Title: Second Contact
Author(s): Harry Turtledove
Topic(s): Fantasy, Science Fiction, War
Features: ,1st Edition,Dust Jacket,
Details: **The Barnes & Noble Review**
Over the decades, Harry Turtledove has proven to be a master of the alternate history subgenre with numerous acclaimed books to his credit � including his *Time of Trouble* series, *How Few Remain, The Guns of the South* , and the popular *Worldwar* tetralogy. Now, continuing in the *Worldwar* saga, Turtledove gives us *Colonization: Second Contact* , the first installment in a flourishing series of alien-invasion/alternate-world adventures, and one that is bound to further his reputation for devising remarkable what-if histories. Once again, Turtledove uses his admirable skills to create an evocative epic that draws the reader into the compelling world of a past not quite our own.
It’s been 20 years since the Race, a lizard-like alien species of conquerors, first invaded the Earth during World War II and failed to fully subjugate it. Now, after a centuries-long voyage, the Lizards’ colonization vessel has arrived to settle the Earth. The “sleepers” are in for a shock upon their awakening, however. For the first time in a hundred millennia, the advance attack forces of the Race have failed in their objective to vanquish a world, having highly underestimated the progression of the human race in the thousand years since the Lizards first launched their probes and began their trip from their homeworld. Instead of discovering a preindustrial planet ripe for the conquering, they’ve found a civilization nearly as advanced as their own, with world empires now stabilized in a tentative peace with the Race’s militia.
As the tumultuous 1960s unfold,theNazi Reich still exists and is suspicious of the Allied powers, Jerusalem stews with internal hatreds and its independence from the Race, and American teenagers have forgotten what liberty is and believe the Lizard way of life to be just another cultural attribute. The political complexities are a backdrop to the huge cast of protagonists and secondary characters, all of whom have their own agendas and strive to survive in a constantly changing, friction-filled time. We witness the workings of the dominating Lizards as they slowly feel themselves being swayed by humanity, even while their aggressive arrogance turns to insecurity and eventually to fear.
Readers will find themselves involved with famous personages dead for decades, including Martin Luther King, Himmler, and Khomeini. Turtledove does a superb job of reintroducing characters and events from the previous *Worldwar* novels without bogging the story down in lengthy exposition or flashbacks. One doesn’t have to be a history buff to enjoy this novel, because it’s clear the author is a man who prides himself not only on the research of facts but also in extrapolating historical circumstances. He is willing to investigate several levels of extraterrestrial contact and show all the various factions of an alien species in its own turmoil. The Lizards aren’t merely conquering warriors, but instead are full of their own foibles, and they’re portrayed as overconfident, astounded, addicted to ginger, and doing their best to cope with what is an unprecedented and startling situation for them.
Turtledove keeps the traits and personalities of central figures in tune with what we know of them. His greatest strength in his alternate-world novels may be the simple fact that all of the characters get an equal amount of stage time, none standing too far out above the other, each of them a small part of a much greater, elaborate whole. They remain an important piece of our history, and Turtledove does extremely well with keeping enough celebrated scenery of the ’60s to make the world seem familiar, even while allowing his imagination to soar with how those events play out. The reader will be enthralled and glad that Turtledove continues to make contact.