Friday, 6 August 2010

"Camouflage" by Joe Haldeman

I just finished "Camouflage", another quick and fun read from Joe Haldeman, author of "Forever War", "Accidental Time Machine" and "Marsbound". Joe Haldeman fills his book with thinking characters, outsiders who succeed because they take leaps of faith, outwit or just outluck the problems they encounter. His characters are self-aware, but not navel-gazers by any means. They are pragmatists, survivors, but also tend to have a sense of humor gained through hard experience in the absurdities and harshness of life.

The main characters in "Camouflage" are immortal aliens with the ability to mimic humans. Think of it as "Highlander", but with much less romanticism and simplicity, and a lot more alienness. They may pretend to be human, but they are much more than long-lived humans.  They can change identities, changing their apparent age, sex, race not quite as easily as we change clothes, but easily enough that they can move from life to life, career to career as they live through our history.

For most of the book we follow the more naive of the two aliens, the changeling, who has emulated a shark and other sea creatures for millions of years, and one day emulates the sailors it has seen and wanders ashore. Thus begins its journey from being only slightly more than animal to being more than human. Although life is nasty and brutish at times for the changeling, it's not short, and this makes all the difference. "Camouflage" is one of three books I read during my trip that deal with the challenges and advantages of a very long life.  Stay tuned for a double-bill comparing "Welcome, Chaos" by Kate Wilhelm and "Time Enough for Love" by Robert Heinlein.

As with "Accidental Time Traveler" and "Marsbound", this is a short book, a fun read, and highly recommended.

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