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Colonization: Second Contact
Harry Turtledove
Del Rey Books, 487 pages

Tim O'Brien
Colonization: Second Contact
Harry Turtledove
Harry Turtledove was born in Los Angeles, California in 1949. He attended UCLA where he received a Ph.D. in Byzantine history in 1977. In 1979, he published his first two novels, Wereblood and Werenight under the pseudonym Eric G. Iverson and continued to use it until 1985. In 1991, he left the Los Angeles County Office of Education, where he worked as a technical writer, and became a full-time writer. He won the Hugo Award for Novella in 1994 for "Down in the Bottomlands" and "Must and Shall" was nominated for both the 1996 Hugo Award for Best Novelette and the 1996 Nebula Award for Best Novelette.

Harry Turtledove Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: How Few Remain
SF Site Review: Between the Rivers
SF Site Review: Departures

Past Feature Reviews
A review by A.L. Sirois

I didn't realize it when I began reading this novel, but Colonization: Second Contact is actually a continuation of Turtledove's Worldwar series. I manfully swallowed my disappointment at learning that -- and repressed my fear that Colonization: Second Contact would not end, but merely stop -- and dove forthwith into the novel.

Well, it's a good enough book, if you like series books. I tend not to because they always feel a little flabby to me, in that the author obviously has more of a story in mind than he intends to put into one volume. I'm guilty of series behaviour myself, so it's a little specious of me to point the finger of scorn at Harry Turtledove for making a buck this way. I have to say, though, that this novel bumps and bangs around a lot and then -- just as I had feared -- stops rather than ends. You can almost feel Turtledove heaving a deep sigh and saying, "Okay, THAT'S a good place to stop it." Meanwhile, nothing really has been resolved and the reader is left twisting in the wind.

The book is set in the 60s of an alternate world where the Race, a reptilian bunch of invaders, has arrived at Earth during the opening years of World War II and muscles its way in. The Race -- commonly known as Lizards or "little scaly devils" to us Big Uglies -- had scanned Earth during the Middle Ages and set forth from their home world confidently expecting to find us still whanging away at each other with mace and axe. Societal and technological changes happen very slowly on Lizard-ruled worlds, and we humans are the quickest studies in the galaxy.

Shocked -- shocked and dismayed -- to find that Earth has advanced way beyond the men-in-armour stage, the Lizards manning the military vessels that arrive to soften us up (there being a colonization fleet following at an interval of some years) can't conquer the whole planet. Worse, from their standpoint, they have to swallow their pride and actually leave vast areas of Earth under self-rule.

It's an interesting idea: an invading race that is only somewhat more advanced than their intended victims. By the time the novel opens, humans have stolen enough Lizard technology that the three main Free Nations -- America, the Nazis, and the USSR -- are settling into an uneasy coexistence with the Lizards ruling pretty much the entire Southern Hemisphere including the Indian subcontinent, Australia and China. Humans have even ventured into space, with the Nazis being first on the Moon, and scientific expeditions successfully exploring Mars and some of the asteroids.

So it's a pretty vast canvas Turtledove paints, which befits a series. And he has a nice lot of characters, too -- well-drawn nationalities include Germans, Chinese, Brits, French, Americans -- and Lizards. Turtledove does a good job with his people, and they are all distinct one from the other. In fact, in my opinion his best work here is done with the characterizations. The problem is, there are too many of them and you have a tough time figuring out whom to root for. By the end of the book I still wasn't really sure, because I had no clear idea where the hell he was going with all of this!

The Lizard colonization fleet shows up and is understandably miffed at learning that they have to share Earth with unpacified Big Uglies. (Someone on Earth nukes one of the colony ships, but that plot thread is left dangling. Hmph.) The Lizard soldiers, who have more or less concluded a separate peace with humans, regard the newly arrived colonists as naïve. Lizards, it develops, are susceptible to ginger, which acts as a habit-forming drug to them. This has helped the soldiers get used to the idea that they can have everything they want insofar as running the planet. There are no female soldiers, but there are plenty of females among the colonists. They, too, have a weakness for ginger, but in their case they go into heat under its influence. And, due to their emission of potent pheromones, they drive any male within scent range utterly wild with mating frenzy.

So, as you can see, there's plenty of good stuff in the Turtledove mix. I found it a bit frustrating that none of the major plot threads resolve. But if you like series books and want to stick around to see how it all comes out, then by all means settle back with a big cup of ginger tea and have a go.

Copyright © 1999 by A.L. Sirois

A.L. Sirois walks the walk, too. He's a longtime member of SFWA and currently serves the organization as webmaster for the SFWA BULLETIN. His personal site is at

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