Colonization: Aftershocks

I told you I had reviewed a lot of Harry Turtledove.

Since I’m working on new stuff, you get old stuff.

A retro review from New Year’s Day 2004 …

Review: Colonization: Aftershocks, Harry Turtledove, 2001.Aftershocks

For a 488 page book that seems to be the last of a seven novel series, there is little sense of closure here.

In the mid-1960s, the struggle between the alien Lizards and humans that started in 1942 still goes on in space and on Earth. Nazi Germany is weakened, but not extinguished, in a nuclear exchange with the Lizards. A nuclear armed Soviet Union covertly aids human insurgents in Lizard occuppied China, and America edges closer to all out nuclear war with the Lizards.

As humans begin to adopt alien technology for everything from weaponry to toys and try to establish a permanent, armed presence in space, the hidebound, traditionalist Lizards find themselves changed as well. The addiction to ginger continues to corrode Lizard mores. A pair of them even goes so far as to enter the perversion of marriage.

As human and Lizard warily watch each other and the aliens begin to adopt Earth-style balance of power politics, the ecosystems of each begin to clash, with flora and fauna of the Race’s Homeworld outcompeting the native Earth species in desert regions.

The intermingling of two worlds is best symbolized by Kassquit, a human woman raised from birth by the Lizard, and Straha, a defector from the Lizards who finds that the ways of humans — and especially “snout counting” Americans — have rubbed off on him. (The identity of Straha’s human minder turns out to be one of those delightful unnamed historical cameos Turtledove loves to put in his alternate histories.)

The trouble is Turtledove doesn’t settle the central conflict of this series — how, if possible, human and Lizards can co-exist. He just prolongs it. At novel’s end, it is hinted that the Lizards might be able to adapt legal concepts of citizenship from the Roman Empire. However, the Lizards don’t seem much closer to conquering Man. To be sure, humans have gotten strong enough that the Lizards are reluctant to start a war. But neither side has decisively won.

Turtledove does wrap up some of the subplots involving ginger smuggling — and they were getting somewhat tedious at this point in the series. But even there, while the fate of some characters is finally resolved, that of others is left sort of hanging.

The middle of the book is an amalgam of domestic concerns of romance and marriage with Cold War style nuclear brinkmanship between man and alien. The end of the novel is a disappointing repeat of Worldwar: Striking the Balance not only in its ultimate irresolution, but it even involves an incident with the very same nuclear weapon of that novel.

In short, this book seems to be a disappointing conclusion to a promising series.


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