Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Colonization: Aftershocks marks the end of Harry Turtledove’s seven book saga about an alien invasion during World War II which began in Worldwar: In the Balance. Set in the mid-1960’s, Aftershocks manages to tie together several loose threads from the two earlier novels in the Colonization series as well as a few holdovers from the original Worldwar series. However, Turtledove leaves plenty of room for future novels in the series as the humans and the Race attempt to live together in peace while trying to gain the upper hand.
Turtledove reveals the answers to many political questions in Aftershocks, and readers will discover the true culprits behind the attacks on the colony fleet and Australia. Although Turtledove offers the mission of the Lewis & Clark, the ship launched to the asteroid belt in Colonization: Second Contact, he does so in a manner which leaves the reader desiring more information.
On the personal front, many situations are changed, frequently in startling ways. Several of the younger characters get married, although not necessarily to the people who would seem the most likely prospect, while older characters become accountable for their actions as far back as Worldwar: In the Balance. These denouements allow Turtledove to reintroduce characters who have not made appearance in several books, tying current events to the past and giving his world a more cohesive flavor. Turtledove also manages to tie several plot threads together, resulting in the appearance, but not necessarily the reality, of fewer major storylines.
A few episodes seem a little rushed, which does seem strange coming at the end of such a lengthy sequence, but fleshing them out more would not necessarily add to the story Turtledove is telling.
After so many books, many of Turtledove’s characters are so familiar to the reader that there a few surprises in their attitudes or reactions to events. Nevertheless, the situations Turtledove places those characters in retain the ability to surprise and Aftershocks contains several plot twists which seem logical in retrospect, but were not telegraphed until they are revealed.
Turtledove manages his large cast well, allowing him to portray different views of the political situation as well as different sides of his characters. Perhaps the character with the most change is Rance Auerbach, who is shown reasserting his independence from Penny Summers and regaining control of his destiny while he tries to atone for some of his less savory moments. Repentance isn’t limited to humans, however, and Rance’s former associate Gorppet, a ginger-using male of the race, continues to demonstrate his potential in a new position in Poland.
The world depicted in Colonization: Aftershocks remains a world in strife with various factions working with an against each other as expedience demands, but at the same time, the novel is filled with hope as the belligerents seem no longer to be as willing to go to war as quickly as in earlier books, preferring to resolve their conflicts by means of diplomacy or blackmail. Senior Researcher Ttomalss’s interest in human affairs also provides cause for hope.
History, of course, does not tie up neatly, and neither does Aftershocks. While the book is a successful and fitting conclusion to the individuals’ various storylines, it leaves room for further exploration of the political and scientific changes which will occur in this world in the coming years. Should Turtledove deign to write more tales of the Race, he has left plenty of room for his explorations to continue.
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