Worldwar Saga

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Worldwar: In the Balance by Harry Turtledove

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World War II is raging across the world when the unthinkable happens.  Earth is invaded by reptilian aliens bent on the total conquest and eventual colonization of earth.  The aliens possess technology equivalent to Earth in the 1990's (computers, jet planes, radar, guided missiles, atomic weapons, etc.).  How can the warring countries of 1943 cope with such a threat?  Unlikely alliances must be formed for the good of humanity.  Jews and Russians must fight alongside Nazis.  Japan may have to cooperate with America.  But can the world powers put aside their differences to combat this threat from beyond the stars?  The battles rage from the steppes of Russia to the suburbs of Chicago.  Berlin and Washington are quickly annihilated by atomic bombs, but the aliens do not wish to continue using atomic weapons for fear of making the land unusable by their colonization forces.  After suffering humiliating defeats early on, the humans begin to adapt and win some battles against the aliens.  But will they be able to stop the aliens for good?  Only time will tell...

A well-written novel in typical Turtledove style.  Turtledove carries on various plot lines around the globe and switches back and forth between them seamlessly.  The author avoids the temptation of focusing mainly on world leaders and instead has the story unfold through the eyes of common people (civilians and soldiers) who are caught up in the horror of the war.  He does blend in enough real historical figures (George Patton defending Chicago, Enrico Fermi and his team attempting to develop the atomic bomb, Adolf Hitler) to give the story a very realistic feel.

Although the aliens possess technologically superior weapons, Turtledove endows them with other weaknesses that allow the human race a fighting chance to defeat them.  The human beings must race to capture and understand the alien technology quickly enough to emulate it and produce effective weapons of their own.  The aliens need to refine their understanding of human behavior, which is vastly different from their own, and adapt their military campaign accordingly.

This book got me hooked.  I'm ready to forge ahead to the next volume to see how this war turns out!

Reviewed by: Alan

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Worldwar: Tilting the Balance by Harry Turtledove

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The war for control of the Earth rages on. Despite heavy losses early on, the people of Earth manage to hang on and keep producing war materials to fight the lizard-like invaders.  By turning out more advanced weaponry, such as better tanks and bazookas (anti-tank missiles), the alien invaders begin to suffer heavy losses in some parts of the globe.  The lizards are stretched thin, trying to occupy the entire world at once and, as more of the lizards fall under the addiction of ginger, their performance suffers accordingly.  And, since the lizards hate cold weather, a brutal winter helps the Americans, Germans and Russians to beat the lizards back.

But as summer approaches, the lizards begin to learn from their mistakes and the tide of the war turns against the human beings once again. The lizards renew their advance from the central plains of the US toward Chicago.  They begin to push out of southern France towards Germany.  And finally, they mount a massive campaign against Russia and press on toward Moscow.  Meanwhile, humanity is feverishly studying captured lizard equipment in an attempt to advance the state of our weaponry.  Germany, Russia, Japan and the US are rushing to accelerate their nuclear weapons programs.  Many see nuclear weapons as the only hope of saving the human race from perpetual slavery.  However, if we are successful in producing atomic weapons and using them against the lizards, we may touch off a global nuclear war that will leave the Earth uninhabitable.

Turtledove moves the story along at an adequate pace in this volume. He manages to give the lizards enough weaknesses (inability to manufacture their equipment on earth, limited manpower and munitions) to give mankind a fighting chance.  However, it still looks very much like the lizards may win this war.  An element of these novels that I found surprising is the inclusion of sex scenes (fairly subtle and well handled). I have not encountered many sex scenes in other science fiction novels I have read.  Turtledove seems to be under the impression that due to the stresses of a war of this magnitude, people will be more willing to hit the sheets with each other.  Iím not sure I agree with this viewpoint, but it makes for some interesting diversions in the story.

Hopefully, we can start cranking out some atomic weapons in volume three and give those lizards a good thrashing!

Reviewed by: Alan

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Worldwar: Upsetting the Balance by Harry Turtledove

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The war against the lizard invaders seesaws back and forth as both sides gain fleeting advantages. When the lizards find out that the Japanese have their atomic research program in Tokyo, the city quickly disappears under a mushroom cloud.

Faced with dwindling supplies and tired of poor progress against the Germans and Russians, the lizards shift some forces out of central Europe and invade Britain. Staggering under heavy losses, the British are forced to unleash weapons not seen since World War II that prove particularly destructive against the lizards.

While Stalin threatens his scientists with death if they do not produce more atomic weapons, Germany struggles to rebuild its research program after the catastrophic failure of its first atomic pile. In Denver, the US physicists, led by Enrico Fermi, try to advance the US program to a point where it will also produce nuclear bombs. However, if the humans start using nuclear weapons, the lizards will surely retaliate. Will there be anything left for either side to rule or will the Earth become a glowing, lifeless cinder?

The beginning and end of this book are fairly exciting (like the first two volumes), but the middle bogs down and drags a bit. Turtledove also shortens his scenes in this volume which means the action switches around more rapidly from place to place. I found this a bit annoying.

Turtledove adequately explores the dilemma facing both sides regarding the wholesale use of atomic weapons. But, while the lizards are hesitant to use atomic weapons for fear of making the planet uninhabitable by their colonization force (due in 20 years), the humans see atomic weapons as their only possible hope of driving the lizards off of Earth. Is it better to risk wiping mankind from the face of the Earth or to have the human race exist as slaves to the alien invaders? This is a question I am glad I do not have to answer.

I expect the atomic bombs to be falling fast and furious in Volume 4!

Reviewed by: Alan

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Worldwar: Striking the Balance by Harry Turtledove

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In 1942, as World War II raged on, intelligent lizard-like aliens from beyond the stars unexpectedly invaded the earth. Suddenly, the focus of all human beings was shifted towards repelling the alien invaders with their vastly superior technology. But can the resourceful humans overcome the staggering weapons of destruction that the aliens possess? This question will finally be answered in this, the final volume of the Worldwar series.

The human race is making some progress fighting off the lizards. Germany, Russia and the United States are all producing nuclear weapons. But each time the human race deploys a nuclear bomb, the lizards retaliate in kind. If this keeps up, there may not be any habitable land left on the surface of the Earth for man or lizard.

Fortunately for mankind, the lizards are running out of precious materials that they are unable to reproduce on Earth due to mankindís primitive technology. Also, ginger addiction and low morale among the lizards is taking its toll on their armed forces. Some lizards are even defecting.

Despite this, the lizards are still enjoying military advances in some corners of the globe. And the entire world economy has been disrupted by the invasion of the lizards. Feeding mankind is becoming a major task in the face of global warfare with the lizards. The technology of mankind has been set back about 50 years since we are unable to maintain electric power and refine enough oil to meet our energy needs. The world is becoming a very unpleasant and inconvenient place to live.

The leaders on both sides finally begin to realize that peace may be the only answer. But can the various factions of mankind put aside their differences long enough to develop a united front and make peace with the would-be alien conquerors? If they canít, the Earth may become a radioactive ball of dust unable to support lifeÖ human or lizard!

Turtledove follows the formula of his previous three novels in drawing a conclusion to the human-lizard conflict. The story jumps around to different characters in different places around the globe. I found the German characters (especially the SS officers) to be the most interesting, although the former baseball players in the US were also fun to follow. Turtledove paints a frightening picture of a world gone mad. The superpowers, even in the face of overwhelming odds from truly alien invaders, are still unable to put aside their petty grievances and band together to save mankind. It all seems very plausible, from Hitler continuing his campaign against the Jews to Stalin plotting the downfall of the decadent West. Although we all probably prefer to think of mankind banding together to stop an alien invasion, as in the movie Independence Day, I believe Turtledoveís vision is the more likely scenario.

Of course, mankind has only been dealing with the invasion fleet. If they manage to make peace with the lizards, in 18 short years the colonization fleet will be arriving with about 60 million lizard colonists. So be sure to read the Colonization series (first two books are currently out) to find out how we handle the colonization fleet in the 1960ís! It must be easier to handle than the Vietnam War, free love and LSD (ha, ha).

Reviewed by: Alan

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