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Colonization: Down to Earth by Harry Turtledove
Published by Del Rey Books
Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel
Colonization: Down to Earth by Harry Turtledove is the latest installment in the story originally begun in the WorldWar tetralogy, of an alternate history where World War II was interrupted by an alien invasion. The warring factions of humanity had to form an uneasy truce to beat the quasi-reptilian Lizards to an accomodation, but that does not mean the unresolved differences have ceased to exist.
Two decades after that accomodation was achieved, the colonization fleet arrived from the Lizard homeworld, believing that they would find a world already handily conquored and ready for settlement. As they discovered in the first book of the Colonization sequence, Second Contact, Earth was anything but. Several human nations retained their independence, while even the humans in areas under direct Lizard control stubbornly resisted their alien rulers. Then there was the matter of the native herb ginger, a harmless taste-enhancer for humans, but a drug as powerful and dangerous to Lizards as cocaine is to humans. Its effects proved even more startling on female Lizards, artificially putting them into their season (Lizards are seasonal maters, unlike humans but like many familiar lower animals) and creating all manner of social disruption.
Things are still at an uneasy truce when this book opens. Sam Yeager is now dealing with raising a pair of hatchling Lizards in human society, while cautiously building a bridge with Kassquit, a young human female who has been the subject of a similar experiment among humans. Meanwhile, he continues to be a thorn in the side of certain of his own countryfolk by inquiring into things that they don't want him to know.
The Lizards, still determined to assimilate humanity into their Empire, decide to force humanity to abandon its traditional religion in favor of worshipping the spirits of Lizard Emperors past. In many of the areas under their dominion they meet with fierce resistance, even violence. However, the one nation which invites them to bring shrines proves to be the otherwise fiercely independent United States, leaving the Lizards to puzzle out the concept of freedom of religion.
In Germany, the aging survivors of the old Nazi leadership are beginning to make threats of war against the Lizards over their possession of Poland. Almost everybody else dreads the possible consequences, knowing that the Lizards still have the advantage of superior technology.
Turtledove masterfully weaves together the multiple storylines of this novel, showing us events all over the world, from human and Lizard perspectives alike. Many of the Lizards, particularly the underlings, are astonishingly sympathetic, being not that dissimilar from humans in like situations, yet at the same time being astonishingly alien in unexpected ways.
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Review posted December 28, 2000
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