More Harry Turtledove, more alternate history while I’m off working on new stuff.
Raw Feed (1999): Colonization: Second Contact, Harry Turtledove, 1999.
This series takes place about 20 years after the end of the Worldwar series. Like that series, a major theme is racial tensions and tolerance. American space pilot Glen Johnson discusses, with a black bartender, why some blacks sided with the Lizards during the war. Exiled Shiplord Straha acknowledges friendship with Sam Yeager. Mordechai Anielewicz (suffering periodically from exposure to Nazi nerve gas in the last Worldwar series) becomes friends with Nesseref, a Lizard from the colonization fleet. The Jews, of course, operate in a Lizard controlled Palestine, their best chance for survival outside of the U.S. David Goldfarb, from the Worldwar series, finds himself living in a Britain increasingly tainted by the lethal anti-Semitism of the Nazi Reich, Britain’s de facto protector against the Lizards.
Other characters appearing from the first series are Rance Auerbach and Penny Summers, ex-lovers reunited and involved in the ginger trade; Johannes Drucker, former Nazi tank driver who saved Heinrich Jäger from the SS in the last Worldwar book and now a spaceship pilot whose wife is suspected of Nazi blood (and thus ruining his future promotions even though he manages to saves his wife from a camp); Ludmila, Jäger’s wife, makes a brief appearance as a cripple widowed by Jäger years ago (an eventual victim of Otto Skorzeny’s nerve gas); Ttomalss is here with Kassgutt, a new character who is a human girl raised from birth by him. Her tribulations with the Lizard culture that doesn’t accept her claim or desire to be a spiritual and psychological member of the Lizard Empire provides a lot interest of the book, particularly Ttomalss and her’s coming to grips with human sexual demands and needs. Fleetlord Atvar is here, hoping to retire to Australia, the continent most like Home and to be cleared of most humans; Lin Han, commie leader, is here with daughter, Liu Mei – there is a touching scene when, on a trip to beg for US arms, Sam Yeager tells her of her father Bobby Fiore, his old friend and colleague; Molotov is here and survives a coup by NDVD head Beria (Molotov assumed leadership of the USSR after Stalin died); born collaborator David Nussboym is back with plans for vengeance against Anielewicz whom he blames for his capture by the Russians; Mossie Russie is back advising the Lizard administrator of Palestine.
The book begins with the Lizard colonization fleet arriving. The Lizards’ problems in the book mount. Ginger is discovered to instantly put female Lizards (there were none in the conquest fleet) in mating mode. Their sexual pheromones instantly put male Lizards in a semi-rational state of lust where they immediately and repeatedly mate with the male in question. (Not all female Lizards are enamored with ginger. Though liking ginger, Nesseref refuses to descend to the near animal level of mating just to get a fix.) Humans, of course, exploit this new factor and part of the novel’s plot involves the intrigue around international ginger smuggling.
Humans have infiltrated, with the help of Lizard defectors, the Lizard data network (an internet system that is partially open to humans). In fact, computer, space, and military technology of the humans has all advanced due to the Lizard presence (partly from stolen and copied tech). Both sides must live with nukes all about. The US, USSR, and the Reich all have nukes on land and in space and watch each other warily (of course, the Lizards have nukes too). Britain, Japan, and Canada have retained their independent states though having no nukes. (A collection of South Pacific islands dubbed Free France is also independent and a haven of smugglers.)
Another problem the Lizards have is tension between the colonization fleet, who can’t understand why the conquest fleet failed, and the veterans of the Earth-Lizard struggle. Fotsev and Gorppet are this series’ hapless Lizard soldiers though they don’t last out the book, killed in an ambush by Moslems (the Moslems give the lizards all kinds of trouble in the Lizard-occupied Middle East and are led by Khomeni as well as other mullahs). The analogy between Vietnam and the Lizard troops that were in the Worldwar series is maintained here. Fotsev and Gorppet, when they visit the new Lizard cities while on leave, discover that they don’t really belong to Lizard culture anymore, that the miserable battlefield is there only home. (Both fought in the conquest of half of Earth.)
The level of intrigue here is perhaps slightly higher than the Worldwar series. Not only is there ginger smuggling but also assassination attempts and coups, and computer espionage. An element of mystery is present with an early nuke attack that destroys two lizard colonization vessels in space. Much of the book covers Lizard and human attempts to see who launched the attack since none of Earth’s nuclear governments seems to have done it. (At book’s end, we still don’t know.) Another mystery plot involves the exact purpose of an American space station. At novel’s end, it’s revealed to be an exploratory vessel headed towards the asteroid belt maybe. The cover story seems a bit shaky.
Turtledove’s style is the same here as many of his recent alternate history novels – short passages alternating between many characters with puns, rhetorical plays on common phrases, and a general concern (and accurate rendering of foreigners’ attempts at English) with linguistical matters.
Unfortunately, this book, unlike the Worldwar series, doesn’t have a cast of characters listed. The other historical characters I spotted were Curtis LeMay, Zhukov, Kruschev, and Himmler (leader of the Reich). The bit with the Yeagers’ son – and other teenagers – being infatuated with all matter of Lizard stuff and not thinking of them as enemies was sometimes amusing and always plausible given that they have no recollection of earth before the invasion. I liked this book, though, because of its lack of a military conflict and more concentration on alien culture (aliens are not one of my prime interests in sf) less than any of the Worldwar books. It was good to have some old familiar characters back with the possible exception of the brutal Commies though Lin Han may, eventually, reappraise her feelings about capitalists after visiting the US.