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Old Twentieth by Joe Haldeman
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Old Twentieth (original 2005; edition 2005)

by Joe Haldeman (Author)

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494632,517 (3.49)1 / 19
"The twentieth century lies hundreds of years in humanity's past. But the near-immortal citizens of the future yearn for the good old days - when people's bodies were unable to spontaneously heal, and disease and age were actual causes of death. Immersing themselves in virtual reality time machines, they are addicted to exploring the life-to-death arc that defined a lifetime so long ago." "Jacob Brewer is a virtual reality engineer, overseeing the time machine's operation aboard the starship Aspera. On a thousand-year voyage to Beta Hydrii, the eight hundred-member crew escapes the tedium of the trip within the artificial environment of twentieth-century Earth. But they get more reality than they expected when people entering the machine start to die." "For the time machine has become sentient, evolving far beyond what its creators imagined. It has become obsessed with humanity - and wants Jacob Brewer to enter its confines and discuss this fragile state of being called life."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)
Member:petrichor8
Title:Old Twentieth
Authors:Joe Haldeman (Author)
Info:Ace Hardcover (2005), Edition: First Edition, 272 pages
Collections:B2R, Read but unowned
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Tags:None

Work details

Old Twentieth by Joe Haldeman (2005)

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  romsfuulynn | Apr 29, 2013 |
Old Twentieth was a very pleasant surprise. I wanted to pick a book in the library I had heard nothing about, in addition to reading those off my very long "must read" list. I was aware that Joe Haldeman had written the famous Forever War (that's still on the list, by the way) , so I decided to check this book out.

Old Twentieth is the story of a future Earth where a new drug has been developed that grants virtual immortality, save from a violent death. This drug is very expensive, and a movement soon arises among everyone who is not super rich to stop sale of the drug, or make it more widely available. This breaks out into Civil War, resulting in the development of a gas that kills nearly everyone who is not immortal. All of this is told from the perspective of the main character, who was a teen during the war, and whose father was killed by the anti-immortals. Fast forward several years, and you see that a group of ships have been built to venture to the closest star. Though the trip will take a few thousand years, everyone is immortal, so it isn't an unrealistic goal. The main character chooses to join the voyage. He is in charge of the virtual reality machines, which, it is hoped, will mitigate the psychological effects of the trip. But then people start mysteriously dying.

With me so far? The plot is not nearly as complicated as it sounds. I had no trouble following Haldeman's premise, which is a mark in favor of his writing ability. What plays out is a novel that deals with the effects of being turned immortal versus being born immortal, time travel (essentially virtual reality set in the past is a form of time travel), genocide, artificial intelligence, and human nature.

Be warned, up until the very end, you will think you see the finish coming. You will believe the ending is cliched down to the second to last page. If the ending I felt coming had been Haldeman's ending, I would have been disappointed, and the book probably would have only gotten three stars. Luckily, Haldeman leaves the reader with a poignant and melancholy finish. The last book that left me with that same melancholy feeling was the brilliant Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm. ( )
1 vote Radaghast | Sep 9, 2010 |
This is actually a relatively simple story, but padded out with a series of historical interludes. These are presented as when the main character is exploring a VR world, but most of them don't directly further the plot. However, they also don't make the story drag along, and are some of the most entertaining parts of the story. Relatively light reading, like The Coming and Marsbound. I enjoyed it.

http://www.stillhq.com/book/Joe_Haldeman/Old_Twentieth.html ( )
  mikal | Aug 31, 2010 |
OLD TWENTIETH is the first book I've read by Joe Haldeman, and although I'm glad I read the book, I just can't help but be disappointed by the ending. It's hard to write a comprehensive review without giving away spoilers, but I'll try my best. That said, I gave the book 4 Stars due to the fact that it WAS an exciting sci-fi read, with a wonderful balance of scientific facts, dialogue, virtual reality, and human emotion.

The discovery of immortality led, inevitably, to the Immortality War. People who could not afford the high-priced Becker-Cendrek Process, which causes humans to become immortal, struck out against those who manufactured it, and in 2047 Earth found itself in the middle of a full-scale war. It ended with Lot 92, a biological agent that within five minutes killed off 7 billion mortal humans, leaving Earth with a much more manageable number of 200 million immortals.

In 2188, humans discovered the existence of Beta Hydrii, which was circled by at least one planet with free oxygen and water. Determined to discover if this planet, which would take at least 1,000 years to reach, could sustain a human population, a convoy of research ships takes off to check out its viability.

The main character of the book, Jacob Brewer, serves alternately as a chef on the convoy of ships and the chief engineer of the "time machine"--a full-scale virtual reality machine that can take people back into the past and immerse them in the culture of their chosen year. Inevitably, things start to go wrong during the journey to Beta Hydrii, specifically with those people who take trips in the time machine. What follows is probably the logical conclusion to such a tale, and really is an entertaining story--until the last couple of chapters.

I probably should have seen it coming. The logical series of events that leads up to the ending of OLD TWENTIETH isn't far-fetched if you've paid attention to the chapters preceding it. That said, however, I hated the ending. Like the movie(s) THE MATRIX, the beginning of the book started off with a bang; the middle was enjoyable; and the ending left me screaming in frustration.

For sci-fi fans, you'll enjoy this book. The trips back to the twentieth century via the time machine, although violent in nature and description, were truly interesting. As long as you know in advance that the ending is bound to dissapoint you, you'll be able to take the book for what it truly is--a story about human's obsession with death and technology, and how the two don't always mix. ( )
  GeniusJen | Oct 14, 2009 |
Old Twentieth takes place hundreds of years in the future. Humanity is nearly immortal and they immerse themselves in virtual reality time machines to explore the past. During a thousand-year voyage to Beta Hydrii the 800-member crew begin to die as the time machine becomes sentient. It's a very interesting book, like all of Joe Haldeman's novels. ( )
  clark.hallman | Mar 20, 2008 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Joe Haldemanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gambino, FredCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"For Guy and Rusty and Judith

Travelers in an antique van"
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