Camouflage by Joe Haldeman
|Joe Haldeman is the Hugo and Nebula Award winning author of The Forever War and Forever Peace (which, surprisingly, is not a sequel). There are few science fiction writers alive today that can match his resume, and so it would seem unsurprising that he would win the 2006 Nebula Award for best novel for Camouflage.|
But it shocked the hell out of me.
I was certain the award would go to Susanna Clarke for her marvelous Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, already winner of the Hugo and World Fantasy awards. If, by chance, Clarke was not the recipient, I had assumed the next likely candidate would by Air by Geoff Ryman, already the winner of the James Tiptree Jr. and Arthur C. Clarke awards. So it was with more than a little shock that I was made aware of Camouflage's recieving of the award.
Camouflage was an unheralded novel. Somehow it was not even nominated for the Hugo award -- in an admittedly weak year. And so, foolishly, despite my enjoyment in a slew of Haldeman's previous novels, I did not purchase nor read Camouflage.
So after the shock of the Nebula award announcement wore off, I drove to the library to see what the fuss was about.
Camouflage is the story of an alien shapeshifter, the Changeling. He is immortal and spends the majority of human history underwater, learning and searching as an oceanic predator. When he comes upon mankind, in 1931, he changes his shape in human form, the better to learn more about the mysterious creature at the top of the food chain.
Camouflage is also the story of an alien shapeshifter, The Chameleon. He too is immortal, but has lived among mankind since the stone age. He is the source of vampire legend, and a merciless warrior throughout the ages.
This hard-SF novel brings the two together, in a pursuit of understanding, a journey of love and hate, power and the will to survive. It's a powerful novel, and very good, if not Haldeman's best work. Naming the villain 'Halliburton' might have been a bit heavy handed, but was amusing, as were a few jabs at our current President.
It's a quality old fashioned science fiction novel, with plenty of core science and very little campiness. For those who miss such novels, you can't do much better.
This book just won the Nebula Award: now is the time to get your hands on a first edition hardcover before they become too scarce and expensive. I've already ordered mine. Haldeman is a popular author who attends many conventions, and so a signed first edition Nebula Winner would look mighty fine on any collector's shelf. Or Two.