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Sunday, October 28, 2012

West and East: The War that Came Early by Harry Turtledove

Genre: Alternate History

Setting: Earth, during the late 1930's in an alternate version of World War II

First Sentence: Theo Hosbach lay on a con in a military hospital in Cambrai.

This novel is the second in Harry Turtledove's "The War that Came Early" series.

In this version of World War II, Hitler attacked France in 1938.  Because Germany was not quite ready for war, the Blitzkrieg bogged down.  England, France and England are mired in a trench war reminiscent of World War I.  On the eastern front, Germany and Poland are allies fighting against the Soviet Union.  In Asia, Japan and the Soviet Union are at war.  Japan has conquered China.  The United States is neutral, but American citizens are involved in the war. 

Turtledove uses a wide variety of characters to tell his tale.  Among them are:

  • A German sniper, and a Czech sniper out to nail each other,
  • An American woman trapped in Germany,
  • A French soldier leading a machine gun crew,
  • A German pilot with ideas about how to make his dive bomber more lethal to tanks,
  • A British infantry sergeant fighting in Norway,
  • An American marine stationed in Shanghai,
  • A Japanese soldier fighting the Russians in Siberia,
  • A Jewish girl and her family trying to survive in Nazi Germany.
As Turtledove moves from character to character, we see the great scope of a world at war.  Each individual has his or her unique perspective of the hardship and horror of war.  Who will survive?  Who will pay the ultimate price?  And how will Turtledove's alternate timeline differ from our history?

I liked this novel.  The fun of reading alternate history novels is to see how history plays out in the author's imagination.  Turtledove's plot is different yet plausible.  In this novel, he has delivered an enjoyable story.

West and East

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