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Book Review: Homeward Bound, The Cold War with a Twist

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In a previous review of one of Dr. Turtledove’s books, I mentioned that I had grown weary of his serial works, and was more eager to see him write stand-alone novels. That is still very much the case, but since then I have read both of the books that I noted in that review I hadn’t read.

Homeward Bound is the latest (and last) in the Colonization trilogy, which is itself a sequel to the Worldwar series. Seven books in all, covering world history from 1942 to the middle of the 21st century.

For those who haven’t read the series yet, a brief overview. World War II is interrupted by an alien invasion. These aliens (often called Lizards in the books) have planned their invasion based on intelligence that is over 300 years old, and are expecting humanity to meet the attack on horseback with swords and spears. They are shocked to find tanks, aircraft, and automatic weapons. The invasion isn’t totally successful, but it is not a total failure, either. Lizards and humans live in an uneasy peace.

One of Turtledove’s main plot points in all seven books is the speed with which humanity advances compared to the Lizards. Unfortunately, it is a point that is belabored in all seven books, but is an important one in this last book&#8212because humanity has arrived at the Lizards’ home world. This has never happened before, and the reactions of the Lizards to these alien “barbarians” is humorous. At least at first.

I think that’s the only problem I have with this book&#8212repetition. Turtledove hammers home the point that humans advance technologically much more rapidly than the Lizards do, he constantly notes that humans find things very uncomfortable on Home (the Lizards’ world), and his civilian Lizard characters are painfully xenophobic. He’s trying to make a point with this, but much of it seems to be overkill to me.

The characterization is much better in this book, mainly because Turtledove has limited himself to a few point-of-view characters. There is even a wonderful element of suspense when the Lizards find out that the humans have made a breakthrough in theoretical physics that they cannot understand, or quite duplicate, but that promises to shift the balance of power to Earth for the first time in almost 100 years. I found myself unable to put the book down for about the last two-thirds of it, just because I wanted to find out what the discovery was. And no, I’m not telling!

When I read the opening paragraph of the book, and saw that, once again, Atvar was looking at the holographic image of the spear-carrying, horse-mounted human-in-armor, I almost put the book back. I’m glad that I didn’t, because this book, with all its faults, was a pleasant surprise.
Edited: PC

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About Warren Kelly

  • Okay [sigh] – I’ll read this one, despite my vow to stop reading Turtledove’s series. Sounds like he finally brought all the threads together.

  • You sound like me — of course, I got the book from the library, so I had no financial investment in it at all. Same with Settling Accounts, which I’ll probably review here tomorrow or the next day.

    (Hopefully I won’t have to re-edit that one as much.)