The Man Who Folded Himself Paperback – 26 Jun 2003
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"Gerrold is such a good writer that he keeps us reading through. . . shifts of time, space and character--right into pre-history."
"Uncanny allegorical force . . . altogether most impressive."
About the Author
David Gerrold is the author of the Hugo and Nebula award-nominated "The Man Who Folded Himself" and "When HARLIE Was One", books that quickly established him in the hard science fiction genre during the 1970s. He also wrote "The Trouble with Tribbles" episode of Star Trek, voted the most popular Star Trek episode of all time, and is the author of the popular Star Wolf, Dingillian, and Chtorr series. He lives in Northridge, California.
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This novel was originally published in 1973 and Daniel came originally from 1975. The edition I read was updated by the author in 2003 and set in 2005, but the only differences to the text that I noticed were references to 9/11 and compact disks, which initially baffled me given the novel's age.
And Dan runs into himself. He establishes a working partnership between Dan--his younger self--and Don--his older self--that each falls into whenever two versions of him meet. They begin by passing information to "edit out" actions with negative consequences, such as winning too much money and attracting attention. Dan trusts Don and his information from the future. Their relationship grows into a close friendship as they spend time together. Eventually it becomes a physical relationship. The implications of this step for Dan and his various versions of himself play out. This is very well thought out and skillfully presented. There is a moral message here about self-indulgence that does not descend into gender or sexual politics. It is a line nicely walked for such a nonlinear story.
My favorite parts of the book take place during a party that has many Dans and Dons in attendance, all with different levels of knowledge from their own and alternative timelines. The author keeps all of this straight through skillful writing and timely references to the journal that the protagonist(s) keep and quote from. Dan and the reader are both able, with not too much difficulty, to figure out Dan's life and his roles in it.
This book is a must-read for anyone who enjoys time travel. It's one of the very best. It deals with the paradoxes of time travel believably and entertainingly. Buy this one and keep it around to read again. You may well discover something different the next time through it. And each time after.
And then there is his time-travel novel "The Man Who Folded Himself". Gerrold is a career-acolyte of Robert Heinlein: "The War Against the Chtorr" series is explicit homage to "Starship Troopers" while "The Man Who Folded Himself" parallels exactly Heinlein's classic "All You Zombies".
So what to make of it?
Gerrold starts promisingly in the style of "The Catcher in the Rye". Danny is the truculent, bored adolescent orphan being paid $1,000 a month by his 'Uncle Jim' to attend University. As he observes: "An apartment, a car and a thousand a week for keeping my nose clean."
Soon however Uncle Jim dies and Danny is left with a timebelt, a personal time machine. Now Gerrold leaves his promising story development to spend 7 technophilic pages describing this device to no advantage to the underlying narrative whatsoever. What did his editor think he was doing?
We soon revert to old-fashioned story-telling as Danny and his one-day-advanced doppelgänger go to the races and clean-up. Cue another techno-excursion into multiverse-ontology as Gerrold presents his solution to the obvious paradoxes: plot development stalls and dies at this new irruption of fan-boy geekdom. Eventually the story resumes although with less élan as Danny meets a female version of himself (Diana) from a remote alternate timeline and they produce a male boy. Well, you can see where it's all going to end up.
Somewhere between here and there Danny ends up fancying himself rotten and Gerrold devotes some pages to explore homosexual relationships. In his afterword Gerrold makes a big issue about his dilemma as to whether to include this topic and his difficulties in writing it. However this all seems to me ridiculously self-indulgent. The question is whether the gay sex episode is consistent with and necessary to character and plot development. In fact it's gratuitous and contrived.
Gerrold is basically a good writer and an intelligent man: I am still waiting impatiently for his final book in the "Chtorr" series. But he takes his own opinions and his own sexuality far too seriously and this self-centredness detracts from his literary accomplishments. So if you want to see the difference between 'mere science-fiction' and literature then here it is in the nutshell. There was a good novel trying to get out here but Gerrold strangled it by gratuitous techno-info-dumping and gay-rights-prosletysing. He may believe this is a strength of genre-writing but it isn't.
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Most recent customer reviews
A riveting read that opens the door to the darker side of humanity. Uncomfortable at times, but well written and very emotive.
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