I stumbled onto In the Balance, the first Worldwar book, just before going to the beach back in 2010, and I predicted (correctly) it would make for some quality beach reading. It’s an alternate history saga in which reptilian alien warriors, a vanguard of an empire which has already conquered and colonized planets beyond its homeworld, arrive on Earth in the midst of World War II, throwing the geopolitics of the era into total disarray as the respective armies around the globe stop fighting each other and start fighting the Lizards. It’s fun, but it’s not exactly as featherlight as its somewhat silly premise might appear. Turtledove is a meticulous historical researcher, and every speculation is based on a foundation of plausibility. There’s also no shying away from the recurring themes that war is a brutal slog where misery far outweighs glory, and civilians are just as likely to have their lives lost, or at least profoundly altered, simply by being caught in or near the crossfire.
I think I was drawn to the series as beach reading specifically for two reasons: partly because I love alternate history and science fiction, but also partly because it reminds me of my grandpa, who was a World War II veteran and who enjoyed historical fiction and military/spy novels and the like. I probably spent more time with my grandpa at the beach than anywhere else growing up, so it’s comforting to have a reminder of him, however tangential, as I continue beach-going in my adulthood.
At this rate I should finish the whole series and find out if humanity reclaims Earth from the invaders some time just before Labor Day, 2016. I will let you all know how it all turns out!
Somewhat funnily, back at the beginning of this year when I was planning out my great re-read agenda, I expected to complete the entire Dark Tower saga in the spring and early summer, and then to return to George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (aka A Game of Thrones and its sequels) in the middle and late summer. This seemed like a fantastic plan at the time because the paperback edition of the fifth, most recent installment of the series was scheduled to be released in August, and thus I would re-read the first four in preparation for finally tackling book five, possibly while at the beach, as A Dance with Dragons would unequivocally qualify as proper beach reading. Obviously, this did not happen, due to twin complications. First, I still have yet to finish the Dark Tower re-read, as I have faced some difficulty finding copies of the sixth and seventh books of that series (mine remain at large). Second, and arguably more relevant, they delayed the paperback publication of Dance with Dragons. I can only presume this is because the hardcover is still selling strong, thanks to the first two seasons of Game of Thrones on HBO proving so popular and the audience being desperate to find out as much as they can about what’s going to happen next. Amazon informs me that they’re now going to release it in March of next year, and that’s not an entirely terrible guess for when I’ll have finished re-reading the first four volumes, either.
At that point, the race will be on: will Martin publish the concluding sixth and seventh volumes of Song of Ice and Fire before or after I finally polish off Worldwar? Will Song of Ice and Fire undergo enough creep and bloat to require an eighth or ninth volume, delaying the ending that much more? At least Worldwar is totally done, its finale published in 1996. Small favors and all that.