Turtledove (The War That Came Early: The Big Switch, 2011, etc.) delivers the fourth installment in his latest series, depicting an alternate-history version of World War II.
This grandly staged what-if series began with Turtledove’s 2009 novel Hitler’s War, which portrayed an alternate version of WWII starting with a 1938 German invasion of Czechoslovakia. (In the real world, the war began in 1939 when the Nazis invaded Poland.) A domino effect of divergent events followed in the next two books. As this book opens in January 1941, British and French forces have joined with Germany against the Soviets, while the U.S., fighting Japan, is staying out of the European conflict. Soon, however, a governmental coup in England begins a shifting of alliances. As with previous books, Turtledove tells his story through many different characters—frontline soldiers, civilian Americans and persecuted German Jews, among others—while major historical figures, such and Hitler and FDR, exist solely in the background. (Winston Churchill, however, has already met an untimely end.) Turtledove’s huge cast is a testament to his commitment to worldbuilding, but the constant scene shifts make the story feel a bit scattered, and some plotlines, such as the English situation, are more consistently interesting than others. For the most part, the story merely inches along, which may tax the patience of all but the most ardent WWII aficionados. While the book’s grand scope and Turtledove’s impressive historical knowledge are admirable, this installment seems to be merely laying groundwork for more earthshaking events to come.
A fair middle chapter in the series, which will undoubtedly appeal to Turtledove’s fans.