The War that Cane Early: The Big Switch
© 2011 Harry Turtledove
In 1938, the powers of Europe met to maintain the peace — but Hitler’s arrogance resulted in a continent at war. In response to Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia, the two western powers invaded Germany. Despite his ambitions, the newly remilitarized Germany state is in no condition to make short work of its neighbors, especially after the Soviet Union invades Germany’s unlikely ally, Poland. Faced with a two-front war, 1939 looked to be a grim year for Hitler…but then the Japanese invaded Russia’s Pacific coast, seeing an opportunity to expand its own Asian territory.
If that intro reads a bit like the intro for West and East, it’s because little actually happened in West and East. The story being told was all-too familiar and began to lose my interest — but that’s over with The Big Switch. This is a novel aptly named, for in it the storyline drastically departs from history as we know it. Before this point the changes in the timeline were marginal only: indeed, in West and East it appeared as though Germany was headed toward defeat in the exact manner its real-world counterpart met in 1945. Japan’s invasion of Russia balanced the odds against Germany, though, and in The Big Switch events will drastically alter the balance of power — imperiling the Soviet Union. Neither Germany or the Soviet Union were prepared for a war of this intensity or magnitude, but Hitler is about to pull off a diplomatic triumph that will be a complete game-changer. While I don’t want to spoil anything, let’s just say Winston Churchill’s death shortly after his protesting rumors of a western alliance against the Soviet Union may not have been an accident. The result is a war that is NOT our World War 2. This is a World War 2 without D-Day, without Pearl Harbor, and perhaps even without a large-scale Holocaust — but it’s already delivering its own epic ambushes, tragedies, and conflicts.
Turtledove retains the same multinational cast of characters as in his previous novels, though he introduces a couple of newcomers. My favorites remain the German submarine captain, the American socialist fighting in the Spanish Civil War, and a Czech soldier who fled German occupation to fight against the Nazis in France. The Big Switch has completely enthused me about this series, despite a couple of niggling weaknesses (like Turtledove’s customary repetitiveness. Yes, Harry, I know Japanese soldiers don’t think much of enemy troops who surrender.). I’m greatly looking forward to what this alternate World War 2 develops into .