Worldwar: Striking the Balance
Harry Turtledove, © 1997
Random House, NY
I concluded Harry Turtledove’s Worldwar series this week, reading Striking the Balance. To recap, in May 1942 Earth was invaded by a race of short lizard-y aliens who call themselves “the Race”. The Race has maintained an empire for fifty thousand years, but their technological progress has been limited by virtue of their strong conservativeness. Consequently, even though their technology ability is far beyond that of 1940s eras humans, they are not so far removed that they can run over their foes. The Second World War ends as the various industrial powers rally together to fight the alien invader.
The Race did not come to Earth expecting industrialized societies. Their probes initially revealed a medieval world, and considering their own conservatism, they did not expect humanity to progress much in the eighteen years it took to ready an invasion fleet and army. Consequentely, they came to Earth with comparively low stores of ammunition and find themselves flummoxed by the ever-changing tactics of the industrial powers — who up the ante when their various nuclear programs achieve fruition.
The war becomes increasingly more desperate. The Lizards, reduced to rationing their weapons, must subjugate the planet in time for their colonization fleet, but even as they submit city after city to nuclear weapons, human resistance continues and even stiffens. On the human side, strained relationships between bitter enemies — Germans and Russians, Russians and Poles, Germans and Poles, Jews and damn near everyone — begin to unravel, especially in this book. Striking the Balance is less military in nature and more political than previous books. Hitler’s madness threatens humanity’s future, as the struggle versus the lizards cannot succeed without the technological prowess of Germany. The United States is nothing near the industrial powerhouse it became in real life, courtesy of the fact that the Lizards own large blocs of land and have destroyed much of the American infastructure. Fighting seems to wear down early on in the book, and most of it concerns political intrigue and the continual attempt by one German officer to prevent his country from destroying humanity’s hopes for survival — hopes that involve a ceasefire and a truce. I’d rather not spoil anything — but considering that this series continues with the Colonization series, you may safetly predict that even if the “War of the Worlds” is over, the conflict between humanity and the Lizards is far from over.
And so to end: how was the series? I agree with another reader who has commented on the series: it does grow a bit repetitive. It was quite interesting. There were three human characters in particular that I really enjoyed reading, and some of the alien characters were well-done as well. Turtledove repeated turns of phrase and characterizations in his so-called “Southern Victory” series as well. In that series, we were told again and again that Sam Carsen was fair-skinned and burnt easily. In this series, we were told again and again that Ludmila was a loyal child of the October Revolution, a devout atheist, that sort of thing. It grew tiresome.
I will probably read the Colonization series, but not immediately. I plowed through the last book in nearly a day, and so I’m a bit burnt on it.