¼ In the Balance ¶ Download by ✓ Harry Turtledove This book sucked me in It was such a good idea and the opening of the book was done so well.
The idea behind this book is wonderful almost inspired view spoiler A race of extremely long lived aliens who received their last intelligence of the human race about the time humans were leaving what is called the bronze age arrive here expecting humans to be about as developed technologically as they had been at that time After all the reptilian invaders take thousands of years to move forwardwith their idea of time it s no big deal So when they arrive during World War II and find a relatively technological peoplealready at war and slugging the snot out of each other they re a bit, surprised It doesn t help as the humans turn their weapons on the invaders hide spoiler I found this book hard to get into, and never really forged any sort of attachment with it until the last 150 or so pages The characters seemed at times like devices to demonstrate ideas , for want of a better word, rather than robust, developed characters This is the nature of the book and, to some extent, the genre, however I probably didn t enjoy it as much as other people for this reason, the military aspects not really grabbing my attention, and the political interactions and aspects perhaps a bit too simplistic Despite having pushed myself to finish it, I have no real inclination to read the rest of the series I d like to follow up with Barbara and Jens Larsson, Liu Han and Bobby Fiore, but definitely wouldn t trawl through another book in order to do so Unfortunately the ending very much leads into the next book rather than allowing it to stand alone.
Harry Turtledove writes great outlines of stories Where he fails is filling a book with the meaty stuff that constitutes a compelling story He does it once again here Great idea for a story an alien invasion of Earth around the time of WWII After the aliens invade, the countries of the world must put aside their animosity toward each other and unify to throw back the alien threat I love it But Harry just doesn t give you enough to care about what happens All of the historical figures are cardboard cutouts of their historical persona None of the regular citizens of Earth are in any way interesting The aliens aren t even that interesting quite frankly There are some cool battle scenes but that s about it Pedestrian alternative history fiction Skip it.
Without a doubt the Second World War is one of the most influential and significant events to occur in the past hundred years The scope of this war was magnified and bigger than ever in every way in the countries involved, in the technology and tactics developed and deployed, and in the atrocities committed And so World War II has seared itself onto the collective consciousness of our species as something never to be forgotten It was a watershed time, and it acted as a catalyst for some of the most dramatic changes in our society Were it not for World War II, the twentieth century would have progressed differently but exactly how that might have happened isn t necessarily straightforward No doubt that s why World War II is such a powerful lure for authors of alternate history.
Alternate history, of course, is kind of Harry Turtledove s thing He s written enough of it and in sufficient quality to be called the Master of Alternate History by some critics Such titles do not get bestowed lightly Yet my own recent experience with Turtledove left me less than lukewarm I kept Worldwar on my list, though, because I have vague memories from when I was younger of reading another book about Lizard like aliens called the Race on Earth I suspect it was part of Turtledove s Colonization trilogy So I decided to go back to where the series begin World War II, 1941, with the Race arriving in orbit to make Earth the fourth world in its stultifying empire.
They find this a tad difficult, because their 800 year old intelligence is out of date They were expecting to be facing armoured knights, swords, maybe some extremely primitive forms of gunpowder based weaponry Unlike the Race, however, which thinks in terms of millennia and changes even slowly, humanity advances in fits and starts In 800 years we ve managed to get to the point where we are speculating about nuclear weapons And none of this bodes well for the Race s invasion fleet.
Turtledove tells his story through a large cast of characters from around the world First, props to Turtledove for including a Chinese character We spent a lot of time in World War II in Grade 10 history, and it was admittedly Canadian centric for a good reason But you know what I know almost nothing about China during World War II I knew that Japan invaded, but that was it So as someone who recognizes this gap in my knowledge but was a little too lazy to do anything than look it up on Wikipedia, I commend Turtledove for including this perspective, as limited as it might be.
Juggling so many characters can be challenging, both for the author and for the reader I kept wanting to follow some of the characters for longer periods of time and of course, there were a few I would be happy never to see again Also, with so many different characters, their voices start to sound the same I don t really question Turtledove s decision to include such a large cast it s about the only way he could cover so much territory but the price is a narrative that, at times, is very flat Combined with what I feel is a somewhat indulgent length, this means that Worldwar In the Balance is not necessarily a smooth read However, depending on your own tastes, there could be a few mitigating factors.
Firstly, of course, there s how much you re interested in World War II Turtledove had obviously done his research He provides a glimpse into the wartime operations along various fronts Britain, France, Russia, China, and the United States Even though the war itself gets put on hold to fight the alien threat, this is still a world where the war is happening, with all the attendant nationalistic impulses, cultural enmities, and political tensions Those are what make the temporary alliances between, say, Russia and Germany, so fascinating.
I have to confess I m not all that into World War II, either its history or its non history I recognize its significance as an event and will read the occasional book set during it, but it s not exactly a setting I seek out It s difficult to articulate my reasons for this, although I am sure it is partly the result of how meticulous true World War II fans are about their details I m not a details person when it comes to history I like the grand, sweeping, political intrigue of it all Give me a king marrying six women in succession, and we ll tango.
Secondly, Worldwar In the Balance is very much still a story of war, even if it s no longer the same war Instead of Allies versus Nazis, it s humans versus the Race I have to admit that I m rather disappointed with the armament the Race brought their technology seems only marginally superior to the stuff the humans are using This is a species that can cross the gaps between stars at half the speed of light Sure, I understand that their pace of technological innovation is slower than humanity s but even so, we tend to assume that anyone who has managed feasible interstellar travel is going to have better technology than bullets, tanks, and helicopters Turtledove has set up what makes for the most interesting fight instead of what is perhaps the most plausible scenario from a science fiction standpoint.
Finally, Worldwar In the Balance ends on a cliffhanger There is no resolution to the overall conflict This disappointed me, after over 500 dense pages of incredibly detailed descriptions and back and forth I really could have used a nice denouement not necessarily something that ties up every loose end, but enough for the work to stand alone As it is, I probably will read the sequel but not any time soon, and probably not before I try another Turtledove series that might be to my liking Still, if cliffhangers entice you, this book might be a nice match.
These factors combined to tempt me to dismiss this book Little of its content or characterization grabs me or my interests Yet, objectively speaking, it isn t that bad As a work of alternate history both its premise and its execution offer a compelling story really, what would have happened if an alien threat arrived while we were in the middle of World War II How would the Allies, the Nazis, Russia, and Japan have reacted And really, how would the aliens react if they were expecting a much different Earth than the one they got In a way that reminds me of Jared Diamond s Guns, Germs, and Steel , Turtledove engages in fascinating speculation as to how Earth s topology and climate influenced the rapid development of our species vis vis the sedate pace of the Race Does our tendency for conflict not to mention our ability to love give us an edge By raising such questions, both explicitly and implicitly, Turtledove elevates Worldwar In the Balance from a mere what if story to a work that truly represents the nature of alternate history I cannot say I loved this book, but neither can I deny its power or its presence as a work of speculative fiction.
The beginning of one of the best alternate history science fiction sagas around in this story, World War II is interrupted when an alien invasion fleet shows up to disrupt the human war, forcing the countries to postpone their war with each other to combine forces against the aliens A large cast of characters, both real historical figures including politicians, soldiers and scientists, and fictional people extensive period detail showing meticulous research and a real love of history on the author s part and a believable but not predictable plot.
Parts of this I really liked but it was sooooooo long that I kept getting antsy for the plot to move along The story is set up as an alternative history where aliens invade the Earth right at the height of World War 2 I think the way Mr Turtledove ties in all of the various warring countries into new factions based on the invasion is excellent There were just so many point of view characters and so much going on that I never got a sense of momentum to the story It was good and I am curious to see what happens next but I might wait awhile before reading book two.
I gave it two stars rather than one because the premise was amusing If the writing had spent time on constructing characters and fleshing out these I would have given it three Needs an editor badly This is a shame because I was looking forward to the series Not recommended This is a nice mix of historical fiction counter factual history and sci fi Harry Turtledove is good at mixing the genres, but he makes a few minor mistakes i.
e inaccurate military references If you are able to ignore these mistakes which most people probably wouldn t pick up on anyway this is a well written series It is a commitment though as it takes a while to read.
War Seethed Across The Planet Machines Soared Through The Air, Churned Through The Seas, Crawled Across The Surface, Pushing Ever Forward, Carrying Death Earth Was Engaged In Titanic Struggle Germany, Russia, France, China, Japan The Maps Were Changing Day By Day The Hostilities Spread In Ever Widening Ripples Of Destruction Britain, Italy, AfricaThe Fate Of The World Hung In the Balance Then The Real Enemy Came Out Of The Dark Of Night, Out Of The Soft Glow Of Dawn, Out Of The Clear Blue Sky Came An Invasion Force The Likes Of Which Earth Had Never Known And Worldwar Was Truly Joined The Invaders Were Inhuman And They Were Unstoppable Their Technology Was Far Beyond Our Reach, And Their Goal Was Simple Fleetlord Atvar Had Arrived To Claim Earth For The Empire Never Before Had Earth S People Been Divided Never Had The Need For Unity Been Greater And Grudgingly, Inexpertly, Humanity Took Up The Challenge In This Epic Novel Of Alternate History, Harry Turtledove Takes Us Around The Globe We Roll With German Panzers Watch The Coast Of Britain With The RAF And Welcome Alien Liberators To The Warsaw Ghetto In Tiny Planes We Skim The Vast Russian Steppe, And We Push The Envelope Of Technology In Secret Labs At The University Of Chicago Turtledove S Saga Covers All The Earth, And Beyond, As Mankind In All Its Folly And Glory Faces The Ultimate Threat And A Turning Point In History Shows Us A Past That Never Was And A Future That Could Yet Come To Be An entertaining alternate history, Worldwar I shows the pleasures and limitations of the genre.
It s simply fun to follow the working out of implications and details, once the divergence alien invasion appears Will underground movements ally with the new invaders How will Axis and Allied nations join to stop the initially overwhelming foe How do various historical characters appear Patton, Molotov, Churchill The invasion s conceit aliens scoped us out centuries ago, and thereby didn t plan for 1940s technology is entertaining.
The book uses a social novel approach, portraying dozens of characters in many plots To his credit Turtledove embraces the global nature of the second World War Characters are drawn from rural America and China, British intelligence and Soviet fliers, Japanese military and Nazi tankers, Jewish fighters and exiles The aliens are somewhat interesting Their culture has a single organizing idea, which becomes implausible over time Some characters gradually emerge.
But the limitations It s hard to do a social novel and have individual characters emerge Think of how The Wire gives as a rich, multilayered view of Balti, while most characters appear as distinct people In contrast Worldwar s characters are often thin perspectives, mobile optics giving us a quick sketch of what they see without developing much of an inner life.
This thinness leads to a failure of historical imagination Most of the characters are or become nice people Some start with racist ideas, which they shed through conversation There aren t many true believers to represent Naziism, the Japanese empire, American white racism, or the Soviet Union We can see progressive ideas unfold, but not the concepts they react against Some representatives appear from time to time but only as placeholders, non player characters in gaming language.
Worldwar also struggles to depict the impact of large historical events Turtledove does a good job with individual scenes, like conversations in occupied Paris or the adventures of a German tank crew But we don t get a sense of the vast horror that would accompany, say, view spoiler the nuclear destruction of Berlin and Washington, DC hide spoiler