Archive for April, 2014


 WorldWar: In the Balance
By Harry Turtledove

World War II seethes across the planet. Hostilities spread in ever-widening circles of destruction: Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, Britain, France, Japan, Italy, Africa – the fate of the world hung in the balance. Then the real enemy arrives. Out of the skies comes an invasion force the like of which Earth has never known – and worldwar is truly joined. The invaders are inhuman and they are unstoppable. Their weaponry is overwhelming and their goal is simple: Fleetlord Atvar has arrived to claim Earth for the Empire…

An interesting title with which to kick off the first post on Suppressing Fire, yet certainly one that I hope will set the tone of military history, action, excitement and the occasional out-there, whacked-out bullshit that we’ve all come to know and love. In this 1994 action novel, Harry Turtledove moved from the old-and-tried questions of alternate history (“What is the South had won the American Civil War?”, “What if the Roman Empire was still standing today?”) and moves into stuff that no-one in their right mind has ever wondered before “What if aliens invaded during World War II?”.

In the Balance (the first in an eight part series) sets the scene for the war that follows, and introduces us to several key characters such as the sci-fi loving baseball player turned infantryman Sam Yeager, the Russian pilot Ludmila Gorbunova, and the disturbingly likable Panzer Commander Heinrich Jäger. Like all good military/historical fiction, this is a story about the people involved in the conflict, rather than the war itself.

 The Race – the lizard-like invading aliens – are cold, calculating and wonderfully rounded. They are not the faceless destructotrons of H.G. Well’s The War of the Worlds, but they have their own personalities, political aspirations, and shortcomings. They frequently underestimate the humans they are fighting, often at great cost. This leaves In the Balance feeling not like an apocalypse for mankind, but rather a conflict that may prove to be drawn out and costly, but it undeniably still winnable.

 The “cameos” from historical figures sometimes really work…sometimes don’t add a lot. General Patton comes off as the gung-ho enthusiastic lunatic we all know him to be, and Mordechai Anielewicz, one of the leaders during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising is a pivotal major character. However, the appearances by Churchill and Hitler feel a little tacked on. Of course, not having them appear could also be construed as an oversight, so there’s no way of winning there.

All in all, I love the action scenes, and I love all the characters. I’m definitely on board for the next book, and – hopefully – the whole series.