Camouflage by Joe Haldeman
mass market paperback, 289 pages
Unknown to anyone, two creatures have wandered the Earth for generations. The aliens have no knowledge of each other: but share a residual memory of a mysterious sunken relic - and an affinity for deep water. One, the changeling, has survived by adaptation, taking the shapes of many different organisms. The other, the chameleon, has survived soley by destroying anything or anyone that threatens it.Now, finally brought up from the bottom of the sea by marine biologist Russell Sutton, the relic calls to them both... to come home. For all these generations there have been two invincible creatures on Earth. But the chameleon has decided there's only room for one.
Camouflage follows three storylines, that of two alien shape shifters and the mystery of a metal artifact bought up from the ocean floor. The story explores what it means to be human, although this is sometimes done in disturbing ways. It is basically a very entertaining and successful novel - until the end, at which point I found it incredulous, unbelievable, and abrupt in comparison to the rest of the story. It is a Nebula Award winner. I'm torn on the rating for this one because of the ending but I'm not going to spoil it and tell you what bothers me. Recommended
The monster came from a swarm of stars that humans call Messier 22, a globular cluster ten thousand light-years distant. opening
A million years before the monster's man is born and its story begins, one such vessel splashes into the Pacific Ocean. It goes deep, following an instinct to hide. the creature that it carried to Earth emerges, assesses the situation, and becomes something appropriate for survival. pg. 2
"The trench is seven miles deep there. The artifact is under another forty feet of sand."
He nodded. "A quarter of a million years ago."
Russ stared at him for a long moment. "Didn't I read about this in an old Stephen King novel?" pg. 6
"We tried to get a sample of the metal for analysis. It broke every drill bit we tried on it."
"It's harder than diamond. And massive. We can't estimate its density, because we haven't been able to budge it, let alone lift it." pg. 7
It walked down the beach toward the lights of San Guillermo, a strapping handsome young man, duplicated down to the fingerprints, a process that had taken no thought, but an hour and a half of agony.
But it couldn't speak any human language and its bathing suit was on backward. It walked with a rolling sailor's gait: except for the one it had just killed, every man it had seen for the past century had been walking on board a ship or boat." pg. 10
...he didn't like this boy, and for some reason was afraid of him. Maybe it was his psychiatric residency in the penal system - maybe he was projecting from that unsettling time. But he always felt Jimmy was studying him intently, the way the intelligent prisoners had: what can I get out of this man?
A better psychiatrist might have noticed that the changeling treated everyone that way. pg. 20