NESFA Members' Reviews


Colonization: Second Contact

by Harry Turtledove

Del Rey, 1999, 486 pp, $25.95.


Colonization: Down to Earth

by Harry Turtledove

Del Rey, 2000, 489 pp, $26.00

Book reviews by Mark L. Olson

A few years ago, Turtledove wrote an excellent four-volume alternate history called Worldwar, in which aliens invaded Earth in 1941, just as World War II was really getting going. The aliens had been civilized for 100,000 years, had conquered two other worlds using slower-than-light ships and had decided Earth would be conquest number three.
The aliens' technology was about what we'd expect to have in 2025 or so with the single exception of a much better space drive than we can foresee. The invasion was not a runaway success. The aliens change but slowly - their civilization values stability and introduces technological change only reluctantly. Who can blame them for sending a probe to Earth in the 1300s and expecting humans to have not changed much in the mere 600 years since?

In Worldwar, humans fight each other and the aliens, and after a few years of fighting, the US, Nazi Germany and the USSR all develop nuclear bombs, and not a few are used. A truce emerges where the US, Germany (dominating Western Europe) and the USSR retain their independence, Japan and Britain retain a lesser independence, since they don't have the Bomb, the aliens don't fear them as much, and the rest of the world - China, Indian, Africa, Australia, and South American are all controlled by the aliens.

Colonization takes place 20 years later on the arrival of the colonization fleet containing one hundred millions aliens in suspended animation. The truce has held, humans have learned a lot - the US, Nazi Germany and the USSR are all in space, computers and computer networks are all over. But old hatreds still linger.

The aliens have not had things their own way: the spice ginger is a powerfully addictive drug for them, and humans are only to happy to supply it. But worse, while ginger is a euphoric for the males of the invasion fleet, it turns out to force the females who first arrived with the colonization fleet to go into heat, substantially disrupting the pattern of their civilization.

On top of that, the members of the colonization fleet arrive expecting that the invasion fleet has pacified a world of primitives, only to find a heavily armed truce and dangers everywhere - and finds that the survivors of 20 years on Earth have changed and become more flexible and changeable than is the alien norm. The invasion fleet begins to have almost as much trouble with the colonists as with the humans.

There is a lot of complexity here. As in Worldwar, Turtledove follows a half-dozen different sets of characters as they live and react and try to change their world. Conspiracies abound, even, at the end of the 2nd book, a nuclear war breaks out was Nazi Germany, crazy to the last, takes on the aliens.

This is a very good job and I'm greatly looking forward to the third and final book.

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