AFTERSHOCKSA novel by Harry Turtledove
(2001, Del Rey Books)
Colonization, book 3
As the colonization fleet arrives at Earth, the Lizards deal with ginger smuggling, curious human endeavors, and the destruction of some of their spaceships.
-- First reading (paperback)
More day-to-day activities, as expected, show people's reactions to the events that came before this book. Unfortunately, once again, nothing seems very important. I felt like I was reading a soap opera, diary style. Once again, this book showed conditions under the rule of the Race, but not much more. In all, I don't think this series was very successful.
At various points in the book, events got more exciting, but they never stayed that way. The excitement or interesting aspects would come and go in waves, much like real life. The book tried to go from crisis to crisis, but although things threatened to go out of control, nothing actually did, which just doesn't keep the readers satisfied.
I have very little to say about this book as a whole. I read it with the same spirit as the other books in this series, but I find that I don't even have as much to say now as I did after reading the first two books. Nothing unexpected happened. I knew that Sam Yeager's information about the USA destroying ships from the Colonization fleet would get out. I knew that their ship in the asteroid belt was trying to set up colonies that would try to skip out of the solar system and perhaps even reach the Lizard's homeworld of Home. Once the Jewish bomb was moved onto German soil, the only question was if it would blow up or not -and the ending was rather anti-climactic, and in line with the solution of the other crises in the book. I suppose we could say that the Lizards and humans are learning to solve problems without violence, though that is not entirely correct, either.
As Ttomalss' analysis of the Roman Empire shows, they are perhaps learning to accept humans, rather than trying to change them. From the cultural standpoint, it was obvious that humans would change the Race as much as the Race would change humans. This book stayed away from most of the cultural and technological changes that were showcased in previous books. Instead, we are introduced to two Lizards who want to get married -shocking and disgusting by standards of the Race. Straha is another good example of cultural change -he doesn't fit in with either society now. Kassquit emphasizes the differences in what the Race expects from humans, and what they should expect.
The same cast of characters returns, and I expect to see many of them in the inevitable sequel series, whenever that appears. The plot never really resolves itself, except to suggest at ways things could progress. The last page of the book leave no doubt that the Americans plan to leave the solar system in search of Home.
Monique Dutourd explores an irradiated France, which has newly gained its independence. I was never quite sure what that meant. It seems to be in a different class from the independent states like the USA, and even lower than Britain and Japan. It is explained that control is easier this way, but it is an illusion of independence. The Roman Empire analogy fits well. Monique doesn't get much to do except whine about her brother, the ginger dealer. She is arrested for having slept with Kuhn, the German SS man (who shows up alive, if only briefly), but her connections to the ginger trade allow her go free. After her brother is captured by the Lizards, she gets him out, also. There was a mistake in the book around this point, however. Either the author changed his mind on how Pierre got out of prison, or the section where Kuhn gets him out and he thanks Monique profusely should have been omitted. By the end of the book, she is teaching Ttomalss about Roman history.
Monique spends a lot of the book with Rance Auerbach and Penny Sommers, who don't do much, either. They continue the ginger trade, but spend most of the book blackmailing Lizards and humans to get what they want. Their sections were much less annoying than in the previous books. Rance takes a liking to David Goldfarb, whom he had met in the first book, so doesn't take well to learning that the old British agent was trying to kill the man for moving to Canada. By the end of the book, the Brit is dead. Goldfarb is doing great in Canada, tinkering with Lizard technology and inventing new things. He survives a few brushes with death, and invents a bear that can move and speak with the tiny actuators that the Lizards can make. These Furries become a huge craze all over the world, and presumably, Goldfarb gets rich off of it! It shows a side of the world not focused on conflict, such that everybody thinks they are crazy for not spending the research on defense. Those short scenes were a nice change of pace.
Another short section deals with Moisse and Reuven Russie, in Jerusalem. Essentially, Reuven's lover Jane moves to Canada -coincidentally to Edmonton, where she eventually marries Goldfarb's boss. Reuven won't follow her emigration because of the difference in their religion, so his story deals with how he moves on with life, falling in love with a Jewish widow who has a daughter whom she brings to see him, as a doctor, fairly often.
Molotov, in the USSR, gets even less attention in this book. The Soviet Union doesn't have the resources or the capacity to create a crisis, so the book essentially leaves them to react at what is going on around the world. They ship weapons to China, especially German-made missiles, to help the rebellion there, and has to keep from being caught. The Chinese, from the viewpoint of Liu Han and her daughter, also don't do much. They retake Peking, successfully this time, and discuss regaining their territory from the Lizards. They are left as a thorn in the side of the Race.
This book really deals with the three crises originating in the USA, Germany, and Poland. Jonathan Yeager gets more sex with Kassquit, teaching her what it is like to be human, and for the first time, she expresses herself as a human, much to the chagrin of Ttomalss! Soon after he gets down to Earth again, his father disappears, because of the information that he found out about the destruction of the Colonization ships way back at the beginning of this series. I really enjoyed Straha's point of view, as he finally discovered a way to redeem himself among the Race, and as he debated with himself if he should reveal the information that Sam had let him safeguard. After he got back among Atvar's staff, however, his story became dull again, except where it became obvious that he didn't fit in with either the Race or the Americans, since he betrayed the latter.
The best and most unexpected part of the book came from the US President, who committed suicide after publicizing the fact that he had ordered the attack on the Colonization fleet. Atvar gave him two choices to avoid war. The first was to dismantle the US space program; the second to sacrifice a city. Not being able to live with either decision, he had to think on the long term and allow the space program to thrive, allowing the US to become stronger instead of weaker, and possibly able to defeat the Race in war sometime in the future. Still, that left the millions (?) of people of Indianapolis on his hands. Sam also felt the guilt, but less so because he also viewed the Lizards on the Colonization ships as a balance.
I was wondering throughout the entire crisis if the author was prepared to wipe the US off the map, which would have brought the Soviet Union into the fighting, and eventually giving a crippled Race complete control over a broken planet.
Another US crisis comes from space, where Glen Johnson pilots a small craft from asteroid to asteroid. The US attached motors to asteroids, which they could use to attack the Lizards from space. This really hid their technology tests for a propulsion system that could take them into interstellar space.
As an epilog to the US part of the book, Jonathan Yeager marries Karen, showing that even through world-threatening crises, life can go on.
In Germany, Mordechai Anielewicz and Johannes Drucker are both searching for their families. The former had his stolen when the Germans retreated from Poland after losing the war with the Race. The latter was released from the Lizards spacecraft after attacking it at the end of the last book, knowing that his hometown had been destroyed. Both find their families, but have to team up to do it. Fortunately, Drucker is sympathetic to the Jew after what happened in the last book. I really wonder how Gorppet could have blackmailed him using his association with Anielewicz, though, since both of them spoke with the Fuher together, and the Fuher even knows about Drucker's past. I suppose his leadership position is so tenuous that he could not support Drucker if this information got out. Still, all calls must be monitored, and I doubt this new Fuher is exempt -so the SS should know he was speaking with and helping a Jew. It would be nice to see, in a sequel, how the Germans actually would leave the anti-Semitism behind over the years.
These two team up with Gorppet and Nesseref just inside Germany when the nuclear bomb that has been sitting around since the end of Striking the Balance is smuggled in by a bunch of fanatics. There is a brief amount of tension, since the Germans would blame the Lizards and retaliate if it went off in Germany, and the Lizards would blame the Germans if it went off as the Germans tried to diffuse it. The whole thing is for naught, however, as the bomb doesn't function when the fanatics try to set it off. I suppose the terrorists would not have listened or believed, but I wonder why the Germans didn't evacuate the town, and tell the fanatics that they would be only destroying a bunch of land, so why bother. In any case, if the bomb went off, there would have been no more damage than the war caused.
Felless, Nesseref, Gorppet and Atvar did much the same stuff that they have been doing in the last two books. The two females are moved around wherever they are needed, to comment on interactions with humans, or controlling the ginger habit. Gorpett continues to advance, going into the Intelligence service. Atvar continues to worry.
It was more interesting to see Kassquit grow through this book, and its effect on Ttomalss. Her behavior changed considerably from the first book. There, she was self-depreciating all the time, until Jonathan shows her self-worth. After that, she becomes proud of herself -much to the horror of Ttomalss! Instead of trying to imitate the Race, she becomes a full Citizen of the Empire -as a human, since humans won't change their physical nature, nor, quickly, their combative nature.
The author seemed to have fun placing events that have happened in our time into this false one, under different circumstances. Drucker speculates that Hitler would never have committed suicide, like the US President did, and other characters discuss alternate history -the author patting himself on the back- wondering what would have happened if the Lizards had not come to Earth.
A lot more of these stories were interconnected than in the previous book, which I suppose were setting up for this one. They felt a little suspicious, though. As soon as everybody ended up in Edmonton, from Goldfarb (who was already there), to Jane, and Rance and Penny, I knew they would have to meet. Similarly, I could see everybody meeting in France and later Germany well in advance.
As already mentioned, several of the stories became interesting and dull again in waves. It really did feel like real life, because many of their thoughts and feelings felt like they followed logically from one to the next. Reactions, even illogical ones, felt natural to the characters who expressed them.
Still, I wasn't expecting anything particularly revolutionary here, and I didn't get it, either. I waited nearly a year between the last book and this one, and I don't think I would have missed much had I avoided the conclusion completely. I simply wanted to finish the series. If the author writes a sequel series to this one, I will pick it up as well. But I wonder if I've lost my taste for his stories in this alternate timeline.
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