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Literature / Worldwar

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Worldwar is an Alternate History continuity by Harry Turtledove about an Alien Invasion during World War II.

The Race are a proud species of reptilian aliens with tens of thousands of years of culture, bringing an invasion fleet to the primitive world of Tosev 3 (locally called Earth) to bring it into the Empire and the light of civilization. They expect a fairly easy conquest given the locals' lack of sophistication. Their probe mission, just eight hundred local years ago—certainly nowhere near enough time to advance technologically at all—found sword-swinging savages riding on animals. Then, to their discomfort, they discover that the planet is emitting radio transmissions. Arriving late in the local year 1941, they find the primitive industrial civilization of the Tosevites confusing, implausible, and an affront to the Race's rigid doctrines. Worse, if the Tosevites have advanced that much, it throws the certainty of the conquest in doubt. However, Fleetlord Atvar decides he could go down in history as one of three leaders to conquer an alien world, or the first to turn tail and flee without even having tasted combat. They go ahead with the conquest exactly as planned.


This is a mistake.

They land squarely in the middle of World War II, to the absolute confusion of everyone involved. Through the eyes of Loads and Loads of Characters, of all nationalities, human and alien, we read about the humans desperately trying to survive, and the aliens desperately trying to win. The Race is forced to become more like humans, making hasty decisions and breaking protocol. It also turns out that ginger (the spice) is a powerful and highly addictive narcotic for the Race, which further strains their normal way of life. This takes up the four books of the Balance series (the original Worldwar series) and ends with a stalemate and truce between the Race and the human governments that managed to resist their invasion (the USA, the Greater German Reich, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and Imperial Japan.)


Next comes Colonization, a trilogy that picks up twenty years after the end of Worldwar. The Race's colonization fleet arrives on Earth expecting a subdued planet, only to find that barely more than half the planet's surface is under the control of the Race. This creates intense friction between the troops of the invasion fleet, who have been significantly changed by their interaction with humans, and the much more conservative and strait-laced colonists. Even more tension comes from the just-short-of-shots-fired relationships between the surviving human powers: They are united in opposition towards the Race, threatening nuclear war in defense of an almost-enemy if the Race makes any aggressive moves, but all of the major human states are hostile towards each other, and are often trying to manipulate or cast blame on each other. Making matters worse for the Race, it is discovered that on top of its narcotic effects to the Race, ginger causes females to go into estrus out of season, something undiscovered by the all-male conquest fleet. This has devastating effects on the Race's mating cycles, and introduces them to some totally alien concepts like sex for pleasure, prostitution, and monogamy.

Finally, a standalone book, Homeward Bound, was added to the series. A whole bunch of humans get on a human-made starship and head towards the Race's homeworld, in an effort to negotiate a lasting peace between humans and the Race. The Race, for its part, is still contemplating the possibility of utterly destroying Earth to end the threat to the Empire, even though it would mean killing hundreds of millions of their own colonists. But in the end, they discover that it's already far too late to contain the humans, and they need to begin adapting to compete, especially since more Humans show up at Home in a second starship, this one having artificial gravity and a Faster-Than-Light stardrive.

Books include:

  • The original Worldwar series:
    • In the Balance
    • Tilting the Balance
    • Upsetting the Balance
    • Striking the Balance

  • The follow-up Colonization series:
    • Second Contact
    • Down to the Earth
    • Aftershocks

  • Homeward Bound serves as the Grand Finale of the entire series.

These books provides examples of:

  • Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: Jens Larssen and Barbara Larssen are separated when Jens goes on an important mission to contact the US military, and both begin to feel physical attraction to others during the separation. Barbara ultimately believes that Jens has died on his mission and begins a relationship with Sam Yeager, while Jens believes that Barbara is still waiting for him and so avoids having an affair.
  • A.K.A.-47: A lot of the Race's hardware sounds like it came out of Russian armories after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
  • Affably Evil: Skorzeny spends so much time being incredibly likeable and fun to be around that most people have to continually remind themselves that he is an unrepentant Nazi. After he has gotten one of the primary characters imprisoned by the SS, many other officers - unaware that he was behind the arrest - actually use his example as motivation to break their superior out of custody.
  • The Alliance: The Axis and Allied alliances put aside their differences in order to focus on their common enemy. However, characters from all sides repeatedly say that they wish they had not been interrupted, and hope to resume their own conflicts once the present situation is resolved.
  • Alien Arts Are Appreciated:
    • Some members of the Race have taken to baseball, and it is noted that the Race like Leni Riefenstahl's film-making techniques.
    • After his defection, Straha (who has been considered by other members of the Race to be more like Humans than one of the Race) notes that he doesn't care for a lot of human art and music. He is somewhat fond of Bach, however.
    • By the time of Colonization, what would have been the Baby Boomer generation (including Sam Yeager's teenage son) have grown up with the presence of the Race and are fairly enamored with their culture, including shaved heads, bodypaint, wearing little (or no) clothing in public, and terminology such as "I greet you" and using "hot" as a synonym for "good" (much like how "cool" is used in our world).
    • Homeward Bound reveals some of the Race on Home have taken to wearing clothes and wigs.
  • Alien Catnip: Ginger has a powerful and addictive narcotic effect on the Race, and once the colony ships arrive it even turns out to send their females into heat. This has profound effects on their culture, as generally they don't mate out of season.
  • Alien Invasion: The central plot point of the series.
  • Alien Kudzu: Once the humans and the Race find a form of peace, the Race starts importing large amounts of flora and fauna from their homeworld, causing serious ecological damage in the areas of Earth they occupy. In Homeward Bound, this happens again when some mice the humans had brought to Home as food-testers are (accidentally) released and promptly multiply and go invasive. The Race promptly throws a fit.
  • Aliens Made Them Do It: The Race abducts humans to test their Bizarre Alien Biology and see that everyone can mate with everyone all year round. This is decidedly NOT played for comedy, and The Race is forced to face consequences later on from one woman who didn't appreciate being experimented on. Inverted in Colonization, where ginger puts Race females into heat out of season, causing chaos among The Race who forget everything when "mating season" starts.
  • All Psychology Is Freudian: The series is set at a time when Freud's theories are respected and accepted, and because of its focus on sex human psychologists are stumped when trying to analyse the Race. They have no sexual thoughts outside of the mating season, so Freud doesn't apply. On the Race's side, their psychologists find it equally difficult to comprehend humans, as they don't have sex for pleasure, pair bonding or even families in their culture.
  • Allohistorical Allusion:
    • Being interrogated by the Japanese, Race soldier Teerts wishes that a nuclear bomb would fall upon the city. The city is Nagasaki, the second city destroyed by an atomic bomb in real-life.
    • General Patton criticizes the Race for getting bogged down in street fighting at Chicago, saying that unlike the Germans the Race are slow to learn from their mistakes and the Germans would not have tried to take Stalingrad house by house if they had reached it. In reality, they did, and it was a complete disaster, Patton uses the same tactics that the USSR used to destroy the German Sixth Army, and the main difference is that the Race actually fought smarter (they had the sense to pull back the force in the city and managed to save a large part of it, while Hitler refused to allow a retreat resulting in the complete loss of the Sixth Army).
    • After being able to destroy several Race landcruisers (albeit with heavy losses) with the help of the newly developed Tiger tanks, one of Jager's men wonders if the next type of tank they'll develop will be a Tiger mounting a long-barreled gun and sloped armor. That was precisely what the tank that succeeded the Tiger had.
    • In Colonization the Race and Nazi Germany go to war; due to the Race's ability to knock down the majority of German missiles, the Nazis are defeated and most of their major cities destroyed: Flensburg, on the Danish border, ends up as the capital. It was also the capital of Germany from 1 May to 23 May 1945 in our own timeline - Karl Donitz led the German government from there after Hitler's suicide.
    • In Second Contact one member of The Race says to another, after dealing with Nazi ambassadors, that the city of Nuremberg is a trial. The Nuremberg Trials were ones in which the real Nazis were tried after WWII was over.
    • When Johannes Drucker comments on the suicide of the president of the United States, he thinks such a thing would never occur in the German Reich, and Hitler would sooner take up a mauser himself and fight until death. In real life, Hitler committed suicide when the Allies began closing in on Berlin.
    • After President Earl Warren's suicide, several of the Race's experts on humans gather to discuss the reasons behind this act. They unofficially call this gathering the "Warren Commission". In Real Life, the Warren Commission was the unofficial name for the committee that investigated John F. Kennedy's assassination, named so after the presiding Chief Justice Earl Warren.
    • As the result of being hit by the Dora cannon, a Race starship explodes. By chance, this ship holds the majority of the fleet's nuclear ordnance, The bombs do not go off, but they do spread radioactive contamination across a wide area in the Ukraine. When a joint Soviet-German mission captures some of the uranium, two of them are running close to an abandoned village. The German officer asks what the village is called; the Soviet partisan replies it is Chernobyl.
  • Alternate History: Aliens invade during World War II.
  • Alternate History – Nazi Victory: When space lizards invade during World War II Nazi Germany successfully defends itself and becomes one of the three human nuclear powers, and retains all wartime conquests except the western USSR (which is returned) and Poland (which is surrendered to the aliens). In 1965 the Greater German Reich fights and loses a short nuclear war against the aliens but, while forced to give up France and its nuclear and spacefaring technology, manages to retain the rest of its empire. By 2031, the Reich has recovered and is once again considered a world power.
  • Anyone Can Die: Viewpoint characters die throughout the series. Characters that had an ongoing presence generally transfer their perspective to a new character that had been associated with them before their death.
  • Asteroid Miners: The Lewis and Clark establishes a permanent presence in the asteroid belt, scanning asteroids and preparing for future mining and construction projects. The Columbus arrives to join her some time later. Unlike the Lewis and Clark, which is built like a space station, the Columbus is purpose-built like an interplanetary craft and looks it.
  • Badass Bookworm:
    • Jens Larssen manages to travel his way across war-torn America on a bicycle, fights as a competent infantryman in Patton's army and repeatedly shows himself to be tough, resourceful and determined despite the fact he is simply a nuclear physicist with no combat training. Rare case of a badass also being a Butt-Monkey.
    • Heinrich Jager: Skorzeny enlisted him for the raid in Split as much for his training in Archeology (The Race were based in Diocletian's Palace, and Jager finds the underground passage in) as for his military experience.
  • Beardless Protection Program: Moishe's escape from the ghetto.
  • BFG: The biggest gun ever built in Real Life, a German 80 cm K (E) railway siege gun, makes an appearance. The Germans use it to blast a couple of Race spaceships. It is named Dora.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: The Race mates in seasons, gets stoned off of ginger and uses far less water than humanity (with resulting "toiletry differences" - see Nobody Poops). They also have a cloaca used for waste removal and reproduction. Averted with food: other than liking things saltier and needing less water, the Race can eat human foods and vice versa. Inverted from the Race's perspective: the biology of the "Big Uglies" is weird to them; that they (we) can mate all year round, are always influenced by this, and the crucial role this plays in shaping human society is deeply bizarre and pretty disgusting to them.
  • Bizarre Alien Senses: The Lizards can see a few colors in the infrared spectrum.
  • Blood Knight: Skorzeny does not appear to care who he fights, or for what reason, just as long as he gets to fight. The child-like enthusiasm he displays, including when he is using weapons of mass destruction, before, during and after said fights is both disturbing and more than a little funny.
  • Break the Haughty: Flight Leader Teerts gets put through the wringer. Also, the entire series could count as one Break the Haughty moment for the Race.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Otto Skorzeny of course, it is one of his chief characteristics that he enthusiastically enjoys everything he does.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Jens Larssen. The guy loses his job and marriage, gets stuck behind enemy lines, gets press-ganged into fighting on the front lines on more than one occasion despite being a mere scientist, gets sent on a Snipe Hunt, gets the clap, etc... Really, his only purpose in the story seems to be to have one humiliation after another piled onto him.
    • Ussmak appears to be the Race's equivalent of a Butt-Monkey. Butt Beffel, perhaps? He is a tank (or "landcruiser" to use the Race's terminology) driver whose first commanding officer gets killed in his very first engagement by sniper fire; his replacement commander is a Grade A Idiot; his best friend, the tank gunner, gets killed shortly later; his tank gets blown up when Skorzeny, of all people, rams a satchel charge between the turret and the chassis; when Ussmak bails out he lands in a particularly radioactive patch of mud which gets him a lovely stay in a hospital ship and to add insult to injury one of the orderlies there gets him addicted to ginger. Then he gets assigned to a new crew and gets to play cat and mouse with Wehrmacht/Waffen-SS troops and armor in France; then he takes part in the invasion of Britain where he gets introduced to a new type of warfare, Chemical Warfare; then he gets sent to Siberia, when the Race can not stand even mildly cold weather, where his second crew gets killed. Afterward, Ussmak finally snaps and leads a mutiny at his base and then defects to the Big Uglies. Unfortunately, the humans he defects to are Stalin's USSR complete with Beria's NKVD, so you can guess that doesn't exactly end well for poor Ussmak.
  • But We Used a Condom: Generally averted, as women only seem to get pregnant when condoms are not used, and even a few times when condoms weren't used nobody got pregnant. Completely played straight with Kassquit in Homeward Bound who uses condoms during her sexual relationship with Major Coffey. The latter asks how to say "broken rubber" in the language of the Race. Kassquit is initially upset to have her opinion on substandard human quality control confirmed but decides to keep the baby.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp":
    • Humans tend to use the Race's names (or translations thereof) for inventions they arrived at first. Nuclear weapons are "explosive-metal bombs"; the LASER is "skelkwank", and so CDs and DVDs being called "skelkwank discs". The Race call their tanks "landcruisers" and their fighter planes "killercraft".
    • A variation with animals from Home brought by the Colonization Fleet. For some, humans try to find analogues among human animals. For example, the Race's equivalent of cows look very much like dinosaurs with turreted eyes, except it's pointed out that they don't graze like cows, instead eating every blade of grass in the vicinity (making the area barren). The lizards also have two kinds of pets (also lizard-like). The befflem (plural of "beffel"), for example are friendly like dogs but are independent like cats. On the other hand, tsiongyu (plural of "tsiongi") are larger than befflem and must be kept on a leash (like dogs) but are not as playful as dogs and are a little reminiscent of cats in their interactions with their owners.
  • Canada Does Not Exist: Played with In-Universe. As part of the peace settlement with Earth's major power countries, Atvar agrees to withdraw Race forces from "the northern territory that seems to be not quite part of the U.S.A. or Britain." Both US Secretary of State George Marshall and British Foreign Minister simultaneously respond: "Canada." Atvar notes to himself that Marshall acted as though it was part of the U.S.A. anyway.
  • Canada, Eh?: When the United Kingdom falls more and more under the sway of the Greater German Reich, David Goldfarb and his family emigrate to Canada where, they hope, the immediate presence of the United States will allow the country to resist Nazi influences better than Britain.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Liu Han is a major point-of-view character in the Worldwar and Colonization series. In Homeward Bound, she gets one mention by Ttomalss remembering how Liu Han had him kidnapped back during the events of Worldwar. Neither Liu Han's nor her daughter Liu Mei's fate is known or remarked upon.
  • Colony Drop:
    • After the Columbus arrives to join the Lewis and Clark in the Asteroid Belt, one of the tasks the astronauts perform is to strap rockets to asteroids in order to, potentially, use them to bombard territories belonging to the Race on Earth. They successfully test one of these by slamming it into Mars. Atvar is not pleased.
    • After the Commodore Perry arrives to Home, and the Race is confronted by Gunboat Diplomacy, they warn humans that, while the Race lacks FTL drives, their ships are able to go to a fairly high (50%) percentage of the speed of light. Should Home be threatened, the Race may send ships to slam into Earth at half the speed of light (or even more, given that they wouldn't be worrying about decelerating in time and can use all fuel for acceleration), likely starting a new Ice Age. Even with FTL, it would be impossible to intercept all of them.
  • Conflict Ball: Not once do Major Samuel Yeager or Lieutenant Colonel Glen Johnson receive official cease-and-desist orders through the proper chain of command. Their superiors instead go straight to intimidation, high-rank blustering, and murder, whereas the characters themselves state that a simple explanation of "Sorry, that's classified" would have taken care of the whole thing.
  • Colonel Badass: Heinrich Jager. Skorzeny's SS rank was Obersturmbannfuhrer, which is the equivalent to Lieutenant Colonel.
  • Completely Different Title: The books were renamed for the Russian translation.
    • In the Balance became Invasion Fleet (Флот вторжения).
    • Tilting the Balance became Retaliation (Ответный удар).
    • Upsetting the Balance became Eye for an Eye (Око за око).
    • Striking the Balance became The Great Turning Point (Великий перелом).
    • Ditto for the Italian version:
      • In the Balance - Invasion Year Zero (Invasione anno zero)
      • Tilting the Balance - Invasion Act Two (Invasione atto secondo)
      • Upsetting the Balance - Invasion Act Three (Invasione atto terzo)
      • Striking the Balance - Invasion Final Act (Invasione atto finale)
      • The Colonization series and Homeward Bound are all named Colonization Phase <number> (Colonizzazione fase <numero>).
  • Crazy Cultural Comparison: Occurs frequently between humans and the Race, in matters both big and small:
    • On the macro level, the fact that the reptilian Race have a mating season makes them see the "perpetually aroused" humans as bizarre. They also conclude that this causes competition that may be the driving force behind humanity's warlike nature and related rapid progress.
    • On the micro level, there's an amusing illustration when British engineers first try to understand captured Race technology. The Race uses screws, just like we do. It's a very efficient fastener technology, so this case of parallel development isn't terribly surprising. But an arbitrary difference in standards does cause the boffins immense frustration until someone figures out the cause: Race screws are the opposite of ours (i.e. they go in by turning them counterclockwise).
  • Crazy-Prepared: The Race expected humanity would be nothing but sword-wielding primitives. They still arm their Conquest Fleet with tanks, attack helicopters, fighter aircraft, and nuclear weapons. Lots and lots of all of them. When Shiplord Straha is asked why they bothered bringing so much hardware (including air-to-air ordnance that should have been superfluous and useless against medieval armies) to fight a bunch of primitives, Straha looks at the person asking like he's "egg-addled" (i.e. crazy) and explains that when you go to war you must prepare for war. Simple as that.
  • Curbstomp Battle: Partially averted. The Race is expecting their invasion of Tosev 3 to last an hour at most - which, of course, doesn't pan out. However, even with the massive technological leap that Humanity has taken since the arrival of the Race's probe, the Race does still succeed in conquering about two-thirds of the planet within just a week, and all meaningful resistance is largely confined to Europe, North America and eastern Asia. Certainly at the beginning of the series, this trope is played straight with most individual skirmishes between Humanity and the Race. Case in point: the first dogfight between Race killercraft and RAF and Luftwaffe fighters. Absolutely no doubt is left in anybody's mind - be they Lizard, Human or reader - that the Race is vastly superior.
  • Dead Guy Junior:
    • There are two children named Heinrich in the Colonization series, both carrying on the legacy of Heinrich Jager and the example he set. That these two children are the sons of both a Wehrmacht officer and Jewish militia leader Mordechai Anielewicz speaks to the quality of the man himself.
    • Adolf, the little brother of the German Heinrich. Although apparently he doesn't like the Nazi government because they want to take his mother for her Jewish roots.
  • Deadly Gas:
    • When the Race invades the British isles, mustard gas is used against the invaders. We even get a description of its effects (they are not very nice.)
    • From time to time, the Nazis use nerve gas, the description of which is horrifying in an entirely different manner.
  • Deal with the Devil: The Jews of Poland make one with the Race, knowing that it probably is going to be bad, but they figure anything is better than the Nazis.
  • Deconstruction: Of the entire alien invasion genre.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Taking place during the middle of the twentieth century, the social aspects of the time are present throughout the books. Racism, sexism and nationalism are much more prevalent than modern times even in the "good" nations.
  • Demoted to Extra: Ludmila, one of the point-of-view characters in the Worldwar series, gets only two appearances in the first book of the Colonization series, neither of which last more than two pages and both through the eyes of Mordechai. Still, she gets off better than Heinrich. George Bagnall is actually a character of relevance in Colonization, but only for one single scene when he helps David Goldfarb emigrate to Canada.
  • Didn't See That Coming: Even if the Lizards know in advance Tosev-3 is a water-rich world, especially next to theirs, it's mentioned the Race is caught by surprise by attacks from warships -aircraft carriers and gunned ones, most of which end up destroyed by the Lizards, and later on in Colonization nuclear submarines, that cause a lot of headaches to them as they can be submerged almost indefinitely and are very hard to detect-.
  • Dirty Communists: Part of The Alliance, along with Nazi Germany, and therefore the good guys.
  • Distracted from Death: A seemingly recurring theme with Mutt Daniels. Twice he doesn't notice that somebody was killed by an artillery barrage they were ducking from until he tries to talk afterwards and gets no response. Sergeant Schneider, his original superior and "finest soldier", and Miss Lucille, the medic he was trying to romance.
  • Ditto Aliens: Over the course of the series, which takes place over nearly a century, neither humans or the alien Lizards ever quite get the hang of even telling each other's genders apart.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The first book was written in 1994 and the Race's war technology seems to be based on that used by the coalition in the Gulf War.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Mutt is just a sweet old man whose fervent pursuit eventually makes Miss Lucille warm up to him. Even though she's a lesbian who's never had a man. But if she had one, it would be Mutt.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Heinrich Jager died in the intermediary between the two series, supposedly from complications due to the nerve-gas he breathes during his final confrontation with Skorzeny, and this is mentioned as an aside when Mordechai is talking to Ludmila about their own lingering pains. Mutt Daniels gets an even larger bridge, with absolutely no details (although given Mutt was in his seventies, probably just simple old age) and only a single reference, when Sam Yeager discovers his obituary while thumbing through a baseball magazine.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Atvar doesn't even have a concept of impericide when Molotov tells him that the Russians killed their emperor, yet a later book has Atvar thinking that this has happened in the distant past of the Race and the perpetrator's name was expunged from history.
  • Earth Is a Battlefield: The invasion is world-wide. The only landmasses that are not physically landed upon by the Race are assorted islands deemed too small to merit occupation, and even these are attacked from the air.
  • Easily Thwarted Alien Invasion: Subverted. On the one hand, the Race expected to confront spearmen and armored knights on horseback only to end up confronting World War II-era Earth. On the the other hand, despite the reduced technological gap it still remains a hard struggle.
  • The Empire: The Race's version of government. Before they encountered humans they thought it was the only version of government. The best word they can come up with to describe any system of government that is not a hereditary autocracy is "not-empire". The Race describe the not-empires thusly: "The not-empires fall into three categories. Those which have one man with the power of an emperor, but who is not one (Germany, Soviet Union), those which have emperors, but whose emperors have no real power (Britain, Japan) and those who engage in 'snout-counting' (USA, Canada)." They're actually so firmly entrenched in this idea that when Molotov brags to Atvar that in the Bolshevik Revolution the Emperor of Russia was murdered, Atvar shudders inwardly and marvels at the barbarism of the act, something which the Race didn't even have a concept for prior to that.
  • Enemy Mine: The Allies and the Axis ally together against the Race. Even the Jewish Resistance fighters, or at least some of them, work with the Nazis because they are not willing to see the entire world become occupied territory.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Jager and the Race are both shocked and horrified at the measures taken in the name of German national security, particularly the industrialized murder of the concentration camps and Babi Yar. For the Race, the idea of killing a whole demographic is something they've never imagined.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Shiplord, Fleetlord, etc. all the way down to "Small Group Leader". Few of the Race's titles and ranks leave anything to the imagination.
  • Exposed Extraterrestrials: The Race never wears clothes, except for (sometimes) anti-ballistic vests. Their idea of proper attire is to cover themselves with body paint. They are utterly unprepared for Earth's far chillier climate, and suffer greatly in their campaigns in the USSR and America during the winter months, being forced to scavenge clothing to keep from freezing.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Jens Larssen starts as one of the viewpoint characters who volunteers for dangerous missions for the good of America, but slowly loses his sanity and turns against humanity after becoming the Butt-Monkey.
  • Fantastic Racism: The Race view themselves as the apex of sapient life, exemplified by their name: They are simply the Race, anybody else is beneath them and thus deserves to be conquered and enslaved. The humans have less condescension—since they are beneath the Race technologically—but a good deal more hate.
  • Fantastic Slurs: "Lizards" for the Race (or "Little Scaly Devils" in China), "Big Uglies" for the humans.
  • Faux Furby: In Colonization, one unforeseen side effect of reptilian aliens invading during WWII is the invention of Furby-like animatronic toys (referred to as "Furries") during the 1960s. Some characters working for intelligence agencies suggest concealing recorders in them, in reference to the urban legend about Furbies.
  • Flat "What": Atvar has a mental one of these while talking with the Soviet diplomat while asking him to surrender. Upon asking him how the USSR coped without an emperor, Molotov promptly replies that they murdered him, upsetting both Atvar and his interpreter. He has another when Molotov demands Atvar's surrender, while Soviet forces are being hammered by the Race.
  • Freudian Trio: the three most senior members of the alien Race's conquest fleet exemplify the parts of the human psyche, in the context of a generally very conservative and cautious species-society:
    • Id: Straha, third in the hierarchy, is so aggressive, radical, adaptable and short-term oriented his superior compares him to humans (not a compliment). After the conquest suffers setbacks, he tries to overthrow his commander and take over the fleet. When that fails, he takes refuge with humanity, only to later regret his choice.
    • Ego: Atvar, the fleetlord, tries to balance tradition and change, caution and initiative, and play off the other two against each other.
    • Superego: Kirel, the second-in-command, is focused on not making any mistakes, and never deviating from the path laid down, almost regardless of price or consequence. His attitude is very common among the junior members of the fleet, but he represents it at the very top.
  • Future Slang: Well, Alternate 60s Slang. By Colonization, human teenagers who grew up with the Race being a fact of life, learn stock phrases in their language such as "I greet you" and "It shall be done" and treat them as slang. Additionally, American teens adopt the word "hot" to have the same connotation as modern-day "cool". Note that their "hot" is different from modern-day "hot" (which means "sexy").
  • Game Show: In Homeward Bound, the human ambassadors learn that Donald, a naturalized American Lizard, is the host of a game show called You'd Better Believe It. The show is somewhat similar to Fox's The Chamber, where contestants answer questions while strapped into a human gyroscope and harassed with airjets, water sprays and mild electric shocks. It also has a beautiful assistant named Rita who goes topless, which is a common (Race-influenced) style for women of the time.
  • Gay Bravado: Skorzeny flirts with Jager quite a bit; given the Third Reich's attitude towards homosexuality, it's clear he's just goofing around and Jager will play along with the joke.
  • Genre Savvy: Sam Yeager, an avid reader of Astounding Science-Fiction, becomes one of humanity's greatest experts on the Race (as well as being held in high regard by the Race itself) because he is able to think beyond the normal human perspective.
  • Go Through Me: In Homeward Bound, when the new ship Commodore Perry arrives at Home, they are given explicit instructions not to allow Sam Yeager to come back to Earth. The people who came with him sign a petition saying "If he stays, so do we," which results in the Perry's crew (very) grudgingly allowing Yeager to return with them.
  • Grammar Nazi: Barbara Yeager becomes this by the Colonization trilogy, forcing her husband and son to use proper English in her presence since she has a background in English Literature. Naturally, neither Sam nor Jonathan bother doing this when she's not around. Sam, who was born and raised on a farm, sometimes laxes into poor grammar deliberately as a form of rebellion.
  • Gunboat Diplomacy: Homeward Bound features two human starships. The first is the Admiral Peary and comes on equal footing as two star-faring races seeking a lasting peace; the second is Commodore Perry and comes with a Faster Than Light Drive, and the willingness to (bleep) things up if the Race doesn't play nice with the humans.
  • Gunship Rescue: The Race love their helicopters, but as time goes on they become more and more vulnerable to partisan rocket fire.
  • Heel Realization: This happens to Panzer Commander of the Wehrmacht Heinrich Jäger when an old Jewish man shows him the bullet hole in his neck, and tells him the story of how he got it. Heinrich had heard the rumors before then, but he hadn't believed in them. The third book sums it up nicely:
    What Skorzeny didn't get and wouldn't get if he lived to be a hundred - not likely, considering how the SS man lived - was that what we were supposed to do and what our superiors ordered us to do weren't necessarily the same thing.
    Soldiers didn't commonly have to make that distinction. Jäger hadn't worried about it, not until he had found out how the Germans dealt with Jews in the east. Since then, he hadn't been able to look away. He knew what sort of disaster awaited the world if the Lizards won the war. Like Skorzeny, he was willing to do just about anything to keep that from happening. Unlike the SS man, he wasn't willing to believe that everything he did was fine and virtuous.
    That made for another subtle distinction, but he clung to it.
  • Hide Your Lesbians: Miss Lucille, despite Mutt's obvious crush, rebuffs all his advances and explains that she is not interested in any man, not just him. When Mutt asks if she is one of those "lizzies", she merely asks what his reaction would be if she was. It is never expounded upon, and she soon begins to return Mutt's attraction.
  • Higher-Tech Species: The Race have a higher technological base than any of the other three intelligent species known to exist, with an older culture and government as well. However, they are not so far ahead as they like to think when others begin to catch up.
  • Humans Advance Swiftly: Having sent probes and observed knights on horseback, the conquest fleet arrived 800 years later expecting basically more of the same and completely unprepared for the industrial civilization that humanity had built. The Race initially speculated that this was due to Earth having lots of oceans to mess with the pace of progress, while the Race had to plod along on land. Later on, human mating patterns are also blamed; humans are in constant competition, whereas the race mates only once a year (six months to us), thus leading to greater competition and faster advancement.
  • Humans Are Divided: It's WWII, so naturally.
  • Humans Are Special: Kind of. The other two races the Race has conquered were reptilian and similar in nature to themselves, while humans are mammalian. Logically, the Race deduced that all intelligent life is like them. There are several different theories proposed by the Race as to why we seem to be an aberration.
  • Humans by Any Other Name: The Lizards refer to humans as "Tosevites" — derived from Tosev, their name for Sol. When speaking formally, anyway. In casual speech, they're just as likely to refer to humans as "Big Uglies".
  • Hypocrite: The Race dismisses all human religions as silly superstitions based entirely on blind faith, and yet they believe in a form of heaven where the dead are united with the spirits of Emperors past. Whenever a human points this out to a member of the Race, their response is almost universally "Yes, except you're wrong and we're right."
    • In fact, a lot of the Race's interactions with humanity boil down to "You can't do that, only we can do that!" To name one example, they deliberately import flora and fauna from their home planet to Earth, causing massive ecological damage and alterations to the environment of certain regions of the planet like Egypt. Then in Homeward Bound, a single pair of mice gets released on Home, completely by accidentnote  and the Lizards hit the roof. Sam Yeager even points this out to Atvar the next time they meet, and the former admiral can't really defend himself.
  • Idiot Ball: Johannes Drucker is blackmailed by Gorppett into helping the Race by threatening to reveal to Drucker's superiors that Drucker knew, and was friends with, notorious Jewish leader Mordechai Anielwicz. This would be a very competent threat against most Nazi officials if Fuhrer Dornberger not only already had this information, but had actually met Anielwicz via teleconference when he and Drucker were talking.
  • If It's You, It's Okay: Miss Lucille makes it quite clear that she is not interested in Mutt (Or anybody else) and half admits that she is a "lizzie." However, after Mutt keeps his dogged persistence Lucille admits that, with him, she is closer to giving it a try with a man than she ever has been before. Then she gets killed by Lizard artillery.
  • Informed Ability: Sam Yeager is constantly mentioned to be the only human capable of thinking as the Race do, but few actual examples are provided of him doing it. Most of his "insights" are common sense and real-world techniques of communicating between people who don't speak the same language (Generally pantomime, slow repetition and emotive expressions/sounds). It may simply be that Sam is actually willing to ''try' communicating with the Race, whereas just about everybody else (especially in the military) would just as soon kill them and call it a day.
  • Informed Attribute: The Race keep saying that their language is very logical compared to human ones, but from the few words we see they seem to have a similar number of irregular plural forms to your average human language. The Race themselves are often described as being obedient and subservient by nature, but once the Colonization Fleet arrives it turns out they casually break laws just as often as humans, including several characters who begin tasting ginger despite the already-present (and extremely harsh) regulations against it.
  • Insane Troll Logic:
    • Molotov, when he meets with Hitler, is repeatedly astounded by how much of the man's thinking revolves around the "fact" that the Jews are trying to cause trouble for humanity. Particularly when his different statements and beliefs contradict one another in the same conversation.
    • In the Colonization series, a member of The Race thinks this of a Nazi official she talks to about their status as the "Master Race".
  • Insufficiently Advanced Alien: The technology of the Race is more advanced than that of humanity, but is not so far advanced as it should have been given how long they have been developing it. One human explicitly points out that if humanity had had nuclear technology for thousands of years, they would have done more with it than the Race did.
  • Intelligent Gerbil: The Race are described in the books as 'looking like chameleons with delusions of grandeur.'
  • Interrupted Cooldown Hug: After a heated argument, Groves gives Jens the rest of the day off to go home and calm down. On the way home, he is approached by the base commander, who, informed of his leave, calls him a liar and a malingerer and tries to escort him back to Groves to clear things up. This is the last straw for Jens, who kills the colonel and his guard and tries to defect to the Lizards.
  • Introduced Species Calamity: In the sequel series Colonization the Race's colony fleet brings along animals from their homeworld. As they're adapted to their homeworld's arid environment they devastate Earth flora in the regions controlled by the Empire and all the remaining human not-empires can do is shoot any that cross the borders.
  • Ironic Echo: The first book opens with Atvar and the flagship's shiplord, Kirel, looking at an image of the enemy they expect to face, a knight on horseback from the Middle Ages and laughing at the prospect of an easy conquest. The last book in the Balance series, the first of the Colonisation series and Homeward Bound opens with them doing this again, somewhat more ruefully. Albeit also as exposition for those who started reading the later books.
  • Just Here for Godzilla (In-Universe): In Homeward Bound, the returned Americans find that Donald (a Lizard whom Sam and Barbara Yeager raised) hosts a game show with a Lovely Assistant who goes topless. At the end of the episode, Donald remarks "I know why you folks tune in" and shoots a knowing glance at his co-host's "assets".
  • La Résistance: Portions of the first six books are dedicated to groups working in Race-occupied territory, such as the Jews in Poland or the Chinese.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Harry Turtledove is incredibly fond of doing this. Somewhat justified in that it's how he covers lots of different areas of the war at lots of different levels.
  • Mama Bear: Liu Han would like you to know that you are so not going to get away with keeping her baby away from her.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • America's spacecraft tend to be named for explorers; the first ship to reach the Asteroid Belt is the Lewis and Clark, and the first ship to reach Home is named Admiral Peary. The first FTL-capable ship is named Commodore Perry, after the man who forcibly ended Japan's isolationism. The Race eventually learns the meaning behind these names and is none too pleased.
    • The Race's spaceship built to defend Home against the Admiral Peary is not named for an Emperor, like all the others. Instead, it is called the Horned Akiss after a dragon-like beast from the Race's mythology.
  • Mildly Military: Major Samuel Yeager and Lieutenant Colonel Glen Johnson never receive orders from their immediate superior to halt their investigations into the US space station, neither is ever transferred to a different post to reduce their access to information, and neither even has their security clearance revoked. What they do get is a screaming fit from Curtis LeMay who, though a three-star general, has no authority over them due to the chain of command. The one person who gives them orders is not authorized to give them orders.
  • Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness: For a story about an alien invasion it is a surprising Level 5 hardness (At least, until the Colonization series and Homeward Bound). With the exception of cold sleep, all technology is either equal to or inferior to real life technology. At no point do they bend, break or even bounce the laws of physics.
  • Molotov Cocktail: Molotov is one of the main characters, but he never actually touches one. Sam Yeager and Liu Han have them in their sections, though.
  • Motive Decay: David Nussboym was originally a Lizard collaborator because he felt they were the best hope for Jewish survival in Poland, and because he hated the Nazis enough to override his concern that the entire would would become an outpost of the Race. Mordechai himself admits that David is an honorable and brave man, and that just because they have opposing viewpoints does not make him a greedy and self-serving fool. However, once David is sent to a Soviet gulag he becomes a collaborator solely to support himself, and betrays friends and enemies alike to the head of the camp in order to advance his own agenda. This would normally count as a change in the character because of his surroundings, but his own thoughts and memories now reflect on how he did the same things back in Poland and throughout his life, and his very nature is self-serving.
  • Moving the Goalposts: Averted by Mordechai Anielewicz. When his son Heinrich asks for a beffel (a lizard pet), Mordechai's wife Bertha does what a typical parent would do and set a difficult condition for the kid. Of course, Heinrich manages to fulfil the condition and catches a beffel. Just as Bertha is about to invoke the trope (like any parent), Mordechai countermands her and and lets Heinrich keep him, earning Bertha's ire. A few days later, the beffel saves their lives by waking up Heinrich during a fire. After that, no one thinks that the little creature should go.
  • Mutually Assured Destruction: After the first wave of invasion, this is the status quo between the human powers and the Race. Working together, the humans could eradicate the lands controlled by the Race, but only at the cost of getting obliterated themselves, and none of the major human powers like each other very much. Later, in "Homeward Bound," the Race turns this around on humans: yes, the humans could use their FTL warships to obliterate the the Empire before any given world knew they were under attack. But the Race's slower-than-light ships are capable of being used as relativistic kill vehicles against Earth. The mass of a Race starship impacting the planet at 50% of the speed of light would not just obliterate human civilization, it would probably wipe out virtually all life and begin a new ice age.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: How some German and Russian characters, like Ludmila Gorbunova and Heinrich Jager feel. For a while, anyway.
  • Nature vs. Nurture: The series features aliens raising humans, and humans raising aliens, in order to see how close they can make each species to their own.
  • Nicknaming the Enemy: Humans are called Big Uglies; the Race are called Lizards.
  • No Biochemical Barriers: The Race's biology and biochemistry are similar enough that they can live on Earth and eat Earth biomatter with pretty much no problems. However, what would be slightly chilly to humans is beastly cold to them, as their home world is so hot that snow is only occasionally found at the extreme poles of the planet.
  • Nobody Ever Complained Before: Members of the Race cannot understand why humans insist on fighting back so strenuously instead of just placidly accepting their rule. Their previous two conquest experiences had nothing like the long, drawn-out resistance that humanity offers even in supposedly-placid territories.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted; differences in waste volume are a source of difficulty in the Race space plumbing when humans are aboard. Also, the Race are somewhat shocked that human plumbing is so good, and love hot showers. It is also revealed that the Race have probes that can detect uric acid — a component of urine — in the air, which they use to keep track of enemy populations and movements. The humans, however, discover this technology and deliberately pee on it, leading one technician to scream that four billion humans were approaching.
  • No-Sell: What happens when the Race tries to use anti-missile defences, intended for use against fragile and sophisticated guided missiles, against the big dumb seven-ton Dora rounds. To say the Lizards are flabbergasted is an understatement.
  • Nothing Personal: Spoken by Basil Roundbush in Colonization when David Goldfarb calls him out on using the fact that Goldfarb is a Jew and Britain's growing anti-Semitism in order to get Goldfarb to do his bidding. Roundbush keeps insisting that he personally doesn't care that Goldfarb is Jewish but finds it useful to lean on him.
  • Nuke 'em:
    • Played with. The Race tries not to use nuclear weapons in order to keep Earth as clean as possible. They do destroy several human cities, including Berlin and Washington, D.C., but their strategy is intimidation and retaliation, since they do not want to go overboard and end up wrecking the entire planet. The exchange eventually degenerates into a boxing match of sorts once human powers develop nukes of their own; for each nuke that humanity detonates, the Race nukes a city in the corresponding "not-empire". Americans, for their part, nuke a number of their own cities that are in lizard claws. The lizards eventually realize that humans would rather waste the whole planet rather than submit to the Race and sue for peace.
    • Once the war between the Reich and the Race restarts in Colonization, both sides use nukes heavily. The Nazis nuke most major Polish cities and their spaceships (all armed with nukes) attempt to shoot down Race ships. When Hungary attempts to make peace with the Race, the Reich punishes them by nuking Budapest. By the time the Reich sues for peace, most of it is a radioactive wasteland from lizard bombs. Despite this, in 30 years time, it's back to being a major power.
  • Numbered Homeworld: The Race refer to Earth as Tosev 3 and the other worlds in their empire as Rabotev 2 and Halless 1; each planet is named after the star of its stellar system and the position of the planet. However, their homeworld is called simply Home.
  • Odd Friendship: Ludmila Gorbunova (Communist Russian Pilot) and Heinrich Jager (Nazi Tank Commander)
  • Oh, Crap!: During the Race's first (and only) encounter with the German Dora cannon, which fires 80-cm shells, they mistakenly assume by its speed and size on the radar that it's a missile and attempt to shoot it down with their own. However, the round's tough outer shell shrugs off the missiles, allowing the cannon to take out two ships before the cannon is found and destroyed.
    • The stunned, silent reaction of Atvar's assembled ship captains when they realize that humans already have a pretty good understanding of radiation and atomic physics (i.e. they use X-rays on a regular basis to deal with broken bones)...meaning that it is a question of when, not if, the human nations can develop their own nuclear weapons.
  • One World Order: Averted. While humanity at large bands together and set aside its differences to fight the Race, it quickly becomes clear that the notion gets cast aside, no one all that eager to let any particular nation, group or ideology take charge over all mankind. It's telling that even after several decades, Earth is still made of nation-states, albeit dominated by either the leading powers or the Race.
  • Outside-Context Problem: None of the human participants conceived at all of an alien invasion disrupting their own conflicts.
  • Pass Fail: When the (Jewish) Mordechai Aneliwicz is traveling in the countryside, he encounters a farmhouse and attempts to pass as a Polish partisan (A Catholic Pole). He manages to eat the ham they're serving without hesitation, but is caught out when he crosses himself wrong and does not think to put butter on his potatoes. Fortunately for him, they aren't upset about it.
    • Mordechai also realizes he'll need to stay away from the eager Farmer's Daughter if he's to keep up the charade. Only a Jew would be circumcised in Poland at this time.
  • Peace Conference: Atvar holds one with the foreign ministers from Germany, the Soviet Union, and the United States, with Great Britain and Japan as observers. It results in the Race agreeing to let all these countries (plus Canada) remaining independent but the Race ruling the rest of the world. The biggest point of contention is over Poland. Since the Nazis and Soviets still dispute control over Poland, the Race decides they will maintain control of it. The Soviets accept this, but not the Nazis – until the Nazis’ plan to detonate a nuclear bomb in Poland fails. The Nazis then accept this settlement for twenty years until restarting their war with the Race, resulting in Germany’s devastation.
  • Point Defenseless: The Race has anti-missile missiles as their main protection against enemy missiles and rockets. However, they fail to do anything about the Dora rail cannon rounds, as their shells are too thick. They also aren't 100% reliable against much more primitive human rockets, which the Germans and the Americans start using. Other close-in weapon systems are mentioned, but they are stated to be ineffective against rockets and missiles and do little to protect their starships.
  • Raised by Orcs:
    • Liu Han's daughter Liu Mei was Ttomalss's first attempt at this. Then Liu Han joined Mao's Communists and forced the Race to return her daughter. However, even twenty years later, Liu Mei is unable to form facial expressions, as lizards' faces don't move, and the lack of feedback to her smiles as a child meant this response is atrophied. Additionally, Liu Mei's first word was a lizard emphatic cough.
    • A human baby is abducted by the Race, named Kassquit and raised by the scientist Ttomalss as one of them to see if the Tosevites can integrate into the Empire. He does not know what to do when she hits puberty, and the increasing problems of reconciling her human nature with her identity as a member of the Race causes her a lot of anguish. In an inverted example, two Race hatchlings are raised as humans by Sam Yeager, who names them Mickey and Donald. Though they hide it somewhat better than Kassquit, they also experience significant emotional distress at living in the wrong society.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Emperor Risson, whom we finally meet in Homeward Bound, is very level-headed and sensible in his dealings with the humans and with Atvar. This actually stands in stark contrast to many Race authority figures, who tend to start out Lawful Stupid before long, painful education.
  • Refuge in Audacity: When Skorzeny is ordered to acquire an infrared range finder from a Race tank, he actually strolls into a Lizard base with a bunch of ginger and uses it to buy an entire tank! He then proceeds to drive it off the base in broad daylight and past Lizard patrols back to his own lines.
  • The Reptilians: The alien variant that the Race are. The Rabotevs and the Halessi, the two races previously conquered and assimilated by the Race, are also this, although they are different variants on the same. For example, the Rabotevs are slightly taller and less scaly than members of the Race, featuring two thumbs on each hand and eye-stalks instead of eye-turrets. The Halessi are small and are initially mistaken for Little Green Men, as they are more humanoid than members of the Race (i.e. more erect and with smaller snouts).
  • The Right of a Superior Species: The Race considers themselves eminently justified in conquering Earth and making humanity a subject race because of what they view as their incomparably superior culture and technology, even though said technology turns out to be not quite that advanced over humankind's.
  • Rock Beats Laser: Part of the underlying theme. The Race starts out by detonating nukes in the upper atmosphere to cause electromagnetic pulses to wipe out electronics...only to find that human technology still runs on valves (a.k.a. vacuum tubes) rather than transistors, which are not affected by EMP. Later, they find out that counter-missiles are ineffective against German supergun shells, and that radar is pretty useless when it come to detecting a low-flying plane made of wood and fabric. And so on. However, it's also averted in that any time a human machine goes up against its Race equivalent (tank vs landcruiser, plane vs killercraft), humans lose badly. The war basically comes down to "Laser beats rock, but lots of rocks will beat laser . . . and we have a lot more rocks than you will ever have lasers".
  • Sanity Slippage: Jens Larssen gets pushed around one too many times, shoots a couple of soldiers and then heads out to tell the Race where the American bomb project is located. He is killed when he finally goes off the deep end when he is hunted down by the cavalry, shoots a woman, hears her shriek, and leaps up, thinking it's his wife.
  • Seduction-Proof Marriage: In Aftershocks Johannes Drucker has been in space by himself for over a month, and is then caught by aliens. He is presented with a female human who has been raised by them (these are aliens who don't wear clothes), and when she asks if he would mate with her if given the chance, one of the reasons he gives for not wanting to is that he is married. Since the aliens also don't practice marriage, this doesn't really explain much to her.
  • Self-Deprecation: In Aftershocks, Monique Dutourd is thinking about a Byzantine historian at the University of Tours, and text goes "which struck even Monique as uselessly arcane". Author Harry Turtledove has a Ph.D. in Byzantine History.
  • Serious Business: Most of the stuff the Race does. They do not even allow actors playing the Emperor to put on the appropriate bodypaint because it would be seen as blasphemy.
  • Sex Is Evil: Well, not exactly evil. While the Race does find the reproductive process pleasant when they're in heat, they find the idea of always being horny abhorrent and terrifying. They do have a cultural reason for this abhorrence, since during mating season they become so addled by horniness that the resulting orgy pretty much grinds their civilization to a halt for its duration. Worse for them, since the females being in heat means that not only are the females out of commission, but thanks to the pheromones they secrete, so is every male in the vicinity.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The initial Race invasion is compared to The War of the Worlds by Sam Yeager when he and Mutt Daniels are shot out of their train in the beginning of the Worldwar series.
    • A "grey-haired colored fellow" brings some US troops fried chicken in the first book, and Mutt Daniels offends him with some *ahem* Southern terms for blacks, while another kid calls him "Colonel." The black man corrects him by saying his name is Charlie Sanders.
    • In the Colonization series, members of the Race refer to "The Red-Headed League" from Sherlock Holmes.
    • Major Samuel Yeager thinks of Thoats, Green Martians and Barsoom and his son speaks of Tarzan, all references to the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs.
    • The captain of the Commodore Perry is an African-American woman named Nichole Nichols, after actress Nichelle Nichols (Uhura from Star Trek: The Original Series).
    • Homeward Bound contains a reference to a movie called Rescuing Private Renfall set during the invasion with James Dean playing the lead.
    • The Colonization series features the debut of a band from England whose heads are shaved (teenagers are shaving their heads to imitate the Lizards). They call themselves 'The Beetles' partly because of their shaved heads.
    • In Homeward Bound, a minor character is an Inspector Second Grade named Garanpo, who is investigating ginger smuggling. He looks and acts exactly like a Lizard version of Columbo.
    • It turns out that in a cosmic coincidence, the name of one of the most famous works of Race literature is Gone with the Wind (in direct translation). The plot is nothing like the human book about the U.S. Civil War, but about two best friends who are separated during the course of their lives and the loss they feel.
  • Sleeper Starship: Both the Race and in the final novel humanity use these for interstellar travel. Then humanity invents FTL and makes them obsolete.
  • Sliding Scale of Alternate History Plausibility: Type X due to the presence of alien invaders, but after that initial setup, turns into a hard 1 or 2. Softens somewhat, becoming III or IV by the end.
  • Smart Ball: Once David Goldfarb decides to no longer be Roundbush's pawn in the ginger business and emigrates to Canada, he takes every possible proactive step to protect himself and his family. This includes informing the police of all threats and suspicious activity, using the research and development company he works for to develop technology to let him identify his tormentors over the phone, and making specific and detailed reports after each subsequent attempt on his life. This results in the arrest of four armed and dangerous individuals before they manage to make good on their threats, earns him and his company a large revenue stream and gratitude from the local police force, and the incarceration of the one person to actually get close enough to follow through on his threats. All from taking simple and common sense steps to protect himself using publicly and privately available resources.
  • Space Age Stasis: The Race has been technologically stagnant for 50,000 years or so. Since they believed that every species advances at their rate, they were expecting us to still be in the Dark Ages after just a millennium of preparing for an invasion.
  • The Starscream: Straha, who is constantly maneuvering to place himself in the Fleetlord's position.
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: The closing chapters of Homeward Bound have Sam returning to Earth in the 2030s after being put into cold sleep in the mid/late 20th century. One thing that surprises him is the relaxed attitude towards sexuality: his family goes to the theater to see a monster movie, and they're all quite surprised when it features an explicit sex scene between the monster and the female lead. Johnathan gets another shock when he realizes that the movie's aged professor character is played by Matt Damon, who had just entered the public eye as a young man when Johnathan went on ice in the late 90s.
  • Sudden Sequel Heel Syndrome: Basil Roundbush in the Worldwar series is charming, friendly, a good sport when it comes to women and, most tellingly, an officer willing to stick up for David Goldfarb and get him an officer's commission despite Britain's emerging anti-semitism. In his very first scene in the Colonization series he blackmails Goldfarb into working for him by threatening to kill his family. Britain in general has become more and more reliant on the Greater German Reich after it lost its empire, and the nation that once fought Hitler tooth-and-nail is now entertaining formally adopting the Fascist anti-semitic policies.
  • Superweapon Surprise: When the Race get ready to invade Britain, Churchill promises to unleash a new weapon the likes of which the Race have not seen before. They think he is bluffing until mustard gas shells start landing on their invasion force. Turns out the Race never developed poison gas; they have no chemical weapons, chemical warfare doctrine or protective gear, and rapidly adapting to new situations and inventing things on the fly are definitely not two of the Race's strong points.
  • Switching P.O.V.: Multiple characters rotate through the chapters, usually at least one from each of the major human countries and the race itself.
  • Tank Goodness: The Race's main battle tank, from the in-book descriptions, seems to be a carbon copy of a Russian T-72. The only difference is that the compartments are designed for Race bodies and that the Race version is powered by hydrogen fuel cells. The human forces need to use Zerg Rush tactics (6-10 Panthers/Tigers per race tank, and the Americans count 10:1 as good odds) in order to triumph over the Race's more advanced weaponry. However, to paraphrase the Germans, "They (The Race) are like the Russians: their tanks are good, but their tank skills are scheiße."
  • Technology Porn: The descriptions of the Dora supercannon, in the first novel, are a fine example of this.
  • Thicker Than Water: Averted with The Race, as they cannot understand why humans put so much emphasis on familial relations. Understandable, since the Race are raised in a communal fashion, with no known mothers or fathers, and are more generally 'domesticated' rather than 'raised' as we would think of it. Thus, Race children form no real bonds with any one particular 'parent' individual as they grow up. Friendship, however, is a powerful bond in the world of the Race, since they feel that the people you choose to be close to are much more important than the circumstances of who birthed you.
  • This Is My Boomstick: Deconstructed. The Race had assumed that advanced technology like nuclear weapons would seem like magic to Earth's primitive inhabitants. They're shocked when it turns out that humans have a pretty decent theoretical knowledge of the underlying scientific principles, they just don't know how to manufacture their own yet. Thus the nuclear destruction of Berlin and Washington, D.C. do not shock the human nations into submission as intended - instead it just makes them scramble to complete their own nuclear development programs.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Forced by circumstance to be "the good guys" the story. Or, at least, allies of the good guys.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: Glen Johnson nearly has this happen to him after getting aboard the new US space station using trickery. The guy in charge tells him that, if Johnson wasn't an experienced pilot, this is exactly what would happen to him. When did the US turn into Nazi Germany?
  • Time Skip: The series jumps forward twenty years between the end of the Worldwar series and the beginning of the Colonization series. Many characters have died in the interim and new people are introduced to flesh out the roster. Those characters which are returning have changed, turning from low-ranking young soldiers to experienced officers, and some are no longer as pleasant as they were in their youth. Homeward Bound features half a dozen timeskips, starting in 1972 and eventually ending up in 2031, telling the story of how the characters who were on the Admiral Peary got there.
  • Unexpected Successor: Secretary of State Cordell Hull assumes the Presidency after Franklin Delano Roosevelt's death.
  • Unusual User Interface: While it's only unusual from a human point of view, the Race's controls are geared towards finger-claws rather than fingers. As such, humans need artificial finger-claws in order to operate the Race's machinery. Also, the Race's voice-activated appliances only respond to commands in their own language and have trouble with human accents (the Race have no different accents as everybody tries to speak the same way).
  • Vichy Earth: The Race attempt to achieve this, but only partly succeed.
  • Villain Ball: The United States. They launch a nuclear missile at one of the Race's colonization ships, but beyond "killing a bunch of Lizards" there's really no rhyme or reason to it. They know it's only a single ship out of a massive fleet, meaning the damage inflicted will be statistically minor, and they have to realize that it will enrage the Race and lead to a retributive strike, but they make absolutely no attempt to frame any other country either to cover their own hides or to try and give one of their enemies a black eye. In the end it just comes off as petty and arbitrary.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: Despite the fact that they are united against a common enemy, the Axis and the Allies do not exactly like each other.
  • We Have Reserves: The humans' way of fighting the Race (Well, that and guerilla warfare tactics.) Patton even says he is prepared to lose ten of his tanks to every Lizard tank he kills because that is still a favorable loss-ratio for the Human Alliance. This works in large part because the Race only has what they brought with them, at least until they start capturing human factories and adapting them to their own technology. The Race acknowledges this, particularly in a conversation where Atvar's adjutant says that he had a mental picture of them expending their last missile to take out the last human tank, only for another one to roll over the horizon. For that matter, they also acknowledge that some of their best technology is simply too advanced for repurposed human factories to build: they can make new bullets fitting for their own guns easily enough, but they can't make more guided smart missiles (Mutt is almost killed by a USAAF 500lb bomb modified with a Race guidance system, which doesn't explode due to likely sabotage). At least, not until the Colonization fleet arrives in the 1960s.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: A lot of characters, even major ones, disappear during each break in the series—understandable considering that the action spans roughly 90 years. Some are mentioned as having died off-screen, others are left with their stories relatively tied up or having token references, but a few characters simply disappear with no real resolution to their situations. We never learn the fate of Liu Han and Liu Mei, or Rance Auerbach and Penny Summers.
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: The Race does not have familial bonds because they view mating as a purely practical matter; the Emperor is the only individual who even keeps track of his kids. Thus they find the notion of romantic love to be confusing and disgusting. The introduction of ginger changes all that for the Race, as members of the Race who were formerly just friends can now have sex upon desire, causing more orthodox Lizards to shun them and treat them as perverts, especially when they express a desire to get married.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Both the Race and humanity have a lack of empathy for the other, and both sides commit atrocities with the explanation that the other side is only human/Lizards. The few characters who oppose such thinking, like Sam Yeager, are condemned by their compatriots.
  • When She Smiles: Mordechai Anielewicz finds Bertha Fleishman more attractive when she smiles, usually considering her plain.
  • Zero-G Spot: Happens in the Colonization books. This is justified, since the Lewis and Clark is on a lifelong mission in the Asteroid Belt, and her crew is never coming home. Condoms are a must, though, since no one wants to experiment with trying to bear a child in zero-g. It helps that their jumpsuits are designed to "zip together". Even then, there is plenty of cleanup afterwards. When the guy is incredulous at the latter fact, the girl points out that there's always cleanup after sex even in gravity, it's just that guys normally don't bother.


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