(2005) Joe Haldeman, Ace, US$7.99, pbk, 289 pp, ISBN 0-441-01252-3
It is hard to believe that a prolific writer of gripping yarns, not to mention a few classics (such as The Forever War (1974)) so rarely graces the shelves of UK bookshops. Haldeman is not alone. A number of most worthy North American writers are similarly not afforded the profile in many UK shops. Thank goodness then for internet sales and, of course, that dying breed, the specialist SF, fantasy and horror bookshop. Fortunately this means that you can get the works of such writers with comparative ease anywhere in the Anglophone world. Of course this also means that you have to have heard of the books in the first place, and here, if the book is not published in the UK, then high street British SF magazines do not carry their reviews. This is where sites such as Concatenation come into their own. This review then is an alert to those this side of the Pond that Haldeman continues to write and this is one of his latest books.
Camouflage concerns two immortals (or very long-lived creatures at any rate) who have wandered the Earth literally for ages. Both have another advantage besides longevity, in that they can change their physical appearance (which is how they have gotton by undetected all this time). Both are seeking others of their kind yet both are markedly different from each other. One is an alien and a full-blown shape-shifter, while the other can (only) change his human characteristics. Their other big difference is that one seeks sole domination and control over others with scant ethical regard, while the other is driven by curiosity.
Camouflage's plot follows the history of both beings but focuses mainly on the event of here and now when they will ultimately confront each other. The present-day action begins when the alien's spaceship is located in the ocean. It was left so long ago that the alien has all but forgot its existence. Unbeknown to the alien the other immortal is nearby waiting for the craft's owner to reappear...
While Camouflage is not one of Haldeman's classics, but it is up to his usual standard of crafting a brisk, fairly full, SF adventure that pushes all the right buttons and makes for a decidedly satisfying read. Most enjoyable.
See also the review elsewhere on this site of The Coming.
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