Old Twentieth


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Not every quarters have a bathroom, like a dorm you have shared facilities. So, he hunts one from a park-like area aboard ship to get a sample for future meals. You build multiple starships, stock them with supplies, head towards the stars, but no one programs duck meat in the synthesizers? Then during a zero-g maneuver we are told that there is only one zero-g toilet on a ship for people? Okay, even if this maneuver rarely occurs and with warning beforehand to use the other facilities, this just made me question the logic and story world.

The overall point of the book doesn't kick in early enough, and the ending left me with a feeling of indifference. Unfortunately, this was not one. May 05, Tito Hammer rated it really liked it. Clever plot and plot devices. Author plays to his strengths. As usual, Haldeman takes the reader off on some non-linear plot lines, which are not entirely disorienting and often pleasantly refreshing with their frank updates of characters' seemingly mundane lives.

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The working man's SciFi author. Aug 30, Tim Martin rated it liked it Shelves: science-fiction , reviewed. The book opens up with a battle scene in , Gallipoli, something that shouldn't surprise the reader too much as one of the basic premises of the book, as relayed on the back cover, is that in the future many people use a time machine of sorts, an incredibly sophisticated virtual reality program that lets its users vividly relive just about any aspect of life in the 20th century.


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So completely immersive is the experience that the users while in the machine are unaware that they are in a virtual reality program and they actually think they are the characters they inhabit. Why the 20th century? It addition to I imagine the copious amounts of research and in particular media images from the era, it was the last century in world history in which the "life-to-death-arc" still existed for everyone on the planet, something fascinating to many of the characters in the story. Starting in the 21st century actual immortality became a viable option.

Thanks to the Becker-Cendrek Process or the BCP pill as it was popularly known , one's body can become a self-repairing machine, immune to disease and many injuries. In a lengthy but still interesting chapter of nearly pure exposition, we learn that the pill was available at first only to the extremely wealthy and that this generated great jealousy, jealousy so immense and far-reaching that a war resulted, the Immortality War or just the War , a conflict that eventually resulted in the death of nearly everyone that had not taken the pill 7 billion people , leaving million immortals left alive.

Fast forward to the future. It took many decades of work to get the world running to any degree again, as most of those who took the BCP pill were not those who actually made society run at the nuts-and-bolts level your nurses, mechanics, farmers, garbage collectors, plumbers, police officers, fire fighters, construction workers, etc.

However society had recovered enough to send a fleet of five ships on a thousand year journey to a planet discovered orbiting Beta Hydrii, a planet with at least one planet with free oxygen in its atmosphere and liquid water. The substantially sized crew of the five ships settle in for a long journey to their incredibly distant location, many people with more than one job and a number of hobbies to keep them entertained.

One of them, Jacob Brewer, in addition to being an accomplished musician and a chef of French and Spanish cuisine, is a virtual reality engineer, working hard to keep the fleet's "time machine" running, making sure not only its technical aspects are up to standards but making sure that there are no anomalies or anachronisms in what the machine displays to its users for instance making sure a famous art exhibition is not in two places at the same time. The fun starts when Jacob finds there are some subtle, minor anomalies. He finds that New York City in certain year in the middle twentieth century starts to smell too clean.


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Not an absence of smell, but some of the olfactory substrata of the city is absent. While investigating this relatively minor problem someone dies in New York, in the simulator. This is not supposed to happen, not for an immortal, certainly not in virtual reality. What is going on? Is the machine accidentally killing people? Does it need repair or need to be shut off entirely? Or is it deliberately killing people?

Perhaps the incredibly sophisticated program has grown to hate humans, or just certain humans, or that some of the characters in the program - a mobster perhaps - have taken on a life of their own. What is the cause? The majority of the book is Jacob and his fellow engineers trying to track down the problem and fix it, a quest that leads them to some surprising places. Against this backdrop we see some of the complicated mission aspects of the fleet on its way to the final destination and some of the trials and tribulations of Jacob in his personal life, his up and down relationship to his new wife.

Though perhaps necessary parts of Jacob's story, as his life didn't occur only in a vacuum, focused only on the machine, sometimes they were a bit distracting particularly the relationship aspects. The ending of the book, the answer to the mystery, was intriguing though a bit abrupt. Questions are answered though and it was an interesting ending. Overall I liked the book, it was a very fast read and I really liked the amount of historical detail that Haldeman packed into the various forays into various virtual reality trips, describing places and events from the 20th century.

Aug 27, Charles Dee Mitchell rated it really liked it Shelves: contemporary-sf. The Becker-Cendrek Process made death by natural causes a thing of the past. Of course the procedure was spectacularly expensive and initially available only to the fabulously wealthy. As it went further into production, the price began to come down.

Soon the super, super wealthy could afford it; then the merely super wealthy. By the time the very, very wealthy could buy in, discontent began to grow among those who were stuck with their normal life spans. But the price could only come down so fa The Becker-Cendrek Process made death by natural causes a thing of the past.


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War broke out, a conflict known as the Immortality War. It was vicious, but the solution was outrageous. A pathogen known as Lot 92 wiped out that part of the world population that had not yet taken the BCP pill. Earth's populations dropped from the billions to just around million. As you might expect, those million immortals were not the best equipped to keep public utilities running, or for that matter to fix their own plumbing. But mankind over the centuries pulled things together.

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Science and technology got back up and running and society adjusted to the prospect of a very long future with little change in the neighborhood. In vitro fertilization and the much chancier prospect of natural childbirth, which involves going off the BCP treatment for the term of the pregnancy, stabilized the population at 10 million. But an inevitable amount of tedium set in. When an earth-like planet is discovered near Beta Hydrii, the nearly thousand year journey to explore it is swamped by applicants looking for a change.

One of those applicants is Jacob Brewer, a first generation immortal, although not from an fabulously wealthy family. His family had a tradition of buying a case of good wine for each birth, a case to used sparingly for special occasions. Jacob's grandfather had the good fortune of buying a case of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild , which would become on of the most valuable wines in history and the Brewer family's early ticket for immortality.

Jacob is a virtuality engineer, trained to maintain the time machines that allow users to enter virtual recreations of any moment in history that has been sufficiently researched to become part of the time travel menu. Most of those destinations are in the twentieth century, "The Old Twentieth," and travelers may have a taste for the Paris of Hemingway and Fitzgerald or the battlefields of Viet Nam. Haldeman's novel opens with Jacob having the lower half of his body blown off at Gallipoli, but hey, it's a virtual experience.

His fellow travelers show him a choice of postcards he can study and choose an escape route from the gore-soaked foxhole in Turkey, He opts for London. Old Twentieth , alternates between life on the Aspera, the ship bound for Beta Hydrii, and the time spent in virtual reality by Jacob and his crew as they maintain the understandably popular time machine on the milleneum-long voyage. Haldeman's best writing is in his recreation of the Old Twentieth environments where his military background serves him well. Although life on the Aspera has its romantic and bureaucratic complications and there is one funny scene involving ducks, the novel is at its liveliest in the virtual world of the time machine.

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And then people begin to die. The deaths may be related to the time machine, but reports from earth convey news of similar deaths occurring on the home planet. Jacob's final trip into the machine, which may have become a sentient AI, takes the novel into new territory that makes Old Twentieth Haldeman's best exploration of the what constitutes a human life when the normal constraints of time have been removed since he explored similar themes in Forever War and Forever Free. View 1 comment. Dec 23, Mark rated it really liked it.

In the future humans have managed to create the Becker-Cendrek Process BCP pill, a treatment that leads to their near-immortality. Of the remaining couple of hundred million people, humans begin to use their longer lifespans to travel the stars. Jacob Brewer is one of eight hundred colonists who are chosen to travel on a group of space shi In the future humans have managed to create the Becker-Cendrek Process BCP pill, a treatment that leads to their near-immortality.

Jacob Brewer is one of eight hundred colonists who are chosen to travel on a group of space ships to Beta Hydrii, a journey that will take over one thousand years. Many of the places involve war and death, for despite whatever injuries the user may gain in the simulation they return fit and healthy afterwards. It all ends a bit too quickly, though it must be said rather appropriately.

Also very appropriate to what brings me here in the first place. I first read Joe Haldeman almost 30 years ago. With Forever War he earned a lifelong fan. I avidly gobbled up everything he wrote as soon as it came out. Worlds and Worlds Apart were two other notable successes of his. Around the time of Tool of the Trade I began to be disappointed in his writing.

This and pretty m "we desire the new but are reluctant to give up the old. I pick up another Haldeman book every few years. He's a very deft writer technically. His stuff is easy to read and usually compelling So far I am finding Old Twentieth not so enjoyable. Ostensibly about the future, much of it so far takes place in the past, in a time travel virtual reality.

Lots of details about lots of different historical periods in the 20th c. The future, and the narrator, seem pinched, dry and bitter to me. Not such fun reading. We desire the new but are reluctant to give up the old Then the conflict promised on the flyleaf finally starts. Books like this should have a warning on the spine: WARNING: the library general has determined that a lack of closure may be bad for your peace of mind.

Which earns it three stars in the Bruce rating system, meaning, reading it was an OK thing to be doing if I had nothing better to do stuck in christchurch for a few days, waiting on town appointments but not worthwhile on its own. View 2 comments. Nov 20, Stephanie rated it really liked it. Joe Haldeman is one of those writers who manages to write books with totally different themes and characters and make them all interesting. After reading three or four of his books I can say that I would never hesitate to pick one up.

In this story a virus weapon wiped out all but a few million people worldwide decades ago and slowly the population has grown to a number and technological level that is ready to send a ship out to another star, Beta Hydrii. But instead of a generation ship the trav Joe Haldeman is one of those writers who manages to write books with totally different themes and characters and make them all interesting.

But instead of a generation ship the travelers on this voyage are immortal thanks to a process developed after the virus release. To amuse the passengers and crew on the millennia long journey a virtual time machine is on board, and as the title suggests the twentieth century is the most popular destination. Everything is fine except some subtle anomalies start showing up in the VR and then someone dies while in VR. Things get very interesting then and the ending is definitely unexpected, neither Janice or I saw it coming. The book is a quick read and I promise you will enjoy it.

Oct 26, Ray Ivey rated it it was ok. First time Mr. Haldeman has disappointed me since his dull book on Hemmingway. The book starts off very strong -- the setup is fascinating and horrifying. After that, the author can't seem to make up his mind which book he wants to write. Is this a book about artificial immortality? Is it about virtual reality? Is it about ultra-long voyages to the stars? In a much longer book -- one by Peter Hamilton, say -- all of these themes could be successfully and interestingly explored. But Haldeman writes First time Mr. But Haldeman writes short books.

And a book this length needs a bit of focus. At the end of this book it felt like merely the first chapter of a longer work. Quite disapointed, particularly considering how shiny and sharp his other recent books have been. Jan 05, Mortimer rated it really liked it. Not sure what I think about this one. I found myself turning the pages quickly, and I like that once again the machine is portrayed as being a result of programming and questions of what exactly being conscious entails are considered seriously.

In this sense it reminds me of Cadigan's Mindplayers series, without the cartoony feel and I mean that as a compliment that that series gave me, almost two-dimensional in ways. Haldeman handles war scenes about as well as any writer I've ever read - no Not sure what I think about this one. Haldeman handles war scenes about as well as any writer I've ever read - no glamorizing or idealizing, but also no moralizing, and lots of acknowledgment of the quiet desperation, fear, and courage exhibited by people in combat.

Feb 14, Kristin rated it really liked it Shelves: scifi-bkgrp-selection , science-fiction , hugo-nominee. One of Haldeman's best books yet. Aug 18, Benjamin Mills rated it liked it. There comes a point for most long running authors when their more recent work just isn't as good as their earlier stories. This is one of those times. An interesting premise, but as the plot develops it drags on without much excitement. Haldeman's better known books hit their stride a third to halfway through, though this one never really finds its footing.

The ending was alright, but would have been much better if the story built more towards it. He did an excellent job with Forever War and Fore There comes a point for most long running authors when their more recent work just isn't as good as their earlier stories. He did an excellent job with Forever War and Forever Peace with everything culminating in the end beautifully.

Old Twentieth had a series of aimless and disjointed plot lines that watered down what could have been a more interesting novel. If you like the author and have a long flight, I'd recommend picking up a used copy at your local book store. Beyond that, it lacks the magic of his previous works and readers new to this author should steer clear. Apr 18, Francis Gahren rated it it was amazing. My Take Very enjoyable read — vintage Haldeman — with lots of twists and turns throughout the book I guessed the ending half-way through the book but still enjoyed it. Haldeman has that ability to place you on the spaceship with all the necessary accoutrements and realities that you would expect; he really is a master science fiction writer.

Summary This is my second Haldeman novel. My first was The Accidental Time Machine. I loved The Accidental Time Machine. Loved it. My expectations were high, My Take Very enjoyable read — vintage Haldeman — with lots of twists and turns throughout the book I guessed the ending half-way through the book but still enjoyed it.

My expectations were high, and I was not disappointed. Depending on your expectations, you may love or hate Old Twentieth. Like so many great science fiction stories dystopian ones especially , it is not so concerned with having that happily-ever-after ending. Some "getting" it, some not. But such is the case I suppose. Unless you count the Star Wars novels. I've read about six or seven of those. I've also read some Isaac Asimov. But his body of work is so extensive, that my few books seem to be a minuscule representation.

So I don't have that much to compare it with--the plot, the characters, the setting. But in my opinion, Old Twentieth was great. Great in a completely different way than The Accidental Time Machine. There have been many books--science fiction books--about the collapse of humanity and society. Books where technological advancements lead men into making foolish choices, lead men into taking the wrong path.

You can also replace the word books with movies and tv shows. Old Twentieth is just one of many I suppose. Another familiar theme?

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Humans finding a way to defeat death. Finding a way to become immortal. Finding a way to live forever. Again, such is the case with Old Twentieth. This immortality comes via a drug called BCP. But this drug was expensive. It led to a war between the haves and the have-nots. This war was dirty, vicious, ugly. If all of the workers, all the working class, all the ones with little money and little respect and little appreciation--were wiped out it leaves the lazy upper class that are lacking in skills to do the menial tasks that society needs to survive.

Usher in more death, more violence, more despair. Fortunately, Old Twentieth doesn't focus on that past. No, these are distant memories now. The narrative follows the lives of those individuals who have chosen to leave Earth in search of another home, a home on a newly discovered planet that seemingly appears to be compatible for hosting human life. It will take a thousand years and five space ships for these brave some would say crazy individuals to arrive. Perhaps longer to set up a colony. Yes, there are plenty of science fiction novels about humans establishing colonies on other planets.

But first they have to get there. Something that seemed so simple--immortal humans traveling for a thousand years--became a bit more complex along the way. What do humans do to pass the time? What could you possibly do in relatively cramped quarters for that many years? Sure you could probably entertain yourself a year or two by reading, painting, dancing, playing the guitar, etc. But a thousand years? The ships' entertainment comes from a virtual reality machine nicknamed "The Time Machine.

Old Twentieth

Each year of the twentieth century, for example, is a separate destination. Humans can experience twenty hours at a time what life was like--using all five senses--in the past. The twentieth century is the playground, the virtual playground, of these passengers. Our main hero, our narrator, is Jacob Brewer. The time machine is his job--maintaining and overseeing its functionality its use. He has many assistants that help him out as well.

A group of five or six individuals who are "experts" in playing this virtual reality game and fixing any technological hiccups when they occur. And they do begin to occur more frequently throughout the novel. I'm not going to say too much more. If I do, it might color your expectations one way or the other. I certainly approached it like it would be an episode of Star Trek where the holodeck would malfunction. And on the surface, it's a fair comparison. But it is so much more than that. It borders closer to the Twilight Zone and The Matrix.

I picked up the Twilight Zone vibes fairly early. And since I love The Twilight Zone, it was a pleasurable experience. I didn't pick up the Matrix vibes until after I finished it. Then again, I've only watched that trilogy once. And it's not something I think about often.

Joe Haldeman - Old Twentieth

I honestly can't remember what happens in the third movie at the end. This is a novel that is in a way deliciously creepy and freaky. It's world is one that is nice to visit for the duration of the book, but that you'd never want to live in yourself! First sentence of prologue: The smell of death is always with you, like a rotten oily stain in the back of your mouth.

Rum won't burn it out and a cheap cigar won't cover it. An unwelcome condiment with every mouthful of rations. First sentence of chapter one: My family has a tradition, going back to the nineteenth century, that whenever a child was born only a male child, originally , the father would buy a case of promising wine of that year's vintage. Joe Haldeman's official site. His bibliography--which is looking like it might just as well be titled Becky's TBR pile--can be found here. Jul 16, Miguel Tolda rated it it was ok. I stopped reading the book halfway because I really did not enjoy the story and there was very little suspense only one death related to the time machine.

The main character is extremely boring and the author seems to enjoy writing more about the details of for example the battle of Gallipoli or New York before the Great Depression than about a character-driven and story-driven narrative. May 13, Zeke rated it really liked it.

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