I was drawn into this book from the first few pages. Right
from the beginning, we are given the situation: The Race (a group of
aliens whose civilization is well over a hundred thousand years old) is
expanding their Empire, colonizing a primitive planet in the Tosev system.
The males of the Race that we meet are part of a force to get the planet
ready for colonization, and to subdue the natives.
Unfortunately, their last probe visited Tosev 3 a thousand years
ago, and led the Race to believe humans had no more technology than swords
and clubs. In fact, the planet is in the middle of World War II,
and humans have just developed rockets, but the German V2 is not yet ready.
The United States has just recently joined the war, and is on the road
to developing an atomic bomb. But things could be worse for the Race,
though they donít know it. They could have arrived ten years later.
But they wish they had arrived a hundred years earlier.
The Race, short, lizard-like creatures, do not change much in
a thousand years, and so have the benefit of time to plan every thing they
do down to the last detail. Humanity is an enigma to them, and deprives
them of that time. So although they have the technology that we have
today Ėhelicopters, atomic weapons, rockets, microelectronics, automatic
weapons, but not laser weapons, humanity is holding his own against this
That the aliens use bullets, drive trucks and tanks, and fly
jets is a good idea, I think. It avoids other invasion cliches, that
humanity rises up against odds that are insurmountable. Here, the
odds are just simply huge.
The other idea that I liked was the unexpected use of everyday
people in virtually all the plot lines. In a story such as this one,
it must be tempting to use the people in authority. But it seems
more realistic when the situations are encountered by people who have hardly
any authority. To date, the only leaders that only have been seen
are Churchill and Hitler, and only for a couple of pages each.
Finally, I like the international flavour of the many, many characters.
I would hear their various accents as they spoke! Only four are American,
and three are ballplayers at the beginning of the book. Two join
the army to repel the aliens from US soil, which at this point looks impossible.
They see many defeats and a few victories, and wonder how they stay alive
through it all. The third ball player is captured by the aliens and
used in experiments designed to figure out humanity. In one of these
experiments, he is paired with a Chinese woman, who lost everything to
a Japanese invasion before being captured by the aliens. They are
forced to mate, and end up feeling comfortable enough together that they
The fourth American is part of the team that is developing the
atomic bomb. Another Chinese man gets rich by getting many of the
aliens addicted to ginger. Two German tankers and a Russian pilot
fight the aliens (known generally among humans as Lizards) separately,
then end up joining together for several missions, including capturing
Polish Jews welcome the aliens as saviors when they destroy their
prison camp, but quickly realize that although they are better off than
they were (they arenít dead, anyway), their new masters just want them
as puppets. Finally, there are the British bombers and radar specialists.
These guys are learning to use what they have against the Lizards, and
adapt it to this new war.
Several of the plot lines cross, some diverge, and cross again.
It shows how flexible people really are, in spite of ideologies.
The English have hated the French for centuries, and the Russians and Jews
have good reason to wish the Germans were dead, but they can grudgingly
work together if they have to. They may hate working together, but
at least most people can put a more essential cause above their personal
feelings, at least for a short while.
The ones who canít really do that are the Russian, German and
Japanese leaders. Instead of pooling what they have, they form the
illusion that they are cooperating, when actually they are trying to sabotage
everybody elseís position. That self-serving attitude could cause
humanity to lose the war against the Lizards.
We also get to see the war from the perspective of the Race.
You can actually feel sorry for the leader of this invasion force.
Although he seems to be winning in the long run Ėhe has overrun much of
the planet already- he is far from in control of the world.
Humanity is just too complex for him and his people, so all he gets at
staff meetings is more and more bad news.
The next book is called Tilting the Balance. By the end
of this book, both sides think the balance is tilting in their favour.
Who will be right?
For a war novel, this one proceeds at quite a leisurely pace,
which is good, I think. Every scene shows something new about the
characters, making each one of them quite deep. And it makes each
of them very human, and very realistic. Even the Lizards are realistic,
though completely alien. They have their own views, their own culture,
and their own battles to fight on the way to the battlefield.
And so, the war is in effect just beginning.