He Read It Sober.

Trust us. We won't let this happen to you.






World War: 

In the 







Read it!



__  __  __  __  __  __  __  __  __  __  __  __  __  __  __  __  __

"What would you have us do?" Straha said. "Boost for home, having accomplished nothing?"

"It is within the Fleetlord's power." Kirel said stubbornly.

He was right; abandoning the invasion was within Atvar's power. No censure would fall on him if he started back -- no official censure. But instead of being remembered as Atvar World-conqueror, an epitaph only two in the history of the Race had borne before him, he would go down in the annals as Atvar the World-fleer, the title he would be the first to assume, but hardly craved.

His the responsibility. In the end, his choice was no choice. "The awakening and the orientation of the troops has proceeded satisfactorily?" he asked the shiplords. He did not need to hear the hisses of assent to know the answer to his question; he had been following computer reports since before the fleet took up orbit around Tosev-3. The Emperor's weapons and warriors were ready.

 "We proceed." he said.

__  __  __  __  __  __  __  __  __  __  __  __  __  __  __  __  __

In the service of their sovereign emperor, the saurian extra-terrestrials known as the Race (-- picture the gecko from the Geico commercials, only four foot tall, capable of interstellar travel, heavily armed and belligerent --) have managed to conquer and colonize two other worlds. And now they've set their sights on a third: Tosev-3 -- better known to you and I as good old mother Earth. After their deep space probes return, showing them pictures of Earth during the middle ages, meaning crude metal swords and arrows is the best opposition the "Tosevites" can muster, an invasion fleet was prepared for the expected cake-walk over these primitive primates. Then, in the intergalactic task-force's wake, after the Tosevites have been properly subjugated, a colonization fleet will arrive to bring these warm-blooded savages and the spoils of Tosev-3 into the service of the Empire ... The trip from their home world will take several centuries, hardly a blink of the turreted-eye to the Race, and after the invaders are cryogenically frozen for the duration of the trip, the fleet embarks on their galactic journey. But when the invaders finally reach our galaxy and the lizards thaw out, they are shocked to discover the native savages have evolved quite a bit -- and the entire planet of Tosev-3 appears to be engulfed in clan war that the locals refer to as World War II.

Even though the "Big Uglies"  technology has advanced farther and faster than the Race can believe possible, it still pales in comparison to their own weapons (-- basically aside from the space travel, the alien weapons are slightly more advanced than what we have now in 2004. No lasers; just smart bombs and heavy armor.) So despite these developments, concerns over limited supplies and support are pushed aside as Atvar, the alien's supreme commander, orders the invasion to commence.

Needless to say, all HELL is about to break loose...

Author Harry Turtledove is considered by some to be the master of alternative fiction. That is science fiction based on past events, but with a few changes or tweaks, here and there, the world becomes a completely different -- yet strangely familiar, place than what it was destined to become. 

In The Two Georges, the American Revolution never happened. In Ruled Britannia, the Spanish Fleet was victorious, bringing England under Spanish control. In the Southern Victory series (-- that doesn't include his most famous book, Guns of the South, where the south wins thanks to a stash of AK-47s), the Confederacy is victorious, throwing all kinds of wrinkles into future historical events. In the Worlds at War series, the second World War is fought with sorcery. You get the idea ... Here, in the Worldwar series, he postulates on what would happen if aliens invaded during World War II. 

When the alien poop hits the fan early in 1942, Pearl Harbor has been bombed but America was just in the process of mobilizing and retooling for war; Hitler's plan to invade Russia was grinding to a halt; and the Japanese had free reign in the Pacific and were running amok in China. Initially, the fight goes well for the Race, as their weapons -- including tactical nukes, quickly gives them complete air supremacy, but the aliens are surprised when the Tosevites don't surrender in the face of such overwhelming odds. This and other kinds of Tosevite behavior confounds the Race: How could they have advanced so quickly? It took their own kind eons to advance as far as their enemy did in such a short time. And as their Science Division gets busy collecting human specimens -- to see what makes these Big Uglies tick, this leads to several hilarious scenes of the Race being first appalled, then addicted, to watching Earthlings having sex.

Terrestrially, an uneasy truce between the Axis and the Allies is agreed upon until the alien threat is dealt with. And that is the most intriguing point brought out by this book: at the time of the invasion, Earth's best hope for victory lies with the German Wermacht. The Race realizes this, too, and promptly uses one of their nukes to obliterate Berlin. (This option is limited, as they don't like to overuse the atomics because they want something left to colonize when the colonization fleet arrives.) This act is cheered in some sectors, where the alien invaders are viewed as liberators. In Warsaw, Poland, the oppressed Jewish population concentrated there actually join the "Lizards" to drive the Nazis out. But they quickly realize that the Lizards are even worse occupiers when they drop another bomb on Washington DC.

As the fight rages on, with no end in sight, the Race's limited material is quickly running out. Their weapons are superior, but their tactics are miserable and methodical to a fault. And these Earthlings learn quick and exploit every advantage ... And I actually caught myself cheering for the Germans on several occasions, and then found myself feeling a little guilty for it. Using huge railway cannons, the Wermacht score Earth's first victory by shelling an alien stronghold -- and a lucky shot takes out a cache of atomic bombs, spreading radioactive material all over the countryside that is invaluable to several burgeoning terrestrial attempts at atomic fission. Then the first book ends with several story threads still hanging for the reader: the scientists working on the Manhattan Project are forced to flee the besieged city of Chicago; we're still tracking several recovered pieces of plutonium that are being smuggled out of alien occupied territory; the Race are confronting the growing problem of a narcotic addiction to the spice ginger; and General Patton uses the inclement winter weather and a new weapon -- the bazooka, to kick a little alien ass and soon has the lizards on the run in southern Illinois.

Now, there are a lot of people to keep track of in Worldwar: In the Balance, so a scorecard is probably in order to keep everyone straight as the events are translated to us from the perspectives of over a dozen characters from all over the world; and several characters will be familiar to you if you were paying attention in history class. For the humans, we have a Chinese peasant, a female Russian pilot, a German tank crew, several American scientists and a trio of baseball players (-- one captured, one fighting on the front, the other guarding alien POWs), a British Bomber crew, and a Jewish dissident -- who unwittingly becomes the voice of the alien invaders before realizing his mistake and rebelling. For the Race, we have Atvar, Teerts -- who is a POW in Japanese hands, and Ussmak -- a tank driver, who is under the influence of ginger and will do anything to get more. It will take some suspension of disbelief to swallow the fact that a lot of these characters somehow manage to keep bumping into each other, and whose resulting actions then have such a direct and dramatic ramifications on each and everyone else. Sometimes these dominos line up a little too neatly and conveniently, but I guess they don't call it science-fiction for nothing.

Turtledove does have some intriguing ideas here, and he does explain away most of the plot-holes satisfactorily. But my biggest beef with him, in all of his writing, is whenever he expresses an idea or plot-point, he then proceeds to repeat and belabor that notion again and again ... and again and again and again ... When Turtledove takes every opportunity to remind us that the alien's development was a slow and steady process, taking several thousand years, it brings the book to a screeching halt on several occasions. It was friggin' obvious six chapters ago; it's friggin' obvious now. We get it. Move on ... I swear, if an editor went through and removed even half of these instances, the book would be reduced by almost 150 pages. 

Worldwar: In The Balance is the first in a series of four books, chronicling Earth's efforts to repel the invaders, that's followed by three more installments detailing the arrival of the colonization fleet. (So I guess we kinda know who won already. Well that's kind of depressing...) Each tome reaches a staggering 600+ pages. And yes, some of those pages and chapters can be repetitive, plodding, and the author can be annoyingly cloy sometimes -- shoehorning real historical figures into situations rather clumsily. But when it cooks, it cooks with gas ... I love the combat scenes, but the political and social aspects can be a lot to trudge through. I say that as warning if you pick this up on a whim, and are expecting something more along the lines of War of the Worlds or Starship Troopers. Reading the book is a lot like sitting through history class: You've got to sit through a lot of boring and stale stuff about Tea Pot Dome Scandals to get to the more interesting parts. 

So it's a lot to slog through but I'll still recommend it, and I'm intrigued enough to read the second book. Can I sustain it for all four? That's quite a commitment and remains to be seen.

Originally Posted: 04/05/04 :: Rehashed: 05/20/09

Knuckled-out by Chad Plambeck: misspeller of words, butcher of all things grammatical, and king of the run on sentence. Copy and paste at your own legal risk. Questions? Comments? Shoot us an e-mail.
How our Rating System works. Our Philosophy.