I have read almost everything Joe Haldeman has written. As I have mentioned before, I was lucky enough to have him as a professor for the classes Writing Science Fiction and Genre Fiction Workshop at MIT.
Well, I had read almost everything. The Hemingway Hoax is a novella, which is why I hadn’t gotten around to reading it. Plus, I thought the story would be about Hemingway, and I wasn’t all that interested in reading a story about Hemingway. Still, Joe wrote the story, which means it had to be good, so I gave it go.
What a fast read. True, it’s a novella, but Joe’s writing is simple, crisp and clean. Whenever I read his stories I am reminded of the classic science fiction writers like Heinlein and Asimov who got their point across without too much fluff. Raymond Carver was the same way. They could write powerful sentences with one or two brushstrokes.
John Baird had not expected to be killed.
The accepted academic penalty for literary forgery is academic disgrace. Which was why Hemingway scholar Baird, tempted by looming financial disaster and a plausible conman, had not anticipated death at the hands of an interdimensional literary critic. Still less had he been prepared to be pursued and killed through alternative world after alternative world.
The Hemingway Hoax is about Hemingway, but there is much more to the story: time travel, interdimensional travel, beautiful women, and a main character who experiences different possible realities for his life, remembering each and everyone one of them from one reality to the next.
I could see some of Joe in John Baird, and at the end of the novella Joe even admits that one of the incarnations of John Baird is based on himself, but personally I think that Joe is in every incarnation of John Baird.
If I have one criticism, it’s the ending. The story ended in such a way that I had to re-read it a few times in order to understand what had happened, and I become annoyed when I have to do that, especially when the rest of the story has been so engaging. I won’t ding Joe for that because it could just be me being daft. After all, this novella won the Hugo and Nebula awards for best novella.
Still, a good, fast, short read. Haldeman’s writing always whisks me along while spinning a good yarn. That’s why I like to read his stories.
If you are going to give Haldeman a try, and I recommend that you do, read The Forever War. It’s a novel, but it’s short, to the point, and deals with a topic most science fiction writers can’t penetrate. War. Joe experienced the Vietnam War, and the grittiness comes through in The Forever War.