Norrell for the Nebula Award in ? Granted, I havent read that book, but I have read many glowing reviews from my fellow FanLit reviewers and Goodreads friends. It was also made into a major BBC miniseries and received many accolades. In contrast, who remembers Camouflage now? How many people recommend it to friends as a great science-fiction book?
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Pages: A million years ago, an alien shapechanger came to Earth. Long before humans evolved, it hid in the depths of the ocean, and then eventually left a portion of itself behind with its ship and send a portion out to explore. It learned the forms of various sea creatures, shifting from creature to creature, imitating them, staying near the top of the food chain, and forgetting its ship and origins.
Eventually, it discovered humans. In , it decided to try becoming one. In , an rich former military officer approaches a marine biology engineering company with the discovery of something unusual on the ocean floor. They form a joint venture, lease land in Independent Samoa, maintain their independence from the US government, and raise the mysterious object.
And apparently completely uninterested in anything they try to do to it. Camouflage is a fast-paced combination of a hard-SF engineering problem and a course in applied anthropology. The changeling is nearly impossible to permanently harm, and the raising of the artifact goes about as one would expect.
Haldeman does avoid dragging out embarassing scenes, which I appreciated. It has the sort of attitude towards life that I aspire to, treating everything as a learning opportunity, taking advantage of those opportunities whenever they arise, and accepting setbacks and problems as something to think through and deal with.
In a sense, this is a story about human maturity as much as a story about an alien. The changeling has the key attribute of self-confidence, which lets it be exploratory and take pride in doing a good job emulating other species. Its "evil" counterpart, the chameleon, has a constant need to best others, to be on the top of the food chain, to kill and prove its superiority, and that lack of self-confidence gives it less patience and fewer resources.
The physiology of the changeling and the properties of its lost ship are essentially magic, never explained in the story and in violation of all sorts of physical laws as we understand them. The focus is instead on human nature as viewed through an external and somewhat distorted lens. What gender exploration there is seems fairly traditional such as the curious changeling saying it prefers female bodies towards the end of the book, despite spending much of the book in male form, and the vicious chameleon preferring male bodies , and the love story subplot felt poorly motivated to me.
There must be subtleties that the Tiptree panel found here but I missed. Still, recommended, particularly as light, upbeat reading with a bit of suspense and a lot of characterization. Haldeman adds plenty of tension in the last half of the book, the changeling is fun to root for, and the ending fit the tone of the book. Rating: 7 out of 10 Reviewed:
Plot summary[ edit ] A million years prior to the dawn of Homo sapiens , two immortal , shapeshifting aliens roam the Earth with little memory of their origin or their purpose. In the year , an artifact is discovered off the coast of Samoa , buried deep beneath the ocean floor. The mysterious find attracts the alien beings—the " changeling " and the "chameleon"—to Samoa, where one ponders the meaning of the object and the other speculates on its relationship to each of them. Both immortals seek each other for different reasons: one harbours good intentions toward humanity, while the other is extremely hostile. Plot[ edit ] A million years before the rise of humans, the changeling arrives on Earth from Messier 22 ; its spaceship hides deep in the Pacific Ocean.