Reviewed by Steven H Silver
As Harry Turtledove's Colonization: Second Contact opens, two decades have passed since the Lizards invaded Earth during World War II and an entire generation has grown up without knowing a world in which the Lizards have a presence. Rather than being the fearsome enemy, they are now hardly stranger than foreigners and have a strong effect on fashion. Sam and Barbara Yeager's son Jonathan, for instance, has shaved his head and dyed his skin in imitation of the Lizards. However, world leaders such as Premier Molotov, Fuhrer Himmler, President Warren and Fleetlord Atvar are concerned that their tentative truce is about to explode into open warfare once again when the colonization fleet passes within the orbit of Mars.
The arrival of the colonization fleet gives Turtledove a chance to demonstrate how much the members of the conquest fleet have changed after twenty years of interfacing with Humans. The conquest fleet has adapted, however little, to the idea of rapid change. The colonization fleet still resists this type of change, seeing it as unnatural. Even when shown the evidence and after discussing the Humans with surviving members of the conquest fleet, the colonists do not fully believe the stories they have heard of the invasion as described in the four Worldwar novels.
As might be expected from a novel billed as the first book of the "Colonization" series, Second Contact does not stand on its own. Being the first book of a series, the ending leaves many plots up in the air, to be continued in the two remaining books in the series. However, set in the same universe as the "Worldwar" series, Turtledove assumes a certain familiarity with the events which took place in the 1940s, documented in his previous tetralogy. Second Contact, therefore, doesn't work as an introduction to the series either. A reader who has not read the "Worldwar" series should pick up Worldwar: In the Balance before even considering the "Colonization" series.
Many of Turtledove's characters, both historical and fictional, have carried over from the "Worldwar" novels. Some have risen in the world and some have fallen. A few characters have died in the eighteen years since Worldwar: Striking the Balance ended. To this mix, Turtledove has added more characters, most of whom live in Lizard occupied territory. Having ignored the lands held by the Race throughout the Worldwar series, Turtledove now introduces characters from Australia and Iraq to show what life under alien domination is like.
It turns out, that in many cases living under the Lizards is not as bad as it could have been. Certainly the few Jews remaining in Germany have it worse. Even being suspected of having a single grandparent who is Jewish is enough to send someone to their death. David Goldfarb, Turtledoves's British Jew who did so much to aid the war effort in the earlier books, has found that twenty-years later the British are adopting some of the Nazi attitude towards his religion. While this is a reminder that Jews were not particularly liked through Europe in the middle of the century, in Turtledove's world they have given humans a reason to dislike them. Overall, Second Contact has a darker feel to it than the earlier books, even incorporating the underground world of ginger-runners.
The Lizards have modified many fields on Earth in the years between the ceasefire and the colonization fleet. Most obvious, aside from the military hardware, is the establishment of the Russie College of Medicine in Jerusalem, where humans from throughout the Race-occupied lands (and some of the free countries) can gain a medical education. The Race has influenced other areas of knowledge as well. Turtledove uses French lecturer Monique Dutourd to point out that the Race has changed the way historians view the past.
One of the most volitile areas of our world is also explosive in a world with Lizards. In Iraq, the Lizards face a vanishing opponent in Khomeini, who consistantly riles the Muslims against their alien overlords. Turtledove uses these uprising in an interesting way to present the Muslims as humans, and therefore understandable, while the Lizards constantly underestimate the Muslim zeal and beliefs, much as Americans currently misunderstand Muslims.
Colonization: Second Contact includes numerous references to Home, both by the new colonists and by the existing occupiers. Even humans, from the German pilot Johannes Drucker to the Race-raised Kassquit, think about appearing before the Emperor. It seems as if Turtledove is foreshadowing a visit to the Lizard's homeworld, but as conquerors or conquest remains unclear.
While I was initially concerned when I heard that Turtledove would be returning to the "Worldwar" arena, he has used his return as an opportunity to give more insight into the non-militaristic aspects of the Race, the way humans deal with the subjugation of half the planet, and many other issues which were raised, but not addressed, in the earlier books. Colonization: Second Contact gives every indication that this three book series will prove to be a more interesting series than the earlier work.
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