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The Man Who Folded Himself
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86 of 90 people found the following review helpful
When this time-travel classic first appeared thirty years ago, I was a grad student in history and my mind was full of the academic debate over the nature of causality -- so Gerrold's thoughts on the subject made quite an impression on me. I stole his arguments shamelessly for use in the TA lounge. I had met him at a con a couple of years before, when his reputation derived almost entirely from tribbles, and I believed at the time that he was going places. Sadly, he never quite made the big time and I imagine most younger discoverers of science fiction have never heard of him. Still, any fan of time travel fiction knows this book well and I doubt anyone can ever match the psychological and philosophical complexity of Dan Eakin's life in possession of the Timebelt. This artifact is the only one of its kind (logically, when you think about it) and so Dan is the only time traveler, . . . but there's plenty of him to go around, because time travel is actually the creation of alternate realities. There are young Dans and old ones, hetero- and homosexual versions, even male and female. Some go insane, some become degenerate. Some find love, some lose it. But Dan is his own universe: "I am a circle, complete unto itself. I have brought life into this world, and that life is me." If you're looking for a Time Patrol adventure yarn, this isn't it. (There isn't even all that much plot in the usual sense.) But if you want to think about the consequences of personal, individual time travel, you can't do any better than this one.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Ok, I just read this book last night (it is a short read), and I've been thinking about it. A lot. As the title to this review states, I am pretty sure I liked this book, maybe even loved it, but something is holding me back from singing its praises.

I did feel that the sexual themes were an interesting touch yet at times the writing surrounding the more intimate scenes felt like it was in a different voice -- more stilted. I think Gerrold limited himself some, too. This book could easily have been 300 or 400 pages. I agree with some of the earlier reviewers that are wondering why we were not given more details of what Dan was up to in his time travel pursuits.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book. It is an intriguing novella that really approaches some fascinating topics. If you enjoy time travel fiction, I do suggest you pick up a copy.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 2004
I think narcissism and time travel go hand in hand. Dan/Don/Danny/Diane et al is not much different than Dave Lister. I enjoyed the book quite a bit, though I have to wonder if the author retconned some of Dan's early stock picks. The original book was published in 1973, so unless the author has a time belt of his own or is psychic, he wouldn't have known about Apple and Sony. I'd love to get a first edition and compare those passages... The time travel plot and "twists" are fairly standard, the ending didn't suprise me but I did enjoy this telling of the story. The journal entries from the various incarnations allowed for a character growth that doesn't usually happen in this genre of book. I also liked the rather frank exploration of the main character's sexuality.
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46 of 61 people found the following review helpful
I love books that have a time travel theme and looked forward to reading this book, as it had come highly recommended. This book is more like a long short story or a very brief novella, which is a mercy, considering how disappointed I was by it. It was merely ok. In fact, there was very little about it that I found to be engaging, though I do not affirmatively dislike the book.

The book is about a young man, Daniel Eakins, who inherits a belt that allows him to travel in time. The book itself is like a diary that the main character keeps of his journeys in time. He writes mostly about meeting other versions of himself, both male and female, and making love to those versions. His presence at some of the greatest moments in history, which he does go to see, consist of nothing more than a laundry list to indicate that he had been there. There are also journal entries by some of his other various incarnations, which is a moderately interesting contrivance.

Still, there is little substance to the book in terms of plot, as well as little character development. The time spent in other eras are glossed over quickly, as if too much time would be wasted in doing otherwise. Daniel does try to change some historic moments, with some interesting consequences, but that, too, is glossed over. The book almost reads as if it were a stream of consciousness narration, which is, perhaps, congruent with keeping a diary or journal. The exploration of sexuality in which the author engages is certainly novel, though slightly creepy.

This book, which feels more as if it were an outline for a book, would probably be of interest only to die hard, time travel fans. If you are not such an individual, deduct one star from my rating and avoid this book. As is its central character, the book is in a state of arrested development.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 1, 2004
This is an interesting time travel book but it is difficult to say anything about the plot without creating spoilers. I really enjoyed it though it was riddled with paradoxes that seemed to make it difficult at times to understand the timeline of Daniel Eakin, the main character.

Daniel inherits a time travel belt from his Uncle Jim. He uses it to travel through time constantly and through paradoxes, create thousands of versions of himself. Daniel ends up living his life with these different versions as his companions (in more ways than one).

Throughout the book there are a lot of philosophical arguments as to what Daniel and his multi versions of himself (Don, Danny, etc.) do. It all leads up to a big surprise ending!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 10, 2009
Originally written in 1972, 'The Man Who Folded Himself' was revised by the author David Gerrold in 2003, to include current events such as the 9/11 disaster. So even if you read this book in the 70's, it's worth picking up to read again.

Daniel Jamieson Eakins is a twenty-one year old college student when his Uncle Jim arrives for a visit. Uncle Jim offers to increase Danny's monthly allowance from $1,000 to $2,000 if Danny begins to keep a diary ... only for himself. Of course, Danny does. When Uncle Jim dies, instead of the one-hundred-forty-three-million dollars he said there was, there's only six thousand dollars and a box for Danny to open. Inside the box is an odd looking belt, with a strange, complicated looking electronic buckle. The belt says, "Timebelt" on it.

Danny decides the first thing to do is jump a day ahead in time and pick up the winners at the horsetrack, then go back and make a bundle of money betting on the horses. But when he jumps forward, he finds himself. "Hi! I've been waiting for you," himself says. Himself says to consider themselves "twins", and calls himself Don to distinguish them apart. The two go to the track, and surprisingly find they like each other's company. Don shows Dan the ropes, then Dan is Don and goes back to show Dan the ropes. Confused yet?

With the timebelt, there much confusion at first, but what Dan ultimately discovers, after meeting many versions of himself, that he's creating new timelines rather than staying linear in time. He feels he'll never be lonely again, not with himself for company as companion ... and more.

'The Man Who Folded Himself' was cutting edge in 1972, but with the revisions it still hasn't lost its sharp wit nor mind-boggling concept. You'll almost drive yourself crazy until it all starts to make sense. There's lots of surprises in store for you, even though the book is a short 120 pages it's packed with twists and turns. There's a forward called "The Author Who Folded Me" written by Robert J. Sawyer, Author's Notes by David Gerrold, and an Afterward written by Geoffrey Klempner. Other good time-travel books are 'Replay' by Ken Grimwood, 'Cretaceous Dawn' by Lisa M. Graziano, and 'The Best Time-Travel Stories Of The 20th Century' edited by Harry Turtledove. Enjoy!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 17, 2007
In Gerrold's The Man Who Folded Himself, 19 year old Dan Eakins is given an unusual gift by his Uncle Jim just before he dies...the gift is a belt that allows the user to travel backwards and forwards through time at a whim. What does Dan do with such a remarkable gift? (What would any of us do?) Dan travels into the past and wins big at the track. But Dan is not alone. Dan finds another version of himself...also a time-traveler, to share his temporal exploits...and, over "time", Dan discovers many versions of himself, all time-travelers; and all find themselves in the same predicament Dan finds himself in: How exactly does one find meaning with one's life -- where does one look? -- when the only person that will ever truly understand you, is you?

I didn't really know what I was expecting coming into this book. It is quite short and I wasn't sure how Gerrold was going to fit a full story into the minimum number of pages. However, Gerrold did a good job, despite its length, the story felt complete.

As a time travel story, Gerrold makes a number of predictions about the future. Since this book was first published in 1973, we have had time to see how some of Gerrold's predictions have turned out, and in several cases, Gerrold was quite accurate.

But ultimately, this story is not about whether or not this prediction or that one has come true. This story is not even really about time travel. Gerrold effectively uses time travel as a device to make a statement about the human condition. No matter who we are or where we hail from, no matter our upbringing, people need other people to...for lack of a better way of putting it...make us not feel lonely. This is what Gerrold emphasizes...at times, in ways that are not so subtle.

The only book I have ever read that has made me feel this way after turning the last page was Ken Grimwood's Replay. Both stories use time travel as a device to make it plain that not only do we need other people like us to keep us sane, but those people are out there, and they are often found in the most unusual of circumstances.

Overall, despite Gerrold's brevity with the written word, I certainly recommend this tale to anyone who is interested in a story of time travel that is done in a most thoughtful manner.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on July 3, 1999
I just finished reading this book for the third time, and I loved it even more than before. Gerrold's handling of classic time-travel problems such as paradoxes by using the quantum bifurcation theory is brilliant, and the book actually reminded me a little of William Sleator's _Strange Attractors_. However, it is much better written, more grim, more wide-spanning, and, most strikingly, less innocent. It also has traces of Robert Heinlein's short story _All You Zombies_, but it much more fully fleshed out. Some passages I found incredibly moving, such as the narrator's description of when he has been ("I have seen Creation. I have seen Entropy"), and the ever-increasing age gap between himself and his female counterpart, Diane. The book depressed me to no end, and that's why I loved it.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on December 10, 2003
I'm a sucker for a good old-fashioned time travel story, especially one which presents a paradox. Having David Gerrold's THE MAN WHO FOLDED HIMSELF back in print is a blessing, as this book has paradoxes in spades. In it, Daniel Eakins receives a "Time Belt" from his deceased uncle's estate. Of course, he can't resist the temptation to use it. By doing so, he embarks on an adventure-with-a-price, with a somewhat predictable, but nonetheless eye-opening, conclusion. Instead of presenting time travel as a linear event (where the traveller moves throughout one timeline), Gerrold describes it as a branching phenomenon (where each movement in time is a branch off of the previous timeline). As a result, you can not only meet yourself, but eventually meet millions of different versions of yourself. And returning to your original timeline gets harder and harder as you go, to the point where it may become eliminated. There is much more effort required by the reader in order to keep it straight, but it's worth it.
The "science", such as it is, is fairly ambiguous, but the theoretical discussions of the physics behind this type of time travel are pretty wild and play a prominent role in Dan Eakins' development. As a result, you get a story which is heavy on the psychological effects that this activity could have on the individual. This is a book for adults, as there are adult situations; however, they do serve to further the plot in a very interesting way. While the weak-at-heart may flinch at the sexual situations presented in the book, they did play a integral part and were not gratuitous. Honestly, for this type of story, the terms "homosexuality" and "incest" really don't apply, so relax, be patient, and enjoy a mind-expanding read!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2007
The book is more of a philosophical treatise than a science fiction story. If you read the story as the story of a guy who comes unglued because his life is no longer linear, then it may have more meaning than a ripping sci-fi yarn, which it isn't. The story is the effect of being disengaged from a linear reality (which is pretty much an operant definition of insanity), not a Star Wars adventure. There's no baddies being done in by the goodies, no space monsters dripping venom, just a guy coming undone and pulling it back together as best he can.

It may have more resonance as you get older, and you struggle with the decline of your dreams, yet still sketching and idealizing some future, handle bouts of nostalgic melancholy and dream about resurrecting the past in the present, only to be reminded it is really gone. If you don't have a good grasp on the present and are willing to make the best of what you're in, you're going to go a little off your rocker too.

Perhaps a reach, but accepting that life tumbles slowly and linearly into the future is really all we have, and what we're designed for. In a sense this story is a caution against wishing anything else.
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