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Camouflage [Hardcover]

Joe Haldeman
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Aug. 2 2004
With prose "as clear and engaging as his ideas" (New York Times Book Review), award-winning author Joe Haldeman blends scientific fact and far-seeing fiction as he pulls readers into a mind-shattering undersea mystery-from outer space...

An unidentified artifact, found seven miles below the surface of the sea, stumps the scientists examining it.

But it calls out to the two immortal creatures who have wandered the Earth for centuries. Two creatures who have never crossed paths-until now...

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Product Description

From Booklist

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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

"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.

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Russell Sutton had done his stint with the U.S. government around the turn of the century, a frustrating middle-management job in two Mars exploration programs. Read the first page
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Most helpful customer reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good, fast and enjoyable read Dec 24 2005
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
An "aliens among us" story that's well written and holds together nicely. It's one that I think would get more enjoyable on the second and third readings as his writing style is smooth but also sparce. I've read so many books by lazy writers lately that compensate for it by just packing on an extra 100+ pages of unneeded detail that it was a refreshing change. I could have wished for slightly more development from the secondary antagonist, but as the character was a very 1-D character in their motivations and since one of the plot points was that he wouldn't/couldn't change his ways, I'll live with it.
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sharks and Chameleons June 24 2014
By Corey Lidster TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Haldeman has always impressed me with his mature, hardboiled SF writing, usually careful to keep the conceptual wanderings well in sight of their scientific base-camp. This story of two ancient alien visitors who have both learned to pass as human, but are two very different creatures, both physically and in the way they have come to see mankind, provides an interesting guess at how an outside observer might interpret the greatest hits and horrors of the twentieth century. As a group of scientists try to crack a massive metallic egg of extraterrestrial origin found at the bottom of the ocean, the reader goes back in time to follow the shape-shifting 'changeling' alien as it leaves the waters after 10 000 years as a shark. It impulsively adopts the form of 'Jimmy', an unfortunate young man out for a late run who welcomes the still shark-minded visitor to life on dry land. This brand new Jimmy freaks everyone out with his strangeness, and despite possessing a highly adaptive intelligence, bad things happen on the road to understanding the complex emotions and social subtleties. When WW2 breaks out, Jimmy switches to simpler subject matter, donning a uniform to join the Bataan death march. Impervious to harm, the 'Changeling' initially experiences a Thanksgiving dinner and the 'execution' of it's human form with the same emotionless curiosity, taking each new event as raw data for processing. But it's mimicry advances with time, and it develops something like an extraterrestrial corollary to feelings. The 'Chameleon' alien, meanwhile, much more skilled at blending in, has found a place for itself in the Third Reich, finding a like mind in Joseph Mengele. Read more ›
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3.0 out of 5 stars Left me feeling dissatified Aug. 18 2013
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I have read and enjoyed Haldeman in the past but this time I felt a bit let down. The ideas are recycled, but valid and some if it is well written, but the entire ending was so FAST that it bothered me. I hate that feeling of "Oh god, there are not enough pages left, how is he going to end this properly". Well, he didn't. It seemed like there was a rush to finish it and it could have used a few more chapters. He spent the whole book building one of the main characters and then had maybe a page of that character interacting with the others before being taken out of the equation.

I wouldn't have paid for it, if I had known...
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  110 reviews
51 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Love Story March 19 2006
By Conrad J. Obregon - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
There is a sub-genre of science fiction that I like to think of as the alien-encounter procedural. Among its most famous of members is Arthur C. Clarke's "Rendezvous with Rama". Humans meet a new species of alien and must figure out what procedures to follow to make some kind of contact. Emphasis is on the technology of contact, with suspense created by the unknown nature of the aliens. Often there is no emphasis on character development or illuminating human society by the strange circumstances. To maintain my interest the twists of the encounter or the solutions required must really be clever.

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.
69 of 76 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not Bad! Aug. 30 2004
By Brad Shorr - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Joe Haldeman is one of the top sci-fi writers around. This novel contains three interwoven stories:

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.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Haldeman's still got it...just Aug. 24 2004
By Sickbobby - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
With his last two novels - the very under-rated "The Coming" and his psuedo-alternate history "Guardian" - Joe Haldeman has taken the short but sweet approach to telling his story; a long and winding build-up which leads to the short, sharp ending/twist. I loathe to describe it as an long story or joke with a sharp punchline at the end, but the comparison seems apt. This approach has so far worked for Haldeman due to his strong approach in developing his characters through a time period based narrative. However, in "Camouflage", it seems that Haldeman is starting to get a bit lax.

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.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What I've been waiting for Aug. 4 2004
By J. Vedder - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Haldeman is on my short list of all time great authors, but his last few books haven't always met that standard. With Camouflage I feel Haldeman has found his old magic, but at the same time I can see him moving forward picking style elements used in books like The Coming and Forever Peace much more effectively here. Best of all the Haldeman we don't always see, the one who writes a damn good mystery is back in force. It makes want to go back and read All My Sins again.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars terrific futuristic aliens among us tale Aug. 3 2004
By Harriet Klausner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In 2019 Baja, California, Russell Sutton owns Poseidon Projects, a relatively small marine biological research firm. Russell targets two to three projects a year, but none involving the American military having worked in the government back at the turn of the century. Thus, his highly regarded staff (six PhDs) is stunned when Russell accepts US Navy Admiral Jack Halliburton deep-water salvage proposal. Lying on the bottom of an oceanic trench, seven miles form the surface, sits a metallic object that Jack wants raised.

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.

Harriet Klausner
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