Camouflage Hardcover – Aug 2 2004
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In 2019, a mysterious, egg-shaped artifact is discovered on the ocean floor off the coast of Samoa. Denser than any known material, the object defies all attempts to either break through or communicate with it. Marine biologist Russell Sutton, whose last major feat was raising the Titanic, takes charge of the excavation, hoping to make a fortune by capitalizing on the artifact's probable extraterrestrial origin. Sutton little suspects that his destiny will soon intertwine with a pair of shape-shifting--and apparently immortal--aliens. One, known as the changeling, has been on Earth millions of years, assuming every identity from shark to human being, and slowly learning to love. The other, called the chameleon, has excelled in warlike roles and delights in killing. Neither knows of the other's existence, but their slowly merging paths will meet in a stunning climax that determines their ultimate fates--and that of the artifact. Award-winning sf veteran Haldeman proves as engaging a storyteller as ever, especially given this book's irresistible premise and page-turning action. Carl Hays
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"Haldeman trips through history wearing alien goggles but his message is all about human nature." —Entertainment Weekly
"An extremely intelligent thriller." —Washington Post--This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition. See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
There's not a lot of development into the "science" part of the science fiction, as he uses the "any science so far ahead is indistinguishable from magic" argument to good effect. The main plot is a character development story told in flashbacks over most of a hundred years. The weakest part of the book was in the justification of two characters falling in love in the last section of the book. It's where Haldeman's sparce style worked against him as I'm left with the feeling that one of the characters fell hard just because, psycologically, it was time for them to do so.
It's always nice when you like the book so much that you keep reading until 2am. A good read.
I wouldn't have paid for it, if I had known...
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All this is by way of saying that when I encountered "Camouflage", I expected just such a story and had set my techno-bableometer to dampen. Boy, was I surprised!
Instead the story is told from the point of view of the alien and explores one of the most basic of literary questions, "What does it mean to be human?"
Joe Haldeman's writing is simple and direct and he does not search for colorful language. Instead, he weaves together three separate story lines, each with its own time scale, that come together in the finale. Occasionally you might think the author was moving into irrelevant areas but ultimately he brings the unities home. Moreover, at the same time as the main character is developing, Haldeman uses the device of the doppelganger, that is, a parallel personality, to contrast with the character of the hero. Moreover, he sets the story against an historical perspective of the last two thirds of the twentieth century, with a major portion of the story set against the fall of the Philippines and the horror of the Bataan death march at the beginning of World War II. The purpose of this lengthy excursion into history is to fine tune our sense of the development of the hero.
There are a few things that stretched my belief, particularly the behavior of one of the main human characters when he learns a secret of the alien, but I allowed myself to step back from my incredulity and to see it as a further device to explore the main question.
The story moves along quickly, or at least as quickly as I could turn the pages. This may not be amongst the greatest of science fiction novels, but it certainly illustrates how a good premise and construction of a novel can not only sweep us along, but even provide food for thought.
1. A sympathetic shape-changer who has lived on earth for millions of years, but only as a human from the 1930's on.
2. An unrelated and malevolent shape-changer who's been around as long as man, whose favorite human is Josef Mengele.
3. A mysterious and impregnable metal artifact dredged up from the ocean floor by a science reasearch team in Samoa, drawing the attention of both aliens.
Thematically, the book is fascinating. The decidedly non-human characters highlight oddities of our behavior we simply take for granted, like courting rituals and various aspects of sexual and romantic love.
The plot, unfortunately, doesn't measure up. JH starts out strong, neatly interweaving the three stories, sweeping through time and setting up a profound mystery with the artifact. But eventually these stories bog down as JH concentrates on a love angle, pretty much dropping the more interesting (to me anyway) exploration of the artifact and the nature of the evil shape-changer. A rather contrived ending ties it all together, but I hope he does a sequel to further develop his intriguing ideas.
The year is 2019 and marine biologist Russell Sutton is working in the Pacific with his company that specialises in deep-ocean salvaging (his crew achieved fame through their rising of The Titanic). Russell is approached by Jack, a retired naval officer who enlists him to retrieve a mysterious oval object lying off the coast of Samoa. In the second storyline, we follow the "Changeling", an alien that has been on Earth since the dawn of evolution. Having taken the form of marine animals for most of its time, the Changeling takes on a human form in the 1930's and begins its journey to learn about humans.
The secondary storyline of the alien's development over a period of a century is typical Haldeman - an entertaining memoir like account of events and happenings that brings us in to liking the character. However, problems arise when we jump back to the present with Russell and Jack. These characters are less developed than the Changeling and in the end they come across as one-dimensional characters. It is not a good thing when the alien character appears more human than the humans.
Another problem is Haldeman's idea - the idea of an ancient alien artifact which involves 2 alien species, in a time where humans are ready for such a discovery is not new, but is interesting enough. However, Haldeman does not develop it well enough. It seems like the idea came as an afterthought. The end result is we follow the characters but to where, we do not know. The pace of the novel builds up in intensity like a thriller, but the only mystery we have here is the mystery of whether anything will actually happen.
Haldeman's development of characters is still engaging but here, he has failed to make them of any use. Here, he is failing to develop a proper story, which makes Camouflage seem stale and pointless. Those are two words which I never imagined I would use for a writer which gave the word the powerful novel, "The Forever War". In Camouflage, it seems Haldeman is writing on auto-pilot and following a template.
Russell succeeds in lifting the small object out of the sea. In Samoa, they investigate the find, but the object is impregnable to their probes. While the scientific team continually fails in its query, two aliens roam the planet. The Changeling lived in the sea for millenniums before arriving on land nearly a century ago and dons any identity including an inanimate; the Chameleon has become the world's richest person. He also will kill without feeling any remorse. News surfaces about the object; along with the usual whackos in and out of the media and some intrigued scientists, the Changeling and the Chameleon have personal interests as both know that this is the key to their finally going home.
This futuristic aliens among us tale is a terrific story line that hooks the audience from the moment the object is lifted from the sea as readers will want to know what this artifact is as well as who are the Changeling and the Chameleon. Russell is a fabulous lead human protagonist, but clearly, the mystery of the two ETs and their "key" is what grips the audience in a fabulous thriller that needs a chlorine-based sequel.