Alex Hiatt's Reviews > The Man Who Folded Himself

The Man Who Folded Himself by David Gerrold
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Dec 25, 2009

it was amazing
Recommended to Alex by: John Cartan
Recommended for: Everyone (Anyone)
Read in December, 2009

Gerrold's The Man Who Folded Himself is really the first time-travel story I've read. (Except for A Sound of Thunder of course, which now seems extraordinarily tepid by comparison.) That I rate it so highly may follow from this fact. I'm sure others who are more familiar with time-travel literature will find themes and situations they've already come across. But the content is mostly all fresh to me. I didn't quite relish the writing style; at least it read quick and smooth, that's something I suppose. Nonetheless, this is a book I would proudly exhibit as a case of substance significantly overshadowing style.

It's the melancholy of the characters (or just character) and their (his/her) situation that got to me, and turned out something special and powerful. While it doesn't seem to begin very promisingly (longing young man finds a "Timebelt" and goes hog-wild), the predicament he corners himself into is unexpected and ultimately tragic. The story turns on its head the idea of time-travel as free license for unlimited adventure, as a host of problems - egotistical, cultural, sexual, and temporal ones - snowball and ruin his fun. Before the story comes to its maybe-logical conclusion he explores the logic of the system he stumbled into, ponders problems of the ego (who are you in a world of infinite yous?) and free will, and eventually finds a comfortable place in a recurring spiral of infinite universes he helped to create.

If I have a single complaint about the book (besides the unspectacular prose), it is that it may be too short. This feeling seems to echo others' I've come across. The book touches on some incredible questions and some interesting philosophy, but despite this - and the fact that it wraps itself up very satisfactorily - it could have been longer and deeper. Of course, this could just be that had it been longer I would have continued enjoying it longer; not that it necessarily needed to be longer. So this may not actually be a complaint?

This is one of the most textured science fiction books I've read and I look forward to returning to it again. Very highly recommended for anyone whose thought about exploring the time-travel sub-genre of science fiction. It's certainly intrigued me into exploring the topic more.
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