Worldwar

Worldwar

Worldwar is a series of four alternate history science fiction novels by Harry Turtledove.

The premise of the series is an alien invasion of Earth in the middle of World War II. The military invasion begins on or around May 30, 1942, but the aliens, who call themselves the Race, reached Earth orbit in December 1941. Presumably, six months were spent making preparations for the attack.

Although the Race, a reptilian species, has the advantage of superior technology, their last information on humans was collected by a robotic probe during the 12th century. Their technology is only marginally ahead of 21st century Earth technology, and much of their equipment relies on basic principles still in use. The "Lizards," as their human antagonists quickly dub them, are extremely surprised that humankind has progressed so far since their probe visited Earth. No species they have ever encountered has advanced so rapidly: they thought the toughest military force on the planet would still be Crusader knights on horses.

On finding the real situation, the commander of the alien fleet considers turning back and asking for fresh instructions but feels that he would lose face if he does.

The narrative follows the intersecting fortunes of a large number of human and alien characters. Most notably the series depicts how the Axis and Allied powers must cooperate to fight the alien menace. A follow-up trilogy, "Colonization", carries the story forward into a very different 1960s. The timeline ends with Homeward Bound.

The volumes are:
* "" (1994)
* "" (1995)
* "" (1996)
* "" (1996)

List of characters

The following is a list of some major characters from the series.

Humans

Mordechai Anielewicz ("historical"): Anielewicz, together with other Polish Jews, is liberated from Nazi occupation by the Race, who subsequently capture and shut down Auschwitz. In the wake of salvation, Anielewicz and his fellow Jews are faced with the agonising dilemma between siding with the Race against Nazi Germany, which has postponed but not altogether forsaken the implementation of the Final Solution - and in effect becoming "traitors to humanity"; or fighting against the Race, an act which would make them Nazi allies.

Flight-Lieutenant George Bagnall: A flight engineer in the Royal Air Force serving aboard a Lancaster bomber. Bagnall is part of a 1,000 bomber flight returning from a run over Cologne in Germany when the invasion begins. The armada of bombers is under attack from German AA and fighters when the Race's killercraft descend upon the unsuspecting humans. The resulting battle leaves dozens of German and British planes destroyed with no significant damage inflicted upon the Race.

David Goldfarb: A radar operator in the Royal Air Force. When the Race carries out air reconnaissance in the months before their attack, Goldfarb and his fellow radar specialists are confused by readings indicating aircraft much faster and high-flying than anything known to humans: the RAF men nickname those echoes as "pixies". No one believes aircraft can fly as fast or as high as the readings indicate.

Lieutenant Ludmila Gorbunova: One of many female pilots in the Soviet Union's Red Air Force. Stationed at an airfield near Kharkov in the Ukraine when the invasion begins, Ludmilla witnesses the destruction of most human aircraft, both Soviet and German, at the hands of the alien invaders. She flies a Polikarpov Po-2, a small wooden biplane with a low ceiling. Its qualities render it practically invisible to radar, enabling her to survive the initial alien attack and give her the opportunity to make light ground attacks on unsuspecting Race encampments. She develops a relationship with Colonel Jäger after she finds him conversing with some farmers. While she is suspicious of this German officer at first, both of them come to realize that there are human beings on either side of the propaganda-heavy front. Nevertheless, she treads very carefully when developing their relationship, as his letters to her are monitored and recorded by the NKVD. The character is inspired by members of the historical all-women Soviet unit known as Night Witches, many of whom were decorated for their WWII service.

Colonel Leslie Groves ("historical"): Head of America's atomic bomb development. His first task is to get a batch of captured alien Uranium from Boston, Massachusetts to Denver, Colorado where the Metallurgical Laboratory developing the atom bomb has been relocated. He is very well aware that the Soviet Union and Germany are also working fervently to develop the first human atomic weapons and he is eager to win the race.

Colonel Heinrich Jäger: A tank commander in the German Sixth Army advancing on Stalingrad when the alien invasion begins. Jäger fought in the trenches of World War I as a teenager and saw firsthand the devastating effects of armored vehicles on infantry. After the Armistice he stayed in the army, serving in the Reichswehr of the Weimar Republic. When Hitler began rearming Germany in the 1930s, Jäger requested reassignment to the Panzer Corps. If he was going to see combat in another war, he wanted to fight from a tank cupola. The character has some similarities with Colonel Sabrino, a dragon-rider in Turtledove's Darkness series.

Jens Larssen: A physicist at the University of Chicago. When the Race begins its attack on Earth, they detonate several atomic bombs just above the Earth's atmosphere hoping to disrupt human electronics with the resulting electromagnetic radiation. This attempt at subterfuge fails since electronics of the 1940s use vacuum tubes rather than integrated circuits, making the effect of EM radiation minimal. However, Larssen is among the handful of human scientists to realize that the attack proves nuclear fission is feasible. This is important since Larssen is working alongside several other scientists to develop an atom bomb.

Vyacheslav Molotov ("historical"): Head of the Soviet Union's Foreign Ministry, Molotov is given the unenviable task of negotiating with Fleetlord Atvar. Possessing an icy and taciturn demeanor, he proves adept at reading the intentions of his adversaries, both human and alien. The only time Molotov reveals any sign of emotion is around Stalin, who elicits a certain amount of fear in him. Along with Germany's Joachim von Ribbentrop, Molotov is among the first humans to orbit the Earth.

Moishe Russie: A student in medicine in Poland when the Germans invaded in 1939. Since he is Jewish, Moishe and his family are forced by the German authorities to live in the Warsaw ghetto. It is revealed later that plans were underway to ship most of the Jews in the ghetto to a place called Auschwitz. When the alien invasion begins, Moishe advises his fellow Jews to greet the Race as liberators after one of their bombs inadvertently blows a hole in the ghetto wall, and they are treated as such even after the Race destroys Berlin with a nuclear device. (Despite objections by Anielewicz, Russie insisted on praying for the souls of the civilians killed in the blast.) The Jews of Poland are cruelly disillusioned as to the nature of their "liberators," especially Russie, when he is told by the new Race governor to make a radio propaganda broadcast praising the subsequent nuclear destruction of Washington, D.C..

Otto Skorzeny ("historical"): SS Hauptsturmführer, Skorzeny is a Waffen-SS commando known for his unconventional thinking. He becomes a particularly feared human to the Race. He staged a major turnover for the Nazis in Croatia, and bargained for a Race landcruiser with a backpack full of ginger, which turns out to have narcotic and possibly hallucinogenic effects on members of the Race.

Sam Yeager: A minor league ball player with the Decatur Commodores when the invasion takes place. Like many young men, he tried to enlist in the Army in the wake of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor at the end of 1941. However, he was rejected because he must wear a full plate of dentures after losing his teeth during the Influenza epidemic of 1918. His train was strafed south of Dixon, Illinois during the opening hours of the invasion. Not long afterward, he was drafted by a desperate US Army to defend Chicago from the invading Race.

Liu Han: A Chinese housewife whose innocuous village was raided by the Race almost simultaneously with Japanese forces. Her family was killed when her house (and that of the local magistrate's) was immolated in a Japanese bomb attack. She is abducted by the Race along with apothecary Yi Min, and after a bit of interesting conversation between an initially scared Yi Min and some officers of the Race, she is subjected to what are literally sexual experiments devised by the Race to study the mating habits of the "Big Uglies." She is subsequently forced to have sex with several different males, eventually ending up going steady with Bobby Fiore, one of Yeager's teammates. Ironically, these experiments are not done for the reptilian humanoid Race's perverted enjoyment, rather it is a dramatic species reversal as humans often observe the mating habits of animals. She later becomes pregnant by Fiore, and finds her impressions of foreign human "devils" are dispelled (albeit replaced by that of the "scaly devils.")

Yi Min: A Chinese apothecary abducted with Liu Han when the Race raided his village. Thanks to some negotiation, he finds his stay aboard the Race's ship rather entertaining as he is subjected to "experiments" which effectively give him a harem of women to "mate" with. Later on he is found back on Earth in a Race prison camp, dealing in ginger. It is implied that he is the one who introduced the Race to this highly addictive spice, and he is more than eager to trade it for rather technologically advanced Race items, though he intends to sell these items off for even more prestige. As a result, his dwelling in the camp is more lavish than the ones the other Chinese prisoners are forced to stay in.

The Race

Fleetlord Atvar: The commander of the Race's Conquest Fleet. He is apparently related to the Emperor and owes his position partly due to that fact. In the course of the series it is revealed that aptitude tests back on Home indicated Atvar would be either a proficient architect or military officer. He chose a military career believing it would be more exciting. At the beginning of the conflict he is faced with the decision to invade Earth or return home to ask for directions (the latter apparently having a humiliating and degrading connotation.) However he starts to grow discouraged as he is faced with a significantly more technologically advanced species than initial reports suggested; the most recent intelligence on Earth ("Tosev-3" as labeled by the Race) dated back to the Middle Ages.

Flight Leader Teerts: A killercraft pilot from the Conquest Fleet. His is among the jet fighters that rapidly neutralize human air power in the opening days of the invasion. By the end of the first few weeks, the Race achieves air supremacy over most of the planet, forcing human pilots to engage in small limited attacks upon isolated targets or risk nearly certain death. However he is unfortunate enough to be shot down when Japanese bullets lodge themselves in the engines of his fighter plane, and is captured by the Japanese. While he is somewhat curious (and rather condescending) of Japanese imperial customs, he is even more afraid of their officers, who seem all too happy to want to extract as many Race secrets as they can from him, by cruel physical torture if need be. He is also unpleasantly surprised to find out firsthand that these "Nippon-ese" soldiers are also very proficient at martial arts.

Straha: Shiplord who vocally opposes Atvar's strategies. He will ask for a confidence vote which Atvar wins, forcing Straha to exile (in shame) among the humans. He lands in the United States, where he is kept as a prisoner of war, and intensely questioned on Race technology.

Ussmak: A driver for the crew of a landcruiser in the Conquest Fleet. Essentially, the Lizard "Everyman" viewpoint character. At first, Ussmak and his crewmates revel at the ease with which they manage to destroy Soviet T-34s and German Panzer-IV's, the most advanced armored fighting vehicles available to the Soviets and Germans, respectively. However, they soon grow disillusioned when the humans continue to resist the invasion despite their clear military inferiority, compounded by the weather conditions of the planet, which are more adapted to human than Race machinery. Ussmak eventually finds himself wondering if this is a fight worth waging.

Historical characters

Some historical characters also appear for brief "cameos", to give a historical feel to the story:

"In the Balance"

Tadeusz Bor-Komorowski: General, Polish Home Army

Winston Churchill: Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Adolf Hitler: German Führer

Cordell Hull: U.S. secretary of state

George Marshall: U.S. Army Chief of Staff

Vyacheslav Molotov: Soviet foreign minister

George Patton: U.S. Army major general

Joachim von Ribbentrop: German foreign minister

Leo Szilard: Nuclear physicist, University of Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory

Hans Thomsen: German ambassador to the United States

Shigenori Togo: Japanese foreign minister

Walt Zinn: Nuclear physicist, University of Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory

"Tilting the Balance"

Mordechai Anielewicz: leader of Jewish fighters in Poland

Eric Blair: BBC talks producer, Indian Section, London. Better know by pen name George Orwell.

Kurt Chill: Wehrmacht general and interpreter in Pskov

Arthur Compton: Nuclear physicist with the Metallurgical Laboratory

Kurt Diebner: Nuclear physicist, Hechingen, Germany

Enrico Fermi: Nuclear physicist with the Metallurgical Laboratory

Laura Fermi: Enrico Fermi's wife

Georgy Flyorov: Soviet nuclear physicist

Aleksandr German: Commander of Second Partisan Brigade in Pskov

Winston Churchill: Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Werner Heisenberg: Nuclear physicist, Hechingen, Germany

Nieh Ho-T'ing: Chinese Communist guerrilla officer

Cordell Hull: U.S. secretary of state

Ivan Koniev: Red Army general

Igor Kurchatov: Soviet nuclear physicist

Edward R. Murrow: Radio news broadcaster

Yoshio Nishina: Japanese nuclear physicist

Joachim von Ribbentrop: German foreign minister

Franklin D. Roosevelt: President of the United States

Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski: Eldest of the Jews in the Łódź ghetto

Iosef Stalin: General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union

Leo Szilard: Nuclear physicist with the Metallurgical Laboratory

Shigenori Togo: Japanese foreign minister

Nikolai Vasiliev: Commander, First Partisan Brigade in Pskov

Georgi Zhukov: Marshal of the Soviet Union

"Upsetting the Balance"

Mordechai Anielewicz: Jewish partisan, eastern Poland

Lord Beaverbrook: British Minister of Supply

Kurt Chill: Wehrmacht Lieutenant General

Kurt Diebner: Nuclear physicist, Tübingen, Germany

Albert Einstein: Physicist, Couch, Missouri

Dwight Eisenhower: U.S. Army General, Couch, Missouri

Enrico Fermi: Nuclear physicist, Denver, Colorado

Aleksandr German: Partisan Brigadier, Pskov, USSR

Robert Goddard: Rocket expert, Couch, Missouri

Lord Halifax: British ambassador to the United States

Cordell Hull: U.S. Secretary of State

Nieh Ho-'Ting: People's Liberation Army officer, China

Benito Mussolini: Il Duce (Italian Dictator)

Joachim von Ribbentrop: German foreign minister

Iosef Stalin: General Secretary, Communist Party of the USSR

Leo Szilard: Nuclear physicist, Denver, Colorado

Nikolai Vasiliev: Partisan brigadier, Pskov, USSR

"Striking the Balance"

Mordechai Anielewicz: Jewish fighting leader, Łódź, Poland

Menachem Begin: Jewish guerrilla, Haifa, Palestine

Omar Bradley: U.S. Army lieutenant general, outside Denver

Walter von Brockdorff-Ahlefeldt: Wehrmacht lieutenant general, Riga, Latvia

Kurt Chill: Wehrmacht lieutenant general, Pskov, USSR

William Joseph Donovan: U.S. Army major general, Hot Springs, Arkansas

Anthony Eden: British foreign secretary

Aleksandr German: Partisan brigadier, Pskov, USSR

Robert Goddard: Rocket scientist, Hot Springs, Arkansas

Cordell Hull: President of the United States

Igor Kurchatov: Nuclear physicist, north of Moscow

Mao Zedong: Communist Party leader, Peking

George Marshall: U.S. Secretary of State

Joachim von Ribbentrop: German foreign minister

Iosef Stalin: General Secretary, Communist Party, USSR

Stern: Jewish guerrilla leader, Jerusalem "(Note: identity uncertain, best possible match is Avraham Stern)"

Shigenori Togo: Japanese foreign minister

Nikolai Vasiliev: Partisan brigadier, Pskov, USSR

Major themes

The novels apply the major themes of World War II to what can be considered a typical science fiction cliché, namely an alien invasion of earth. At one point the character Sam Yeager, himself a fan of early twentieth century pulp fiction, recognizes the similarity of the world's predicament to that of sci-fi tales out of "Amazing Stories" and similar magazines. However, Yeager also recognizes that the standard plot resolution to such stories, usually that some brilliant scientists develop a secret superweapon that drives out the aliens, is hopelessly unrealistic.

Turtledove approaches the novels' science fiction scenario with less of a focus the technological and fantasy elements typically associated with the genre and shows greater concern for the role of more mundane affairs such as the political repercussions of an alliance between the Allied and Axis powers, the impact the presence of alien creatures has on human society, and the ways in which warfare is paradoxically a hindrance to civilization and simultaneously a catalyst for the progress of civilization.

As mentioned above, one of the key themes explored in the novel is the complexity of international alliances. During World War II, there was often a great deal of friction between allies on both sides of the war. The United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union had very different reasons for fighting the war and often had conflicting views of what the postwar world should look like. For their part, Nazi Germany, Italy, and the Empire of Japan rarely saw eye-to-eye on several key issues and found it difficult to coordinate their policies. Turtledove reexamines this idea by postulating a need for all the major powers to work together against the even greater threat of an alien menace.

This idea is most emphatically explored in the novel through the diplomatic relations between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. Invaded by the Nazis in 1941, two years after having signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Nonaggression Pact of 1939, the Soviets are reluctant to enter into yet another alliance with Hitler even in the face of an alien invasion. Indeed, there are allusions in the novel to the possibility that Nazi Germany still plans to settle its conflict with the Soviet Union even as they work together against the Race. Yet both sides manage to, at least temporarily, set aside their differences, launching a joint raid to capture alien Uranium and also arranging a meeting between Adolf Hitler and Vyacheslav Molotov, the Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union.

The impact that the Race has on human society is also a central theme of the novel. Since the Race is biologically reptilian and evolved on a world where mammals never moved beyond a rodent-like stage, the idea of a race of sentient mammals is in of itself bizarre to them. The social structures humans have created as a result of their physiology, primarily families and the social institutions associated with them, are literally beyond the understanding of the Race. For their part, humans are generally shocked and disgusted that the Race has no concept of family and engages in sexual activity only during biologically specified mating seasons. Through the character of Liu Han, Turtledove explores how the different biological interactions of the two species, primarily sexual intercourse, lead to the development of a much more rapid and adaptive human approach to technological change.

Turtledove also makes connections between the negative traits of humanity and the Race. Members of the Race are not only interstellar imperialists, they are also extremely proud and boastful of that fact. In this way, Turtledove draws parallels between the Race and nineteenth century European imperialists. Like the European imperialists, the Race has an ideological conception akin to the White Man's Burden, in which they feel the need to conquer other species and "civilize" them by teaching them their language, their customs, and their social mores. The Chinese apothecary Yi Min implicitly expresses this parallel. Yi Min sees little or no difference between accommodating himself to the political desires of the Race or, for example, the British or Japanese who had also tried to subdue China. Indeed, Yi Min lumps the Race along with other human imperialists together as "foreign devils." Human or alien, the goals of imperialists remain universal.

The central theme of the novel may be the way in which human nature, perhaps because of its very propensity for violence and war rather than in spite of it, provides the best hope human beings have at defeating the alien enemy. Though the Race is an expansionist imperial power, the Race itself is a relatively peaceful society, having overcome internal wars and maintained a politically stable interstellar empire for nearly 50,000 human years. Indeed, the Race has no standing military force and only raises an army during the few times it seeks to conquer other worlds. Since the Race has only conquered two other species, the Rabotev and Halessi, they have only engaged in war two times during their 50,000 year history. Yet their very political stability and inability to cope with rapid changes makes them stagnant and gives them difficulty in responding to dynamic human responses. However, although they are easily caught off-guard by human tricks and deviousness, they are merely naive, not stupid, and will devise effective countermeasures to these efforts.


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