Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Harry Turtledove's Worldwar series was conceived as a four book tetralogy. Such being the case, Worldwar: Striking the Balance is the final volume of this saga. However, Turtledove is on record (Jerusalem Report, 22 August 1996) as saying that he is contemplating a fifth volume. Although Turtledove's ending leaves plenty of room for a fifth volume (as well as additional volumes beyond that), I for one, would just as soon Turtledove turn his attention to other projects.
Worldwar: Striking the Balance is Turtledove's place to tie together all the loose ends which he began to weave in the earlier three volumes. I've long wondered how he would deal with the fact that no matter what happens in his 1945, a second wave of the Race would be arriving in circa 1962. Although I don't want to give too much away, suffice it to say that if Turtledove chooses to deal with that issue specifically, he will do so in possible future volumes.
With the large cast of characters Turtledove created in the first three books of the series, he is able to play with them a lot, and even kill off some of the characters, a nice change of pace from series in which the authors never kill any of the viewpoint characters. Other characters show tremendous growth, most particularly Liu Han, the Chinese peasant woman turned revolutionary. A comparison of her meeting with Mao Tse-Tung in the fourth book with her relationship to her husband in the first book seems like you are reading about two different characters. Its only knowing what happened to her in the two intervening books that make you realize the realism in her advancement.
Not all characters show such positive growth. Otto Skorzeny, who was something of Turtledove's answer to James Bond in earlier volumes, comes across in the final book as something of a psychotic. His duty to the Reich has been replaced by a sense of vengeance for wrongs which he perceives to have been done to him. Although I found it strange to like a Nazi character in the earlier books, it was almost as strange to see the change in that character which occurs in this part of the story.
Unfortunately, many of the characters either simply drop out of sight or have endings that lack a sense of closure. The latter seems to be a bigger problem, with many of the story lines hinting that there is more to come. Of course, in reality, there is never a final ending and all stories continue. In fiction, the reader has come to expect a beginning, middle and end. Unfortunately, whereas Worldwar: Striking the Balance does present the reader with an end, it certainly isn't the end.
On the other side, the Race must also come to terms with changes occuring within their own ranks as well as those wrought by the unexpected finding of an advanced civilization on Earth. Rather than the unified front which existed through most of the first three books, Atvar must now deal with the fact that shiplord Straha is acting as a quisling in the hands of the Americans and Ussmak has led a successful mutiny at the Race's outpost in Tomsk in the Societ Union. Both present the Race with unprecedented difficulties as the breakdown in obedience continues.
The title of this volume does give away a certain amount of Atvar's solution to the problem. However, the reader should remember that one of the differences between humans and the Race is their ability for long term planning. This is driven home, in part, by Atvar's response to Moshe Russie's comment about the ancient history of the Jews. Atvar thinks about what an inconsequential period of time four thousand years really is.
At the close of the novel, I found that several background questions remained in my mind. For instance, how long do "lizards" live? I found that I would like to know more about the non-militaristic aspects of their society, especially after Mutt Daniels learns that warriors are only bred when needed and there is no standing army for the rest of the time. I doubt Turtledove will deal with these issues if he writes another novel in this alternate history. With a tapestry as rich as the one he has woven, there is plenty of room for further exploration. Nevertheless, I would prefer the future of this world to remain one of conjecture.
Purchase this book from