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Old Twentieth Mass Market Paperback – Unabridged, July 25, 2006
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Top Customer Reviews
In Old Twentieth the ideas Haldeman juggles are immortality, Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence, and a variant on the generation starship. He is also, as the title tells us, concerned with the 20th Century, the bloodiest century (though the 21st will turn out to be bloodier, says this novel), and the last century in which death was inevitable.
Central to this novel are scenes of war. We open at Gallipoli, one of the worst battles of World War I. But somehow the narrator escapes certain death, and we quickly gather that he is really using Virtual Reality to experience a simulation of an historical situation. He is Jacob Brewer, whose family was rich enough to purchase an immortality treatment before an horrific war between the lucky immortals and the poorer people who couldn't afford the treatment. He and his mother were among a very few survivors, but a couple of centuries later, the world has recovered, and a stable population of a billion or so lives quite pleasant lives. And they have decided to mount an expedition to Beta Hydrii.
Jake is the VR expert on the fleet of starships.Read more ›
One of the most interesting of theses scenarios takes us from the far future back to the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic. Haldeman gives the reader a sobering glimpse of the horrors of the 1918 pandemic which are only vaguely alluded to in current news stories discussing the possibility of a new pandemic looming on our horizon. Oddly, there are relatively FEW examples in literature that attempt to portray an event that killed over 500,000 Americans in a single year. Katherine Anne Porter's Pale Horse, Pale Rider is one of the only examples. This alone makes Haldeman's exposition an interesting read.
Immortality, multiple scenarios of tragic history both past and future, space travel, self-conscious computers.... Only Haldeman would try to combine these wide ranging topics into a single story. As usual, it makes for an enjoyable read. Does the novel have rough edges? Of course it does. It's actually one of the interesting aspects of reading a Haldeman novel. Although there is a distinctive flavor to Haldeman's writing, he is not formulaic. He tinkers and experiments with new ideas and writing styles.Read more ›
The backstory here is that, following the discovery of medical "immortality", a civil war resulted in the deaths of all 7 billion people who hadn't yet received the (very expensive) treatment, via a precisely-targeted [note 1] war-virus. After the death of 97% of humanity, civilization more-or-less collapses, of an acute shortage of repairmen -- and all the other non-rich folk who kept the machinery running.
The story itself takes place aboard humanity's first starship, launched almost a century after the War. The protagonist operates the ship's "time machine", an elaborate virtuality for exploring history. The machine turns out to have unexpected emergent qualities, which won't surprise the experienced reader.
I'm ambivalent about this one. It's beautifully-written, and far superior to Camouflage, his last. There's some really cool stuff here, especially the emergent AI's strange personality. The ending will forcefully remind you of a classic no-no for beginning writers -- though, in fairness, it is a logical outcome, given the setup. But unsatisfying, dammit. Second-rank Haldeman -- which means it's still pretty darned good: "B+"
Regular Haldeman readers will note his repeated use of historical recreations, Vietnam flashbacks, immortality, graphic violence, and steamy sex. The first four are prominent in _Old Twentieth_, which has some sexy bits as well.
Google for a (very good) full review, by Paul di Filippo, who gives it a "B" : "...this book feels like a slim placeholder between larger works for one of SF's best writers."
 --which isn't terribly credible, but is fine for a background plot-device.
Review copyright ©2005 by Peter D. Tillman
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Love Haldeman stories. Recently discovered him and have blown through all of his stories.
Joe Haldeman’s The Old Twentieth (2005) - I’ve been a big fan of Mr. Haldeman since he wrote several of the early classic Star Trek pro-novels (some of the better ones in my... Read morePublished 13 months ago by Tom Howard
Nicely written, as previous books by Joe Haldeman. The twist in the end really caught me by surprise.
I've read 3 or 4 books by him and never got disappointed. Read more
Slow start then . . . just as it's getting readable and semi interesting.
It's like Joe just gave up or had another project and did not want to be... Read more
I love the permission of this story, and Joe write-up well with wit and believable characters. I am not a fan of the ending, which seems bland and imprecise for a stand alone... Read morePublished on December 30, 2013 by Violet Spider
This book is a mess, with a several barely-connected subplots, unoriginal ideas and a meaningless ending. Read morePublished on December 24, 2013 by Alex V
A very compelling, well written, excellent story, not quite predictable.
Haldeman ties history, sociology, philosophy, IT and SciFi all together in a very entertaining... Read more
I like Haldeman's writing in general, but this book was a turkey. Before anything actually happens, you have to wade through an extremely long opening section cluttered with... Read morePublished on July 1, 2013 by Benjamin Crowell
Old Twentieth (2005) is a standalone SF novel. it is set aboard five spaceships heading toward a probably habitable planet in the Beta Hydrii system. Read morePublished on May 29, 2013 by Arthur W Jordin