Review of The Hemingway Hoax by Joe Haldeman

SFFaudio Review

The Hemingway Hoax by Joe HaldemanThe Hemingway Hoax
By Joe Haldeman; Read by Eric Michael Summerer
Audible Download – 4 Hours 31 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audible Frontiers
Published: April 2008
Themes: / Science Fiction / Earnest Hemingway / Time Travel / Alternate Universe / Parallel Worlds /
The hoax proposed to John Baird by a two-bit con man in a seedy Key West bar was shady but potentially profitable. With little left to lose, the struggling, middle-aged Hemingway scholar agreed to forge a manuscript and pass it off as Papa’s lost masterpiece. But Baird never realized his actions would shatter the history of his own Earth – and others. And now the unsuspecting academic is trapped out of time – propelled through a series of grim parallel worlds and pursued by an interdimensional hitman with a literary license to kill.

This here is our first review of an Audible Frontiers title, Audible Frontiers is a new imprint of Audible.com, bringing hard to find and never before recorded SF audiobooks to their website and iTunes exclusively. The Hemingway Hoax is a strong beginning too, this is a Hugo and Nebula Award winning novella/short novel that interweaves historical fact and SF elements into an exotic elixir not unlike absinthe. In very real literary history, 1921 Paris to be precise, Earnest Hemingway’s wife lost a bag containing all the manuscripts and carbon copies for Hemingway’s first novel and several short stories. Seventy-five years later, in a 1996 Key West storyland, a Hemingway scholar named John Baird meets a conman named Castle who wants Baird to forge copies of Hemingway’s “lost” manuscripts. With his younger wife all for it, and with some major interest in the logistics of the project himself, Baird sets out to commit the fraud only to find himself face to face with an ethereal version of Hemingway himself! This being, who turns out to be from outside of time – or wherever, tells Baird that he ‘must not perpetrate the hoax, upon pain of death.’ But even the threat of death, and death itself won’t stop Baird, as the Hemingway Hoax is on!

I can see why this tale won a Hugo, this has all the Haldeman touches, intelligent and literate fiction, easy humor and good storytelling. Time travel and parallel worlds are about the oldest tropes of SF, but Haldeman staked out some ground in both domains, and they pay-off. I’ve read a few Hemingway stories, and the pastiche that appears here and there in the novella sound just like Hemingway to me. This, coupled with the candid BONUS AUDIO of Joe Haldeman talking about the inspiration for the novel that precedes the audiobook proper makes The Hemingway Hoax definitely worth checking out. Baird is a stand-in for Haldeman, both are professors of literature at New England universities, both served in Vietnam, both are intrigued by Hemingway and his lost papers. This makes for the most Philip K. Dickian Haldeman tale I’ve ever read. In terms of the production itself, this is a straight reading, with some light music added over the opening sentences and the final paragraphs. Other than a couple of very minor pronunciation errors Eric Michael Summerer (a new voice in audiobooks) narrated beautifully. He voiced five major characters, three male and two female, and they all sounded naturalistic and different. Audible Frontiers should use Eric Michael Summerer again.

Update (here are the illustrations from the publication is Asimov’s):
Asimov's 1990-04 - Cover illustration by Wayne Barlowe
Asimov's 1990-04 - interior illustration by Terry Lee
Asimov's 1990-04 - interior illustration by Terry Lee
Asimov's 1990-04 - interior illustration by Terry Lee

Posted by Jesse Willis

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