Vilcabamba is another free story by Harry Turtledove that I ran across over at Tor.com. The story is told through the point of view of Harris Moffatt III, president of the United States and Prime Minister of Canada just like his daddy and granddaddy before him. Turns out, during Harris Moffat the first’s tenure as president the Earth was invaded by aliens and Harris is in charge of the only part of North America the aliens didn’t find useful. And even that is about to change now that the aliens found a silver deposit in Utah.
Spoilers ahead, go read the story first if you don’t want to hear the rest.
The whole story is a brazen reference to the European colonization of North America with the entire human race in the role of Native Americans. Humans met the aliens peacefully when they landed, but the Krolp came out shooting. The Krolp take most of the land but leave the natives the land that’s least useful and hardest to live on, and then decide they want that too when precious metals are discovered there. The aliens are centauroid with four legs and an upright torso just like the Europeans appeared to the Native Americans when they were riding horses. Even the title is a reference to the subjugation of Native Americans. Vilcambaba was the last hold-out of the Incan empire and was abandoned in 1572 when the Spaniards sacked the city and relocated all the inhabitants to a new city. Just about the only thing that happens differently is that humans didn’t have to help the invaders survive for the first few years.
The story ends with the Krolp conquering the rest of the US and leaving no free humans except those hiding out in remote places. It was a fine story, but aimless and not especially entertaining. It was a lot like reading about a rock slowly rolling down a hill toward a defenseless baby. You know what’s going to happen and there was really no point.
I would have much preferred a slightly different story. Turtledove briefly mentions humans who attend the Krolp school and how they are being assimilated. To me the aftermath of the Krolp’s final conquest would have been a much more interesting story. I would have enjoyed reading about how human culture was slowly assimilated into Krolp culture. Perhaps a story two hundred years in the future when a few humans are running casino for the Krolp.
Like the last Turtledove story I reviewed, this one is much more interesting for the questions it raises about the future rather than the story itself. It’s not a great story, but short enough to still be worth a read just because it makes you think You can get it free at Tor.com or buy it for the ereader of your choice.