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Worldwar: In the Balance cover Worldwar: In the Balance by Harry Turtledove

Published by Del Ray Books

Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel

WorldWar: In the Balance is the first of four volumes in this substantial alternate history of what happens when alien invaders gatecrash World War II. "The Alternate History of Alien Invasion" is the subtitle, and that just barely does justice to this fascinating book. Just when you thought that alien invasion stories had been done to death and are suitable only for cheap B-grade knockoffs, a master of the art writes the book that proves everyone wrong.

This novel opens in the early months of 1942, with World War II going strong. Then what should arrive but the spacefleet of the Race, a saurian or dinosaurian species (I suggest dinosaurian because they seem to be warm-blooded, although they are scaly and lay eggs) with heads that resemble those of chameleons. Their eyes can move independently (Bob Eggleton's picture on the back of the hardcover is misleading, since it shows them as being iguanids with feathery crests), and they have several idioms that reflect their unusual optical physiology. They intend to conquor Earth and make humans a subject race of their Empire, as they have to two other planets in the past.

When they descend with their superior weaponry, they throw the various nations of Earth in wild disarray. The Warsaw Jews and the Chinese throw in their lot with the saurians, whom the humans nickname "Lizards." Former enemies, including America, England, the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany and Japan, find themselves having to set aside their own conflicts in order to join forces and in hopes of forcing the alien invaders off the planet.

There is literally so much going on in this book that it's impossible to adequately summarize it. If it hadn't been for my job, I would've taken an entire day and read it straight through without stopping, that was how great it was. And when I came to the end of this volume, I knew that I was going to be eagerly awaiting the next one.

The story continues in Worldwar: Tilting the Balance.

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Review posted December 16, 1998

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