Every month we feature a different author, publisher or bookseller who has earned the RLK! seal of approval! We will highlight and review their books/company as well as providing author biographies (where available) and publishing information. We hope you enjoy RLK! Spotlight On....

Author Bio:

Harry Turtledove was born in Los Angeles in 1949.

After flunking out of Caltech, he earned a Ph.D. in Byzantine history from UCLA. He has taught ancient and medieval history at UCLA, Cal State L.A., and he has published a translation of a ninth century Byzantine chronicle, as well as several scholarly articles.

He is also a Hugo Award-winning and critically acclaimed writer of science-fiction and fantasy. His alternate history works have included several short stories and the novels reviewed below. The World War series began in 1994.

Harry is married to fellow novelist Laura Frankos. They have three daughters: Alison, Rachel and Rebecca.



Books Published:

RATING:

Publisher: New English Library

Review Source:

WORLD WAR: PART I - IN THE BALANCE

From Pearl Harbor to panzers rolling through Paris to the Siege of Leningrad and the Battle of Midway, war seethed across the planet as the flames of destruction rose higher and hotter. And then, suddenly, the real enemy came. The invaders seemed unstoppable, their technology far beyond human reach. And never before had men been more divided. For Jew to unite with Nazi, American with Japanese, and Russian with German was unthinkable. But the alternative was even worse. As the fate of the world hung in the balance, slowly, painfully, humankind took up the shocking challenge...

And so starts World War: Part i: In The Balance by alternative-history bestseller Harry Turtledove. Never before has there been a sci-fi series like this one. For that matter, never before has there been a history/war series like this either!

This is a vast, churning alternate-world/alien-invasion saga. The setting is 1942, as WW II engulfs the Earth. Down from space come the reptilian-alien ``Race,'' whose fleetlord, Atvar, has orders to conquer the planet and add it to the Empire. The Race, known to the humans as ``Lizards,'' are an old species, with evenly developed but not particularly advanced technology, but their hereditary Emperors have ruled for thousands of generations.

Expecting an easy victory over sword-wielding primitives, the Lizards are appalled at how rapidly human technology has advanced. Though their tactics are inflexible, and they learn slowly, the Lizards have nuclear weapons and are prepared to use them on such places as Berlin and Washington.

Turtledove doesn't mind a large canvas for his novels and takes a global approach, mingling real and fictional characters and developing a dozen or more occasionally connecting plot lines. Here's just a glimpse:

* Major Heinrich Jaeger, sent to invade Russia, instead turns his panzers against the new invaders from space.

* Pilot Ken Embrey of RAF Bomber Command contends with Lizard jets and guided missiles.

* In the Warsaw ghetto, Moishe Russie first welcomes the Lizards as deliverers, only to discover their real intentions.

* Red Air Force pilot Ludmila Gorbunova flies across half of Europe, with foreign minister Molotov as her passenger.

* Physicist Jens Larssen struggles to unlock the secrets of nuclear fission in the University of Chicago labs.

* Aboard an orbiting spaceship, Chinese peasant woman Liu Han finds herself the subject of strange sexual experiments.

And this is all just in book one of this intriguing and panoramic four part series which is, quite possibly, the most ambitious in sci-fi history and definitely the work of one of alternate history's authentic modern masters.

These aliens arrive with an overwhelming invasion force and undeniable technological advantages; however, the resourcefulness, deviousness, and unpredictability of humans actually evens out the situation. The story is totally fascinating, so is Turtledove's skills in historiography, characterization, and dry wit. History buffs may even find this book more enjoyable than science fiction fans! Turtledove does an excellent job in intertwining the historical characters and has a masterly grasp of WWII equipment and machinery. By the end of the book readers will be compelled to go and search down the three remaining volumes.

Most highly recommended.




RATING:

Publisher: New English Library

Review Source:

WORLD WAR: PART II - TILTING THE BALANCE

This is the second volume in Turtledove's wonderful alternative history saga about an alien invasion of earth in the middle of World War II. And it's just as satisfying as World War: In the Balance - the first book of the series.

As we pick up the story, the invaders have cut the United States virtually in half at the Mississippi, vaporized Washington, D.C., devastated much of Europe, and control large parts of the Soviet Union.

But humanity will not give up so easily. The new world allies are ruthless at finding their foe's weaknesses and exploiting them. Whether this be delivering supplies in tiny biplanes to partisans across the vast steppes of Russia, working furiously to understand the enemy's captured radar in England, or battling house to house on the streets of Chicago, humankind would never give up.

The invading Lizards are also handicapped by human tenacity, terran weather, and widespread addiction to ginger. Among the continuing characters, the German Col. Heinrich Jaeger and the Russian pilot Ludmilla Gorbunova have become lovers only just before being packed off in opposite directions to renew fighting the invaders. The American nuclear program is lurching forward, as is Sam Yeager's relationship with Barbara Larssen, whom he marries just before they discover that her husband Jens is still alive. Moishe Russie's flight from the Lizards requires the help of his British cousin, David Goldfarb; and so on through Turtledove's large cast of well-drawn figures both fictional and historical.

Yet no one can say when the hellish inferno of death will stop being a war of conquest and turn into a war of survival - the very survival of the planet...

Turtledove's epic account of the struggle between humanity and the Lizards continues in a very satisfactory and intriguing fashion. Although the story is a little slow at times, it successfully captivates our attention through poignant characterization and thought provoking implications.

Turtledove again does what he does best; blend fact and fiction to create a true alternate history - one which never occurred, but certainly would have been more interesting than what did transpire in that fiery time of World War Two. The skillful blending and bending of history with a strong narrative is sure to capture and keep interest. Add to that characters you really grow to like and respect and the result is a strong second part of the series that demands to be followed to its conclusion.




RATING:

Publisher: New English Library

Review Source:

WORLD WAR: PART III - UPSETTING THE BALANCE

More than balance is upset in the third volume of Turtledove's massive saga about an alternative World War II in which all Earth combatants must unite against invading aliens.

The book begins with the defection of a high-ranking Lizard leader to Earth and ends with the first recorded mutiny in Lizard military history.

Communist China, Japan, Nazi Germany, the United States: they began World War II as mortal enemies. But suddenly their only hope for survival - never mind victory - is to unite to stop a mighty foe - one whose frightening technology appears invincible.

There far worse beings than the Nazis on the loose. From Warsaw to Moscow to China's enemy-occupied Forbidden City, the nations of the world are forced into an uneasy alliance to struggle against overwhelming odds.

In Britain and Germany, where the wail of hostile jets scream across the land, caches of once-forbidden weapons are unearthed, and unthinkable tactics are employed against the enemy. Brilliantly innovative military strategists confront challenges unprecedented in the history of warfare.

Even as the lack of fuel forces people back to horse and carriage, physicists work feverishly to create the first atomic bombs - with horrifying results. City after city joins the radioactive pyre as the planet erupts in fiery ruins.

Yet the crisis continues - on land, sea, and in the air - as humanity writhes in global combat. The tactics of daredevil guerrillas everywhere become increasingly ingenious against a superior foe whose desperate retaliation will grow ever more fearsome.

As the human nuclear programs bear fruit, and Lizard retaliation follows apace, both sides wonder whether the planet will be habitable at the end of the bombslinging.

On the individual level, Jewish refugee Moishe Russie finds a way to return to Jerusalem; killer-craft pilot Teerts frees himself from the Japanese, then gets into combat almost as dangerous as his captivity was; Jens Larssen is finally and drastically cured of jealousy over his wife's remarriage; and Colonel Jager and Ludmila remain separated by politics, nationality, lots of hostile Lizards, and the general exigencies of war.

Turtledove's world war series is reaching a climatic crescendo as the human race desperately attempts to defeat their foes from outer space. For the most part, this third installment is action packed and extremely well-written.

With one volume to go, WorldWar is hotting up for a huge showdown.




RATING:

Publisher: New English Library

Review Source:

WORLD WAR: PART IV - STRIKING THE BALANCE

And now we have book four of the World War series, Striking the Balance. And, without a doubt, this is Turtledove's best of the series!

As the war still rages, the only real possible outcome looks to be an armed truce. The fatal, final deadline arrives and uneasy allies desperately seek a way out of a no-win, no-survival situation: a way to live free in a world that may soon be bombed into atomic oblivion.

The invading Lizards are ceded certain desert areas in return for evacuating the rest of the territory they occupy. The two sides, human and alien, watch one another carefully. The Lizards live in fear of explosively developing human technology and the humans in fear of the Lizard colonising fleet that is scheduled to arrive in the 1960s. As for the large cast of continuing characters, it can safely be said that Colonel Jaeger and Ludmila Gorbunova are together again, Otto Skorzeny goes out fighting, and in a real tour de force, Liu Han retrieves her daughter from Lizard scientists and works her way rapidly up the ranks of the Chinese Communist Party. There is plenty more to this final book, but commenting any further would just give the surprises and twists away.

As this is the final in the World War series, many of the storylines are wrapped up and concluded, but don't expect all loose ends to be tied up here. Why? Well, with the Lizard colonising fleet heading for earth, expect the new three part series COLONISATION to take up from where World War left off.





RATING:

Date of Release: HB - Sept '99 / PB Feb 2000

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Review Source:

COLONISATION: PART I - SECOND CONTACT

First there was the World War series...

And now, the start of Colonisation...

The World War series ended in 1945 with a negotiated peace between the alien lizard race invaders, the nuclear powers (the Reich, the USSR, and the USA), and the much-weakened Britain and Japan. Now Colonization: Second Contact continues the saga...

When the alien colonists arrive in 1962, they're unprepared for a half-conquered world. After several of their ships are destroyed by a mysterious nuclear missile, they accuse their own conquest forces of incompetence. Meanwhile, Muslims in the conquered Middle East are staging an Intifada, the Chinese Communists continue guerrilla warfare against the invaders, and everyone's smuggling ginger, which is powerfully addictive among the Lizards and has unanticipated effects on the female colonists!!!

Turtledove's cast of characters includes sharply drawn alien soldiers and civilians as well as a mix of convincing historical and fictional humans from all over the world. He covers all the sixties issues: generational conflict, the drug culture, racial inequality, the threat of atomic apocalypse, and the frustration of soldiers in an unwinnable war.

The Lizards befriend, study, and even raise a human infant in their culture and society. The humans proceed similarly, though securing an unhatched Lizard egg takes much time and effort. Seedy dealers, smugglers, and narcotics agents join the World war cast, and strong human characters, including Jewish resistance veteran Mordechai Anielewicz and U.S. Army Major Sam Yeager, return yet again (and it's great to have them back).

As the full colonization fleet settles into Earth orbit, Lizards who have been dealing with humans for two decades find the long association has bred familiarity as well as contempt. Nazis plot, Soviets bluff, Americans cheerfully spy, and Lizards struggle to retain control. ..and this is just in the first book of the series!

Once again Turtledove constructs an enticing plot, focusing on the human drama behind this momentous occasion. Most of the characters from the World war series are back, all of them striving to cope with their new surroundings. The references to 60's pop culture and history are right on the money too. The only downside is the book is a tad slow in places as it sets the groundwork for the books to follow. Still, if Turtledove can pull off another astounding series of thinking man's sci-fi, a slow passage here or there is to be expected.

We look forward to the rest of the series!




RATING:

Publisher: New English Library

Review Source:

A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE

Just when you thought Turtledove was really only interested in "what-if" alternative history novels, comes some straight sci-fi that is some of his best writing yet!

Mars is boring, we all know that. Turns out it's too damn small. But what if it weren't...

That is speculation which begins A World of Difference. Turtledove, replaces Mars with Minerva, a planet similar to Mars except for the existence of water, atmosphere and life.

Upon arriving on Minerva, the Viking lander transmits tantalizing pictures back to earth, ending abruptly after sending the image of an alien's limb. A joint American-Soviet manned mission is then launched to explore this strange world.

Of course, everything goes wrong when the American and the Soviet spaceships land on opposite sides of a deep trench. Physically cut off from each other, each team makes contact with a difference group of Minervans. The Minervans are perhaps Turtledove's most successful attempt at alien construction. Unlike humans, Minervans have little sense of the individual.

Minervans discovery of the individual forms a major plot point of the novel.

An important aspect of the Minervans is that female Minervans always die of blood loss when giving birth. Naturally, this fact affects their society in very basic ways. The ruler of the Minervans befriended by the Americans, Reatur, has recently impregnated his favorite wife and looks to his American friends to help find a way to save her.

A World of Difference is much more than a story of the discovery of a new race. In addition to seeing both Americans and Soviets deal with the Minervans, Turtledove also shows, in detail, the two political enemies working together and against each other throughout the novel as political and environmental changes occur. Despite basic ideological differences, the joint mission to Minerva began as a collaborative effort and the two crews make attempts to co-operate even as their instincts tell them not to.

Turtledove also treats the reader to a guided tour of Minerva, which is strikingly Mars-like. However, because he has created a new planet, Turtledove can make alterations to Mars so the planet suits his and his characters' purposes better than the planet which so many authors have described.

The characters are well drawn, but not particularly realistic. They are, generally likable and interact well with each other and with the Minervans. Turtledove gives them obstacles, political, environmental and racial, to overcome and they deal with those obstacles as best they can. Although Turtledove slips in a few alternate historical moments in the novel, alternate history, for which Turtledove is justifiably well known, is a minor part of the novel. Human history has gone on nearly the same path as it did in our Minerva-less solar system.

A World of Difference serves as a reminder that Turtledove has written a lot of non-alternate history works and has proven himself adept in straight science fiction.

One of his best.





RATING:

Publisher: New English Library

Review Source:

HOW FEW REMAIN

Now we turn to Turtledove's epic of the "second" Civil War. It was an epoch of glory and success, of disaster and despair. In the "Second" War Between the States, the times, the stakes, and the battle lines had changed - and so would history.

Turtledove, having previously won the Civil War for the Confederacy in The Guns of the South (1992), sets his sights on a "second" Civil War in this sequel.

This time, the South won the battle of Camp Hill (Antietam) in 1862 and thereafter, supported by both the French and British, swiftly consolidated victory. When, in 1881, the Confederate States of America moves to purchase Chihuahua and Sonora from Mexico, the USA, feeling beleaguered and insecure, declares war. There follows a prolonged and involved struggle wherein many famous individuals occupy unfamiliar roles. James Longstreet, for instance, is President of a defiantly slaveowning CSA, his opposite number being James G. Blaine of the slave-free but racist USA. Stonewall Jackson runs the CSA's military, while in the North, Ulysses Grant is a drunken, disgraced, and forgotten civilian. George Custer of the USA operates in Kansas, defending the border between the USA and the CSA. Theodore Roosevelt ranches in Montana; a chastened Abraham Lincoln tours the USA, espousing socialism. So, if the CSA is to win again, Longstreet must promise to abolish slavery in exchange for continued French and British assistance.

Still with us? Yep, How Few Remain is a wonderfully entertaining book as long as you can keep up with all the characters and action. Really more suited for the history buffs, How Few Remain is probably about 100 pages too long and quite heavy going in some parts. Still, those who like the "what-if" scenario can't go wrong here. It is, for the most part, a fast paced, very believable book about the world that could have been had the South won freedom in 1865. Turtledove uses the known traits and characteristics of many historic figures to weave a terrific alternative history story. Heavy going, but worth it.





RATING:

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Review Source:

THE GREAT WAR: PART I - AMERICAN FRONT

Following on from How Few Remain, Turtledove moves to World War 1 to extend his already impressive alternative history skills.

When the Great War engulfed Europe in 1914, the United States and the Confederate States of America, bitter enemies for five decades, entered the fray on opposite sides: the United States aligned with the newly strong Germany, while the Confederacy joined forces with their longtime allies, Britain and France. But it soon became clear to both sides that this fight would be different and that war itself would never be the same again. For this was to be a protracted, global conflict waged with new and chillingly efficient innovations such as the machine gun, the airplane, poison gas, and trench warfare.

Across the Americas, the fighting raged like wildfire on multiple and far-flung fronts. As President Theodore Roosevelt rallied the diverse ethnic groups of the northern states - Irish and Italians, Mormons and Jews - Confederate President Woodrow Wilson struggled to hold together a Confederacy still beset by ignorance, prejudice, and class divisions. And as the war thundered on, southern blacks, oppressed for generations, found themselves fatefully drawn into a climactic confrontation...

As with How Few Remain, The Great War: American Front is one doosey of a novel. Packed with lots of action and dozens of main characters, readers can be forgiven for thinking they've lost the plot in places. A change in style for Turtledove has seen him drop the focus from historical characters to that of the average citizens. This seems like a strange move at first, but soon the reader learns to relate more with the "average Joe" than they can with historical figures.

As with all of Turtledoves alternative "war" books, not all is solved and answered in this volume, leaving scope for the threads to be picked up in The Great War: Walk In Hell (due to be published Feb 2000 in the UK and Australia.) For the dedicated history buffs out there.




RATING: Yet to be reviewed...

Date of Release: Feb 2000

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Review Source:

THE GREAT WAR: PART II - WALK IN HELL

Released in hardback this month in both the UK and Australia.

A review will appear in the NEW RELEASES section of RLK! in the next month or two.



Websites:

Harry Turtledove does not currently have an Official website. But a comprehensive fan-site can be found at: http://www.sfsite.com/~silverag/turtledove.html


Where to buy:

Availability:     

For those who order online, try:

Amazon UK!   Buy Laymon & Others Here!   




 RLK! Spotlight On...
Past Features

 January 2000: J. N. Williamson Click here to view.
 December 99: Phil Rickman Click here to view.
 November 99: Paul Thomas Click here to view.
 October 99: James Lee Burke Click here to view.
 September 99: Leisure Books Click here to view.
 August 99: Gerald Seymour Click here to view.
 July 99: Brian Lumley Click here to view.
 June 99: Michael Connelly Click here to view.
 May 99: Stephen Laws Click here to view.
 April 99: Gemma O'Connor Click here to view.
 March 99: Simon Clark Click here to view.
 February 99: Obsidian Books Click here to view.
 January 99: John Case Click here to view.

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