Joe Haldeman – Camouflage Review
Joe Haldeman - Camouflage (2004) Book Review
Joe Haldeman is one of my favorites. Reading one of his books is like putting on an old well-worn pair of sneakers, it’s familiar and feels great. I love Haldeman’s style, no words wasted. His prose is terse, not flowery. His writing focuses on action, with a minimum of description. He’s a plot driven writer and expects the reader to fill in all the details. With a Haldeman book you know you won’t be wading through a lot of wasted words; but you’re still going to get well drawn characters and a satisfying plot. And ideas. Interesting ideas. Haldeman is an original. His early novels helped define science fiction and an old idea in his hands feels fresh and exciting.
Two of my favorites from Haldeman are his non sf books: War Year and 1968. Both are Vietnam era stories written by a guy who was actually there. They are both unflinchingly brilliant. As far as his science fiction goes he’s written a slew of great ones. Of course the classic The Forever War comes to mind; but I am also a huge fan of the Worlds trilogy, Mindbridge, Buying Time, and All My Sins Remembered not to mention all of his short story collections. Camouflage is another terrific one; it even won the Nebula for best novel in 2005 which means some other people liked it too.
Camouflage is an interestingly structured novel with parallel story arcs taking place in different timelines that eventually meet up. The main character is a shape shifting life form that can emulate just about anything animate or inanimate as subtly suggested by the title. Its origins are somewhat vague as is its gender. We meet this changeling in the early 1930s and stay with him for a good many years; apparently he never gets old. In fact he’s been around since way before the thirties. In another timeline we follow a group of scientists who have discovered a strange artifact deep in the ocean. This future timeline is definitely the weaker story arc and its characters are pretty flimsy. In fact they’re not the least bit interesting until the changeling comes along and starts interacting with them. The changeling is the real meaty character in this novel and his development is very interesting to read. To say any more would spoil things, but I can tell you the ending, although abrupt, is a panoply of weird violence and ultimately leaves you with a smile.
Add another Haldeman novel to his list of enjoyable, thought provoking books. My good old Haldeman sneakers: dependable, functional, smart, fun, no frills, and they still feel warm and fuzzy when I put them on.