Open main menu

The Worldwar series is the fan name given to a series of alternate history science fiction novels by Harry Turtledove. Its premise is an alien invasion of Earth during World War II, and includes Turtledove's Worldwar tetralogy; as well as the Colonization trilogy; and the novel Homeward Bound. The series' time-span ranges from 1942–2031. The early series was nominated for a Sidewise Award for Alternate History in 1996.[1]

Map of the World Colonization.png
The extent of the Race's conquests on Earth

' Worldwar: In the Balance (1994)
Worldwar: Tilting the Balance (1995)
Worldwar: Upsetting the Balance (1996)
Worldwar: Striking the Balance (1996)
Colonization: Second Contact (1999)
Colonization: Down to Earth (2000)
Colonization: Aftershocks (2001)
Homeward Bound (2004) '
AuthorHarry Turtledove
CountryUnited States
GenreScience fiction
Alternate history
Published1994–2004 (1994–2004)
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)

Series premiseEdit

Worldwar deals with a military invasion which begins on or around May 30, 1942, by a force of aliens who call themselves the Race, a reptilian species. They had reached Earth orbit in December 1941, but delayed their attack for various reasons.

Although the Race has the advantage of superior technology, their information on humanity had been collected by robotic probe during the 12th century AD. The invaders are surprised to find that humanity had progressed far more rapidly than any other species which they had previously studied and conquered. Contrary to their expectations, at the time of invasion, the Race's technology is only marginally more advanced than the contemporaneous 20th century Earth technology. Their commander hesitates, and considers turning back without revealing their presence to the humans, but finally decides to avoid the disgrace of that course of action.

The narrative follows the intersecting fortunes of a large number of human and alien characters. Notably, the series depicts how the Axis and Allied powers must cooperate to fight the alien menace.

Literary themeEdit

Turtledove approaches the novels' science fiction scenario with less of a focus on the technological and fantasy elements that are typically associated with the genre. He shows greater concern for the role of more mundane affairs such as the political repercussions of an alliance between the Allied and Axis powers, the impact the presence of alien creatures has on human society, and the ways in which warfare is paradoxically a hindrance to civilization and simultaneously a catalyst for the progress of civilization.[2][3]

First seriesEdit

The first series is made up of four volumes:

It ends with neither humanity nor the aliens triumphing. Instead, each side fights to the point that they face mutually-assured destruction and settle into an uneasy ceasefire. The aliens want to colonize Earth and have nuclear weapons but want to use them only sparingly. They cannot colonize a radioactive wasteland after a full-scale nuclear exchange.

The invasion ultimately ends when all of the major Allied and Axis powers manage to develop their own nuclear weapons, resulting in a stalemate. The Race is left in control of roughly half the planet, primarily colonial possessions in the Southern Hemisphere: Africa, South and Central America, Australia, and most of Asia aside from the Soviet Union and a few Japanese coastal holdings.

Uneasy peaceEdit

The second series of novels, set in the 1960s, deals with the interaction between surviving humans and the Race. Opening with the arrival of the colonization fleet, the series ends with the defeat of Nazi Germany and the establishment of a permanently-manned US space station in the asteroid belt. Part of the series focuses on the Reich-Race War of the mid-60s, when the Greater German Reich and the Race fought a nuclear war.

The Germans lose and are forced to allow France to become an independent nation again under a new Fourth Republic. Nonetheless, it is a costly victory for the Race: fighting Germany on its own after 20 years of human technological advancement proved to be much more difficult than fighting all free human nations earlier. It is left obvious to both sides that long-term trends are in humanity's favor.


The final novel in the saga deals with humanity reaching the Race's homeworld, "Home" (Tau Ceti II).[4]

List of charactersEdit

The following is a list of some of the major characters from the series.


  • Mordechai Anielewicz (historical): Anielewicz, together with other Polish Jews, is liberated from Nazi occupation by the Race. In the wake of salvation, Anielewicz is faced with the agonizing dilemma between siding with the Race against Nazi Germany or fighting against the Race, an act, which would make them Nazi allies.
  • Flight Lieutenant George Bagnall: A flight engineer in the Royal Air Force.
  • David Goldfarb: A radar operator in the Royal Air Force.
  • Lieutenant Ludmila Gorbunova: One of many female pilots in the Soviet Union's Red Air Force.
  • Colonel Leslie Groves (historical): Head of America's atomic bomb development.
  • Colonel Heinrich Jäger: A tank commander in the German Sixth Army advancing on Stalingrad when the alien invasion begins. He is depicted as a good and somewhat charismatic officer.
  • Jens Larssen: A physicist at the University of Chicago. He is sent on a cross-country trip to alert the U.S. federal government of the importance of the atomic bomb project.
  • Vyacheslav Molotov (historical): Head of the Soviet Union's Foreign Ministry. He is among the first humans to orbit the Earth. He is instrumental in negotiating the Peace of Cairo with the Race.
  • Moishe Russie: A student of medicine in Poland when the Germans invaded in 1939.
  • Otto Skorzeny (historical): Waffen-SS Hauptsturmführer, known for his unconventional thinking. The commando becomes a particularly feared human to the Race.
  • Sam Yeager: A minor league ball player with the Decatur Commodores when the invasion takes place. Like many young men, he tried to enlist in the Army in the wake of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor at the end of 1941 but was rejected for a medical issue.
  • Liu Han: A Chinese housewife whose innocuous village was raided by the Race and Japanese forces almost simultaneously. Kidnapped by the Race to be a part of their experiments, she becomes connected with the Communist guerrillas in China and eventually joins the Party, rising through the ranks to become a leader in the revolutionary movement.

The RaceEdit

  • Fleetlord Atvar: The commander of the Race's Conquest Fleet.
  • Flight Leader Teerts: A killercraft pilot from the Conquest Fleet. He is among the jet fighters that rapidly neutralize human air power in the opening days of the invasion.
  • Straha: Shiplord (ship captain) who vocally opposes Atvar's strategies.
  • Ussmak: Driver for the crew of a landcruiser in the Conquest Fleet. He is one of the Lizard "Everyman" viewpoint characters.

Historical charactersEdit

Numerous historical characters also appear, some for brief cameos; others have significant parts in the plot:

In the Balance
Tilting the Balance
Upsetting the Balance
Striking the Balance

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Sidewise Awards for Alternate History: Past winners and finalists". Retrieved Sep 22, 2016.
  2. ^ "Worldwar: In the Balance". Publishers Weekly. Jan 3, 1994. Retrieved Sep 22, 2016.
  3. ^ Sheli Teitelbaum (1996). "Harry's war of the worlds". Jerusalem Report. Retrieved Sep 22, 2016.
  4. ^ "HOMEWARD BOUND". Publishers Weekly. Nov 29, 2004. Retrieved Sep 22, 2016. Alternate-history maestro Turtledove's conclusion to his Worldwar and Colonization sagas

External linksEdit