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In the Balance - Harry Turtledove

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      31.05.2001 22:35
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      • "B O R I N G"

      I am a sucker for alternate history Sci-Fi which is why this book attracted my attention. It is the first in a trilogy covering an invasion of earth by a fleet of huge ships from a race of Lizard creatures. So far, so V. What makes this book singular is that it is set in W W II. The invasion by a vastly advanced race forces earth to halt the conflict and in some way unite to defeat a common foe. Now I am also a complete sucker for WW II related stuff, (which means I will go and see "Pearl Harbour" even though I KNOW it will be a pile of pants) and it was the prospect of spitfires and messerchmidts battling with saucers that grabbed me. I think that that war was the last human scale war, where technology had not advanced far enough to reduce human input in deciding a conflict. Human pilots and soldiers using basic technology to confront a far more advanced civilisation is an intruiging idea, one that is played with throughout this book. The Lizards are human size, walk upright like humans but think very differently. Their civilisation is a vast and old one. However things change at an extremely slow pace, far slower than the Human race. At the beginnning of the book the Lizards are expecting people on horseback, armed with swords and long-bows being the high-tech weapons of the day. They expect this because their information was based on reports that were only 500 years old. This is not enough time for them to imagine any change at all. They are expecting a walk-over and instead a very long trilogy covers what happens instead. The book covers a halting of their invasion plans, the first human efforts at fighting back and the perplexed aliens trying to adapt to fighting a culture that adapts and changes at in inconceivable speed. Their are many different threads in the story, told from many different characters viewpoints. It is also told from the viewpoint of the aliens. This is done very well without any recourse to
      Boo-Hiss demonization of a race that was only doing what Spain, England and Portugal were doing 500 years previously to other less developed cultures. The story strands include Germans, Jewish freedom fighters agonizing whether it is ok to join forces with the Nazis against a common foe, perplexed African vilagers, a butch USSR female fighter pilot and Tally-Ho chaps English pilots. The stereotyping is annoying and possibly insulting. The author cannot write human dialogue, he writes more believable Alien characters and when the story touches anything other than action or politics then it becomes stodgy beyond belief. I confess that I could not finish this book. The premise is a good one, and could make a good brainless blockbuster film, Independence Day didn't do too badly after all. In the hands of a more gifted writer this could have been a good single book. It may be that by trying to stretch the story over 3 books the narrative has suffered. If the central idea grabs you then read this, it may work with you. If you like alternate Histories then read P K Dicks "The man in the high castle" instead.


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    • Product Details

      Series: Worldwar / First in the Worldwar Series.

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