Turtledove (Coup d’Etat, 2012, etc.) delivers the fifth installment in his latest series—a final volume is promised—developing an alternate-history version of World War II.
This widescreen Technicolor what-if began with Turtledove’s 2009 novel Hitler’s War, which portrayed a World War II starting with a 1938 German invasion of Czechoslovakia. Real history and Turtledove’s imaginary version continued to diverge thereafter, as Britain and France allied themselves with Nazi Germany to battle the communist Soviet Union. The U.S. goes to war with Japan while avoiding the European theater, and in Spain, fascist Nationalists with German backing wage trench warfare against mingled Communists and Republicans allied with free Czechs and independently operating Americans and British. Now, however—and we’ve only reached 1942—following an anti-fascist coup, Britain has joined with France to open a western front against Germany. Again, the number of plotlines and characters can be bewildering: frontline soldiers on the European western and eastern fronts, sailors and marines on Hawaii, Japanese pilots in China, civilian Americans and German Jews, Ukrainian partisans and Czech snipers, among others. Inevitably, major historical figures merely rate a mention or die offstage in plausible fashion. Patience is a necessary virtue when reading Turtledove’s slow, knowledgeable, scattershot saga, and any earlier impressions of his building toward some earth-shattering conclusion are shown, here, to be quite incorrect. Instead, Turtledove embeds many small, subtle hints—to reveal them would be to give the game away—that his real objective is to paint, brush stroke by brush stroke, a postwar landscape quite different than the one that prevailed in the real world.
Stick with it—there will be surprises, just not the ones you were expecting.