Thursday, May 5, 2011

Worldwar: In the Balance by Harry S. Turtledove

In the Balance: An Alternate History of the Second World War (Worldwar, Volume 1)
Quite a while back, I purchased and read Turtledove's The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump, which I really enjoyed. I've kept an eye out ever since for another book in the same venue, but haven't run across one. What I have seen from him, however, is a ton of alternate history novels, in various series. I'm not a huge fan of alternate history, with the notable exceptions being Stirling's Drakon series, and Frankowski's Conrad books (more of a Connecticut Yankee thing, actually), so I haven't ever read any of them.

Well, any port in a drought, so to speak. The pickings were slim at the library last week, so I figured I'd try one. Worldwar is a tale of alien invasion, set in the middle of World War II. A lizard-like race of alien invaders shows up, figuring the internal division of Earth's population will make them easy pickings. Actually, they miscalculated from the start, as their most recent probes showed earth natives at the spear and club level of weaponry.

While the alien invasion doesn't totally eliminate all of the Axis' and Allies' opposition towards one another (they all appear to be planning to turn upon one another as soon as the lizards are defeated), most of the nations on Earth quickly turn the bulk of their energies to fighting the invaders. Ok, as far as alternate history mingling with the alien invasion meme is concerned, this is a reasonably amusing read, but there's basically no new ideas, no new plot devices, no new anything. It's merely a way to kill some time without destroying brain cells.

I think I've mentioned before how much I dislike multiple POV books. This is probably the most extreme MPOV novel I've ever read. However, given the premise, it's the only real way to handle things in a novel of this scope. The novel follows the fortunes of several minor league ball players in the US who get "drafted" to fight the aliens, and end up in widely varied locations. There are Jewish victims of Nazi oppression and abuse, Polish freedom fighters, a Soviet pilot and foreign secretary, a couple of German panzer crewmen, British radar operators, Chinese villagers, American scientists and even lizard POWs whose stories get told.
Call me a fool, but I enjoyed this one just enough to pick up the next in the series, Tilting the Balance. Of course, it was another lean day at the library.

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