Colonization: Second Contact
by Harry Turtledove
Del Rey, 1999, ISBN 0-345-43019-0
A book review by Elisabeth Carey
This is the expected follow-up to Worldwar, or at least the first volume of it. If cliffhangers annoy you, you should avoid this one, at least until it becomes clear how many volumes there will be. Like the first volume of Worldwar, it is nowhere revealed that this is not the complete story--or even a complete story--except that the suspicious-minded who've read Worldwar may draw correct conclusions from that colon in the title. Nevertheless, the book ends abruptly on page 486, leaving multiple plot-threads hanging.
Now that I'm done carping, I'll concede that it's a pretty good first installment. We do meet up with some familiar characters, both human and Lizard (Sam Yeager, now a major; Straha the defector; Moishe Russie, Atvar the Fleetlord; Ttomalss the researcher into Tosevite (human) behavior; Liu Han; David Goldfarb; the expected host of others). We also meet some new characters, as Ttomalss' kidnapped Tosevite hatchling is now eighteen or so, and the Lizard colonization fleet has arrived, and the daughter of Liu Han and Bobby Fiore is also about eighteen or a little older, and also Sam and Barbara's son Jonathan, and Moishe Russie's son Reuven is in his early twenties, and David and Naomi Goldfarb have children, and...no, wait, I said I was going to stop carping, didn't I? Anyway, Turtledove does manage to keep all the various characters and plotthreads more or less straight, and move the action along. It's 1962, and it has been twenty years since the Lizards arrived. The treaty agreed to at the end of Worldwar has mostly held, and the world is, mostly, at peace. Technology has gotten a considerable goosing from the Lizards, and, much to the annoyance of the Lizards, the three independent not-empires (that's the United States of America, the SSSR, and the Greater German Reich) have space prog rams, although the Russian program is rather barebones compared to the American and German programs. Americans and Germans have walked on Mars, and have expeditions out looking over the asteroid belt for useful resources. All three major human powers have orbital nukes, as do the Lizards. The UK has retained its independence, but is sidling closer and closer to the Reich. China is not pacified. And of course, ginger smuggling has been a profitable business for years, now, with no human power seeing any real reason to ban the trade. (For those who missed our earlier episodes, ginger is a major addictive drug for the Lizards.) The Lizards, of course, feel differently, but they're not willing to be as ruthless with their own kind as would be necessary to effectively inconvenience the ginger traders.
But now things have changed. The colonization fleet has arrived, and female Lizards have landed. None of the possible disruptions humans have daydreamed about results, because the female Lizards aren't in their season, and, due to the usual careful Lizard planning, won't be for many months.
Then someone gives a female Lizard ginger. Suddenly, there are always a few female Lizards in season--but not enough to go around. The Lizards discover sexual frustration, and all manner of crimes they'd never imagined before. Someone uses a few of their orbital nukes to take out a few of the colonization fleet ships, but there's so much junk in space, and everyone changes the orbits of their assorted orbiting devices so frequent ly, that no one can figure out who. The newly arrived colonists are as innocent of the weirdness of humans as the soldiers of the conquest fleet were when they arrived; they do not understand why the conquest fleet has been so incompetent as to fail to deliver to them a fully conquered planet. After all, the nasty Tosevites may have been more advanced than expected, but they were still less advanced than the Race when the conquest fleet arrived, right? What are the Tosevites doing in space? Why are the American Tosevites being allowed to build a huge space station? Some Tosevites have a more worrying question about the space station: some Germans and some Americans, and Ttomalss' Tosevite hatchling, Kassquit, are starting to wonder why American security about the space station is so uncharacteristically tight. The American government hasn't practiced this level of security about anything since the Manhatten project. And President Earl Warren seemed so trustworthy! We start to get some impressions of what Lizard society is like when there's more than just soldiers around (an unusual occupational category for Lizards, anyway, who normally have no use for a military force), and Sam Yeager and Kassquit and Straha all spend some time on the Lizards' version of the internet.
At the end of the book, we still don't know for sure what's going on with the space station, but we have gotten a great, big clue.
Entertaining, despite some annoyances.