by Harry Turtledove

Del Rey


488pp/$21.00/January 1994

Worldwar:  In the Balance
Cover by Bob Eggleton

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Harry Turtledove's newest novel, WorldWar: In the Balance, tells the story of an alternate world in which Earth was invaded by aliens in the middle of World War II. Told with his usual attention to historical detail, Turtledove presents a logical view of the reactions of the major powers to the aliens, as soldiers and civilians from the various Ally and Axis powers come to terms with the sudden appearance of a possible common enemy and a possible ally. The fact that Turtledove does not have all the Terran powers join together against the common enemy is a refreshing, and unfortunately, probable occurrence.

In the Balance suffers from some of the same features which are its strong points. Turtledove tells the story from the points of view of a number of different characters, ranging from an Illinois minor league baseball player turned soldier to a Chinese widow in an alien concentration camp to the alien fleet commander. Although this technique permits the reader to view the conflict from a number of different angles, it also is somewhat difficult to keep all the story lines straight. The fact that this is the first book of a projected trilogy only makes the complexity of the story that much more worrisome. I see myself having to re-read this book both when its sequel and the final volume come out, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

As with many of Turtledove's novels, readers who know something of history will be rewarded by the ironic parallels Turtledove includes. The portrayal of Vyacheslav Molotov's strong belief in the truth of Communism seems strange in these Post-Soviet days, but they help remind the reader that this book is an historical novel as much as an alternative history novel.

One area which Turtledove does not really look into is the effect of the alien invasion on countries outside the World War II Sphere of action. Although he briefly mentions their subjugation to the invading Race, it would have been interesting to see how the aliens treated humans in these areas who were not revolting against them or hindering their movements. Perhaps Turtledove will expand the scope of the second and third books to give a glimpse into Post-invasion life in Africa, South America or Australia.

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