|Upsetting the Balance|
|Cover artist||Stan Watts|
|Genre(s)||Alternate History, Science fiction|
|Publication date||January 1, 1996|
|Preceded by||Tilting the Balance|
|Followed by||Striking the Balance|
Plot introduction[edit | edit source]
Plot summary[edit | edit source]
The United States and Nazi Germany develop atomic weapons of their own and, alongside the Soviets, engage in a nuclear exchange with the Race. The Soviets may have detonated the first atomic bomb, but it was only because their original sample of plutonium (captured from the Race) was larger than the samples given to the USA and Germany; the Soviets actually lag far behind either of these two countries in their efforts to make their own plutonium, and they used all they had in the atomic bomb they used south of Moscow to stop the Race's main thrust against the city.
Regardless, the Race is in a full state of panic that humans have been able to detonate an atomic weapon, and many commanders are shocked at the number of the Race's soldiers that died in the blast. Straha, third in command of the Conquest Fleet, demands a vote of no confidence in Fleetlord Atvar by the captains of each ship in the Fleet. Such a vote would require a 75% majority to depose Atvar, but the vote falls short at 69%. Atvar remains in control, but he recognizes that most of the shiplords no longer actively support him.
Soon, the Race launches an invasion of the British home islands (by air from southern France, flying over German-held northern France) and occupy a northern area (which seems to be centered on Oxfordshire and includes Northampton), and a southern area (which seems to be centered on west Sussex). The humans hold onto Market Harborough; parts of the story describe fighting around Brixworth and Scaldwell and Spratton villages which are on the front line between Northampton and Market Harborough. Another section of text describes an artillery and tank battle for Henley-on-Thames. The human forces are exposed to fire from Lizard helicopter gunships many years before humans had such craft in the real timeline. The Lizards ignore warnings from Winston Churchill that such an attack will meet with terrible consequences. The Lizard forces in Britain are subjected to another human weapon they did not anticipate: mustard gas. Totally unprepared for a chemical attack by the humans, the Race's invasion force is devastated and thrown back: a Lizard plan to link their two areas through Maidenhead fails. London suffers heavy bombardment and loses many landmarks including Big Ben. The Lizards' northern pocket is obliterated, and their southern pocket evacuates in a hurry by air through Tangmere, which is the Lizards' last airfield in Britain out of range of human artillery. As a result, the British gain access to much intact Lizard technology that was abandoned in the retreat. The British use of mustard gas also inspires the Germans, Americans and Russians to use poison gas against the Race. The German use of poison gas includes the use of Sarin and Tabun
In one of the Race's bases in Siberia, morale is at an all time low. The weather is a truly miserable condition from the hot one the Lizards are used to, and the Race's soldiers feel they're constantly being sent to their deaths by incompetent commanders. Many have fallen into abusing ginger, which works as a narcotic for them, even though it has been outlawed by Atvar's orders (such disobedience would have been considered unthinkable before they came to Earth). The Race's soldiers are pushed to the breaking point, and when the base commander starts berating the garrison yet again, landcruiser driver Ussmak shoots him in the head to silence him and an insurrection starts; the entire Race base mutinies and makes Ussmak their de facto leader.