Review of 'Old Twentieth'

Old Twentieth by Joe Haldeman

In the 21st century a process is discovered that effectively makes people immortal - Those that can afford it. For the rest a bitter world war ends with the release of a virus that kills all those that are not immortal leaving a fraction of the population left alive. Faced with, bar any unforseen accidents, infinite years ahead of them a decision is made to send a space ship to a distant star system for potential colonisation. It is on this ship that Jacob Brewer operates a virtual reality system that passengers use to relive a fascination with the 20th century – In many cases to have the experience of death that has now been denied them. Irregularities found in the experience lead Jacob to wonder if something odd is going on with the computer controlling them.

The story is told with alternating chapters in the “present day” and experiences from within the virtual reality suite. Often the story appears to plod along with Jacob's struggle to define what he wants in a long-term relationship seemingly an afterthought at personalising the experience. The end is not altogether a surprise but appears to be a convienient, quick and tidy way to finish off the story (as the end of the book loomed ever closer I was wondering how the significant story arcs would be resolved).

Haldeman, as a war veteran, acurately relates the war scenes that the passengers re-live on a regular basis. The story moves along quite quickly in this rather short novel and is quite well written. An interesting, if fairly light, read. Can't say I really got any grand conclusion at the end but the story does introduce some interesting conclusions: How would immortality effect personal relationships? How would it be seen by those still mortal? How would you entertain yourself when faced with an infinite life span? Though, to be honest, I am not sure it would be playing VR games, but, hey ho. What is the logical conclusion to the battle between those with and those without? Extermination? Hear it is treated in a rather prefunctary way…

Rating: “It is OK but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2011-03-20

Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Ace

Publication Date: 2005

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