Harry Turtledove – Worldwar Series (1994-1996)
Note: This review covers all four Worldwar books. It does not cover the Colonization series (which is essentially their sequel) because I am not done reading those books yet. In reading this, I noticed that I was kind of on a World War II binge… and yet I still can’t get into Hearts of Iron. Funny how life is.
So in comparison to Stuart Slade’s relatively grounded (if fairly brutal) The Big One, Harry Turtledove alters WW2 by adding in an alien invasion of Earth that forces the various belligerents to put aside their differences as the covers of the books indicate. The “Lizards”, as humans call them, appear to have military technology not particularly more advanced than what’s available in 2014, but it’s enough to push the nations of Earth to the brink. However, the Lizards suffer greatly from the weaknesses of their social structure, which is hierarchical and conservative to the point of absurdity; much is made of the fact they waited 800 years from their initial appraisal to launch an invasion. Footfall by Larry Niven comes to mind; while I haven’t read it, it appears to be a fairly similar story of a mildly technologically superior alien race with dramatically different psychology.
Far from having a central protagonist, Worldwar reads like a series of intertwined novellas about dozens of characters all over the world, each with their own development arcs and various plot devices (things like nuclear bombs, optical lasers, and ginger). All of the various interactions help to make for a rich, detailed world… well, maybe not so rich after the Lizards disrupt human industry, but you get the point. Already by the end of the first book, affairs have become more complicated than initially thought, as even the Lizards are forced to invent new methods on the fly to deal with rapidly advancing human technology. The sheer amount of plotlines sometimes means you have to read for dozens of pages to get to the next part of a particular character’s narrative, but the text is engaging enough that this isn’t really an issue. I also find that at times, everyone’s musings about the ongoing war and its devastating effects gets heavy handed at expense of narrative development, but the characters in this series face all sorts of insane stressors that would have a bad effect on yours truly.
It could be because this hits so many of my interests, but I’m finding it very difficult to find any flaws in this series beyond minor nitpicks. If you like this genre, you’ll definitely enjoy the Worldwar series.