NESFA Members' Reviews


by Harry Turtledove

Del Rey, ISBN 0-345-40550-1, December 1996, 465pp, US$23

A book review by Evelyn C. Leeper

Copyright 1997 Evelyn C. Leeper

This volume concludes the "Worldwar" tetralogy, though it certainly leaves room for more books to follow. However, since Turtledove has contracted for a six(!)-volume series set in an alternate World War I, we will be spared any sequels for a while. (Some may say that in this case the cure is worse than the disease.)

Do I sound negative? Well, there can be too much of a good thing, and this is an example. In fact, I would say there's about a thousand pages too much. At approximately 1,800 pages total, this series is longer than LES MISERABLES, and shorter by only a third than Shakespeare's total output. I enjoyed the first book, but frankly by the end I was thinking of all the books I could have read instead of this, and this is not a good sign.

Another side effect of this length is that characterizations that the reader can accept in a single average- length novel become less believable at this length. For example, the inability of the Lizards to "expect the unexpected" or even to understand that what they learned about humans was not accurate any more becomes harder and harder to accept.

And even after all this, Turtledove does not completely wrap up his story. I actually have mixed feelings about this: after all, stories are not neatly wrapped up in real life. The actual end of World War II did not solve all the problems; we still had the Cold War, the refugee problem (which certainly had implications which still affect the situation in the Middle East today), and a whole new set of problems in social and technological areas. But fiction is supposed to be neater than real life (most would say), and it looks too much like the reason for the open-endedness is to leave room for more sequels.

I really enjoyed the first book, but I have to say that my enjoyment decreased with each succeeding volume. By the last book, people seem to be traveling almost at random criss-crossing North America and Europe, and this left me with the feeling of trying to get a little bit of everything in before the end. If you've read the first three you will almost definitely want to read this, but I can't really recommend it. And the series is just too long for me to recommend it as a whole.

%T      Worldwar: Striking the Balance
%A      Harry Turtledove
%C      New York
%D      December 1996
%I      El Rey
%O      hardback, US$23
%G      ISBN 0-345-40550-1
%P      465pp
%S      Worldwar
%V      4

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