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David Gerrold – The man who folded himselfTime Travel, Sex, and philosophical questions... The Man who folded himself has been described as the ‘ultimate time travel novel’. It was written by David Gerrold, an award-decorated writer (including the excellent Star Trek Episode ‘The Trouble with Tribbles’). It's a fascinating treaty on time travel, resolving the Time Travel Paradox, and asking questions about having sex with yourself. No, really.

The story begins with Dan telling us about his Uncle Jim, who brought him up, and who pays for his upkeep during University, and what Jim is trying to teach him about Life, and Money. And then Uncle Jim dies suddenly, leaving him – instead of the 143 Millions he talked about -  a belt and a manuscript. Now, things are rarely as they seem… the belt is a timebelt, ie a belt that can move you through time, and the manuscript has its interesting points, too.
So Dan reads at least part of the operating instructions on the belt (he’s an unusual lad, isn’t he?) and sets off in time, jumping one day ahead into the future. Where he meets himself. Which comes as a bit of a shock…
When they go out to the races together (with tomorrow’s paper, natch) they call themselves Dan and Don, and claim to be twins. And during the story there’s more of them, sorry, him. Dan, and Don, and Danny, and… all the same person. Or are they?

The story is chock-full of interesting concepts and ideas – it starts with the classic time machine (a belt in this case) where you set the date and time, and off you go. And then you meet yourself. Or not, not really. It’s a different you.
Or where you can go back, and talk yourself out of something stupid you’ve done (don’t win all the races…), and thus change your past, and your present, and your future. Or do you?
Gerrold’s answer is no, you don’t. It’s a different past, a different present, a different future. Each time you go back, each time you change something, the time lines split, and you create a new universe that’s running differently. Think EWG (Everett-Wheeler-Graham – go look it up!), but not for Quantum mechanics, but for time travel interference instead. This, whilst providing for a huge array of permutations and philosophical question, neatly solves the time travel paradox (hey, Hard SF! er...). You can go back and kill your father, and engineer yourself out of the time line. It’s just not your time line you do it to. But there’s more to it, of course…
There are also other interesting concepts and questions – if you fall in love with yourself, and have sex – does this mean you’re gay? Is having sex with yourself just another form of masturbation? Or, if you father/mother a child with a male/female variant of yourself, what does this do to your family relations? Does it make you your own father, especially if you bring the child up calling yourself ‘Uncle Jim’ instead of Dan?

So, the book is Danny's diary, which he gives to himself, sorry, his son, as Uncle Jim. No, don’t be confused, that’s an easy one… the story will rack your brain with much more complex loops. A time line on a Moebius strip, basically.
This has been dubbed ‘the ultimate book on time travel’. I might well be, but either way it’s interesting, logically consistenet as far as I could tell, and was (at least partially) written out of frustration over all the bad and illogical time travel stories out there.

David Gerrold has written a number of stories and books on very different topics. He’s received awards for his TV scripts (ie ‘The Trouble with Tribbles’ on Star Trek) and for some of his books. ‘The man who folded himself’ was nominated for the Nebula and the Hugo award (the latter against Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow and the winner that year, AC Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama). It’s a great introduction to this very special writer – or try ‘Chess with a Dragon’ if you want something a bit lighter, and even more entertaining.

So, why should you read the book? It’s interesting, entertaining, and quite intense on philosophical questions and introspection of the main character (who is, one way or another, nearly every character in the story). And it’s got sex in it, of course… ;-)

More David Gerrold

 


Title: The Man who Folded Himself
Author: David Gerrold
Reviewer: Markus
Reviewer URL: http://skating.thierstein.net
Publisher:  Bantam Spectra
Publication Date: April 2001
Review Date: January 27 2006
ISBN: 0553290061
Price: £3.5
Pages: 165
Format: Paperback
Topic: SF
Topic: Time Travel

 

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