able to use their minds. But if it turns out they can do so on Earth--How much chance will the first generations on Rustum have to sit down and really think, anyway?"

"Would there even be a next generation on Rustum?"

"One and a quarter gravities--I can feel it now."

"Synthetics, year after year of


Average Rating of 4 from 3 reviews: ****
Sardo Weems

Political refugees fleeing Earth get news that the problems they fled have been resolved during the time it took them to get to the halfway point of their journey. With the bulk of the colonists in deep sleep, the few that are left awake must make the decision to return, or go on.

Great characterizations, interesting dilemma, nothing easy about the solution.

Good story


The fleet of Earth is bound for a distant planet to colonize. The colonists have left because of political and social discrimination. Closer to say they were kicked off.

The burn has taken them to 1/2 C and they are many decades out and coasting They are about at the midpoint of their journey and losing contact with earth. Most are in life suspension.

Unexpectedly, a message is received from Earth which details a change in the political situation ending a key discriminatory issue. They should be welcome again.

Do they continue to the unsettled planet and suffer the deprivation and dangers of a new environs? Or to turn back, knowing Earth is decades away and each day they delay a decision puts them many hundreds of thousands of miles distant from it. Will the change be there when they return? Which is the wiser decision?

The captain, crew and colonists must decide, but all have their fears and prejudices which guide their actions in a typically human way. Their flaws and dysfunctions are detailed well. All the while they are getting further and further from Earth, hoping for a confirmatory transmission.

The Captain bears ultimate responsibility, and must be decisive. He looks for guidance in an unlikely place and acts......

The story is kind of a downer. The characters aren't really happy with anything much. There is a great deal of detail given to the mechanics of their travel. This underpins and builds the literary base for the tense environment of the human interest element which involves the need to make a difficult life decision.

R Stephan

Realistic space travel takes time, and crews will prepare for it. In this short (hard SF) piece, Anderson speculates what happens when the travel starts in a hurry, and people revise their decision when it's nearly too late.

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