Homeward Bound, by Harry Turtledove
Wow, I actually managed to finish a book not class-related!
Harry Turtledove has been a favorite author of mine for a number of years now. Back in High School I discovered his Worldwar series. Basic premise: In the early days of World War II, aliens invade. That was an epic four novel series, resulting in humans fighting their lizardish enemies (called “The Race”) to a draw. The Race ended up with about half of Earth under their control.
Turtledove followed up Worldwar with a three novel Colonization series. It followed the arrival of the lizard’s main colonization fleet in the 1960s, who expected Earth to be completely subdued by the preceeding conquest fleet.
Homeward Bound is a single novel to put a cap on it the series. It’s nice to really get some closure. The Race’s society changes at a pace fundamentally slower than ours. Very little has changed for them in the last 100,000 years. They surveyed Earth hundreds of years ago and saw knights in shining armor; that was what they expected to still find when the invasion fleet arrived. Thus they were unprepared and forced to end in a draw. Humanity stole and improved on the alien technology, and by the 1980s was starting to pull ahead in important technological areas.
The United States sends its first starship to Home, The Race’s planet, to open negotiations for formal recognition as equals. Those negotiations, and one final giant leap in technology for humans, form the crux of Homeward Bound.
If there was one problem with Turtledove’s earlier books in the series, it was an overabundance of main characters. He wisely cuts down on the cast here, keeping only the most interesting ones. Thanks to the technology of cold sleep hibernation, some of the characters even make it into the mid twenty-first century.
There’s some great philosophical exposition as The Race slowly realizes that humanity is quickly eclipsing them and tries to figure out why. It’s hard to discuss in a review like this without spoiling much.
I do feel like the novel could have been 50 pages shorter and not lost much. Some of the points were made over and over again, to the point of head-smashing obviousness. As a standalone novel, it wouldn’t really work – too much background knowledge is necessary. But as a capstone on an 8 novel opus, Homeward Bound is fun and satisfying.