by Harry Turtledove
Review by Drew Bittner
Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 034545846X
Date: 28 December, 2004 List Price $26.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
In the middle of World War II, aliens invaded the Earth. This is the basic premise of Harry Turtledove?s Worldwar novels, which follow the way history changes to accommodate these unforeseen intruders.
After decades of uneasy coexistence, the United States has finally done what the alien Race have feared: they have built a starship of their own and are on their way to the Race?s homeworld. The Admiral Peary leaves the solar system with an unlikely crew?including the legendary Sam Yeager, restored to life after decades in suspended animation?for a journey whose very success may spell the destruction of Earth.
As the story unfolds, the stakes are made very clear. Humanity was not a threat while we were limited to our own local space. But now that astronauts are able to reach Home (and, presumably, the other two worlds subjugated by the Race), humanity has become an intolerable threat. The Race, particularly Fleetlord Atvar (recalled from Earth under a cloud for his failure to properly conquer the planet), grapple with these issues while the Peary?s crew explores Home? and finds that being an alien visitor is never easy.
There are plenty of human issues to handle as well. Karen Yeager, Sam?s daughter-in-law, must cope with jealousy. Kassquit, a human female raised among the Race, was once intimate with her husband, Jonathan. She fears that old acquaintances may be renewed in an unfortunate way. Meanwhile, stowaway astronaut Glen Johnson baits the pugnacious General Healey and trades quips with fellow astronaut Mickey Flynn, while continuing to hide the fact that his presence among them was not accidental. Healey maneuvers him into a deadly bind, when ginger smuggling to Home threatens to become a flashpoint for interspecies war.
Turtledove does his customary masterful job of weaving several personal narratives and perspectives into the broader tapestry of the story. However, this novel finds the horizons a bit constrained, as he is working almost entirely within the confines of the starship and the alien world of the Race. The humans share most of their experiences halfway into the book, and some incidents?such as waking from suspended animation?are repeated with little variation more than once.
The story is a logical endpoint to the Worldwar series, as this takes the story well into the future. We do not see Earth past the present year, though news from that variant future-Earth arrives and describes some of the strange happenings on Earth. Almost all of Turtledove?s characters from the first novels are long dead and those who are not are keenly aware that they are living anachronisms. It is a worthy tale and those who have followed the story thus far will be well rewarded by this peek at an alien world? and a reminder that being an alien is all a matter of perspective.