by Harry Turtledove

Del Rey


488pp/$26.00/February 2000

Down to Earth
Cover by Tim O'Brien

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Colonization:  Down to Earth is the middle book of a trilogy and suffers from some of the typical problems books in its position have.  While it continues to explore many of the situations raised in the first book of the series, it provides few answers, instead only dropping tantalizing clues about what will be revealed in the final book in the series.  In this particular case, some of the big questions, like the purpose of the Lewis and Clark, the spaceship launched by the US in Colonization:  Second Contact, or which country launched the attack on the colonization fleet, are touched upon, but not fully revealed.

Nevertheless, there is plenty of action in Down to Earth, as the Race becomes more savvy in dealing with humans, whether the Muslim religious fanatics in Basra or the ginger-runners in South Africa.  Although an uneasy truce is maintained with the various independent not-empires when the book opens, hostilities again threaten to flare between the Race and humans.  By moving his characters throughout the various arenas of action, Turtledove is able to show more and more of the civilization which has arisen in the decades following the arrival of the Race's conquest fleet.

Turtledove manages to advance the majority of his plots, although their sheer number means that most readers will not be entirely happy with the distances each plot is advanced.  However, all of them are interesting, and if a reader is more concerned with what the Lewis and Clark is doing in the asteroid belt than in what Rance Auerbach and Penny Summers are doing in South Africa, it is a matter of personal preference rather than any failing on the part of the novel.  One must assume that Turtledove intends to tie up all the loose threads in Aftershocks, when it is published in 2001.

Despite the armed conflict which occurs in Down to Earth, Turtledove focuses his attention on the non-military aspects of society in the 1960s.  Even when he looks at soldiers, such as German Lieutenant Colonel Johannes Drucker or the infantrymale Gorppet, he focuses on their personal lives rather than their roles in the military.   Many of Turtledove's fans who have begun to tire of the depictions of warfare, strategy and tactics will appreciate the direction he has chosen to take the series with Down to Earth.

The earth suffers a new invasion during the course of Down to Earth, not of the Race, directly, but rather an invasion of their support animals as the Race decides it is time to be able to enjoy their native foods and have their native pets with them in their new home.  Turtledove only begins to show the conflicts which arise because of the introduction of these new species, but further conflict seems inevitable.

Down to Earth builds on the strengths of Second Contact while setting up the situation for a resolution in Aftermaths.  As such, it succeeds in its role as the middle novel of a trilogy, adding to the story while maintaining the reader's interest without revealing everything that is happening.

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