The War That Came Early: The Big Switch
by Harry Turtledove
Cover Artist: Carlos Beltran
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Del Rey Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780345491862
Date: 19 July 2011 List Price $27.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The title says it all, alliances are changing and the war won't be the same. Rudolf Hess' mission to Britain is successful after Churchill dies under questionable circumstances. The Soviet Union is surrounded by enemies, and the invasion of the West begins, but winter is coming. It is the same type of winter that devastated Napoleon.
There are fourteen main character perspectives in this novel. The characters are from all of the major nations and provide a ground level view of the war and the people who are fighting and living through it.
Theo Hossbach, a German panzer driver, has moved to the Eastern Front to fight the Soviets. He perspective is mainly concerned with panzers, but does provide information related to how common German soldiers feel about Jews. Panzers and mud do not get along.
Julius Lemp, German submarine commander, continues to ravage the seas. His mistake early in the war, guarantees that he will always get the dirty jobs, and this time is no exception.
Peggy Druce, an American tourist, has been trapped in Europe since the War began. She finally will make it home, but finds that she is no longer the person who left for Europe. Also, she feels like the only one that recognizes the Nazi menace in Germany. For once, Peggy doesn't bring a Nazi invasion after entering the U.S.
Alistair Walsh, British sergeant, finds Rudolf Hess while on leave, after Hess parachutes into Britain. Alistair resigns from the army after the big switch and begins to work to change the government so they can fight who he considers the real enemy.
Hans-Ulrich Rudel, Stuka pilot, also moves to the Eastern front to fight the Soviet forces. Technology is rapidly advancing and each flight is a new risk. Of course his love life may be an even greater risk.
Hideki Fujita, Japanese sergeant, is near Vladivostok. After it surrenders, the surrendering Soviets are marched Bataan style to a camp where they are to be experimented on by Japanese scientists. Hideki becomes a guard in the camp.
Chaim Wienberg, Abraham Lincoln Brigade, continues his fight in Spain. He develops a relationship with a female firebrand Magdalena, and starts to question what he really wants from the world.
Anastas Mouradian, Soviet pilot, fights on both war fronts and gets to fly one of the new advanced Soviet planes.
Luc Harcourt, French corporal, fights the Nazis until he is told to stop. He then gets moved to the Russian Front. He continues the fight, even though he isn't happy.
Willi Dernen, German private, continues to fight and gets shifted around. He works to avoid Awful Arno and survive the many battles he fights.
Sergei Yaroslavasky, another Soviet pilot, is trying to stay alive and avoid the NVDK. Surviving is not an easy task when your plane isn't top of the line and the weather doesn't cooperate.
Sarah Goldman, a German Jew in Munster, provides the Jewish perspective to the war. Things are not easy for Jews in Germany, but they could be worse. Sarah finds happiness where she can.
Pete McGill, an American Marine in Shanghai, has found love. The terrorist activities of the Chinese end that happiness. He is shipped to the Philippian Islands to recover. His only goal is to heal, and get revenge on those he sees as responsible.
This is one of the best Turtledove books since How Few Remain. Some detractors have complained that his novels adhere to history too closely, well now they have an answer. Read and enjoy.