The Barnes & Noble Review
Multiple Hugo and Nebula Award winner Joe Haldeman's Camouflage -- about two immortal aliens wandering the Earth in numerous incarnations -- can best be described as a science fiction mystery with all the trimmings of a psychological thriller.
A million years before the emergence of humans, an alien spaceship splashes into the Pacific Ocean. After it comes to rest miles underwater, a creature emerges from the vessel and, after assessing its aqueous environment, drastically alters its appearance in order to survive.
After many millennia of existence in the form of various deep-sea creatures -- sharks, whales, porpoises, schools of fish -- the changeling eventually leaves the safety of the water and enters the world of man. Adopting various human personas -- graduate student, soldier, surfer, circus dwarf, prostitute -- the ever-inquisitive changeling slowly masters the intricacies of human society.
When a strange artifact is discovered seven miles below the surface of the Pacific in the early 21st century, the changeling is inexplicably drawn to it. But so is something else: another, much older, shape-shifting alien. This chameleon's motives for wanting to unlock the secrets of the artifact, however, are far different from the changeling's.
Originally published in Analog magazine as a three-part serial, this novel -- unsurprisingly saturated with a variety of existential philosophies -- is one of Haldeman's fastest and most intriguing reads. With relatively short chapters, three tightly intertwined plotlines, and nonstop action throughout, Camouflage will keep readers furiously turning pages until the very end.
Paul Goat Allen
Haldeman's adept plotting, strong pacing and sense of grim stoicism have won him wide acclaim, but for me the great virtue in his fiction lies in its style. His prose is laconic, compact, seemingly offhand but quite precise; one can pull down his earlier novels and reread individual pages years later with undiminished pleasure. Haldeman mostly abjures striking images or similes (the description of how a fish will "flex the one huge muscle of itself" to dart away from enemies is about as figurative as he gets), relying instead on the poetics of compression and indirection. Like the grammar of cinema, it is a mode that looks natural and even easy but requires exacting skill.
The Washington Post
Joe Haldeman's Camouflage, a near-future SF thriller that alternates between the experiences of two different aliens who land on Earth, skillfully weaves its disparate plot threads until the cop-out, deus ex machina ending. This is a more sophisticated, if less than satisfying, handling of a similar situation in Hal Clement's Needle (1950). Agent, Ralph Vicinanza. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
When the navy discovers a mysterious artifact seven miles underwater in the depths of the Tonga-Kermadec Trench, it approaches marine biologist and former government scientist Russell Sutton for assistance. Reluctantly, Sutton agrees, unaware that a pair of immortal beings (shapechangers) has been summoned from its eternal wanderings to the presence of the artifact. With his customary economy of words, Haldeman (The Forever War) examines the differences and similarities between human and nonhuman nature as his protagonists face possible destruction. Superb storytelling and a panoramic view of history recommend this novel to most sf collections. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Near-future aliens-among-us yarn, from the author of Forever Free (1999), etc. Russell Sutton owns a small but expert marine research company. He wants no military ties, but when about-to-be-ex-US Navy Admiral Jack Halliburton approaches him with a deep-water salvage proposal, he's inclined to listen. Seven miles down, at the bottom of an oceanic trench, reposes a small, metallic, impenetrable object. Russ and Jack soon join forces and raise it. On a site in Samoa, they attempt to probe its secrets, but the superdense, superheavy object proves impervious. Meanwhile, we learn, there are two aliens roaming the Earth, neither aware of the other but alert to the possibility that there may be another. One, the changeling, spent thousands of years in the sea before coming ashore in 1931 to learn about humanity; it can assume any form ("Back in the sixties I spent a week as a motel television set"). The other alien, the chameleon, can adopt any human semblance; a conscienceless killer, determined to survive at all costs, it has secretly become the world's richest person. When Russ and Jack zap the object with an ultra-high-powered laser, causing it to levitate, news of the artifact's existence begins to leak out, attracting spooks, newshounds, the changeling and the chameleon. Finally, by hitting the artifact with soundwaves, the investigators elicit a message-but it's in an indecipherable code. Russ, suddenly and startlingly, becomes aware of the changeling's existence. But where, and who, is the chameleon?Well-constructed and intriguingly set up, but ultimately a disagreeable surprise: the story slips away, and you're left holding an empty coat.
From the Publisher
"Haldeman trips through history wearing alien goggles but his message is all about human nature." —Entertainment Weekly
"An extremely intelligent thriller." —Washington Post