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The Big Switch by Harry Turtledove

Added: Saturday, September 17th 2011 at 6:58am by lunarhunk
Related Tags: books, politics, war, history
The Big Switch by Harry Turtledove

This is the third installment in one of Turtledove's more recent series: The War That Came Early . The concept behind the series is a proposal to look at what might have happened if the Nazis, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, had started their aggressive invasions in 1936 rather than 1939. The series is expected to have five volumes.

For a great deal of time, not a lot has been all that different. Germany has settled into a draw in France on the Western Front and in Poland on the East, but things take a drastic change with the Big Switch, which brings about a major shift from the history that we know.

In our own time period, the world is torn between the expansion of Fascism through Germany, Japan, and Italy and the growth of Communism in the Soviet Union and China. We start to get a glimpse at what might have happened if the Western Powers had started to see Communism as a greater threat than Fascism/Nazism. Turtledove explains the shift largely to the surprising assassination of a single individual, whose voice helped define the war.

America is still sitting on the sidelines of the war, though, many are concerned about this change as most Americans are more worried about Fascism. They have been helping to supply Britain and France in their fight against Germany, but is that an option that can continue as they shift their focus and join Germany as it pushes its invasion into the Soviet Union?

One of the strengths of Turtledove's works is that he thoroughly explores the possibilities and explains the changes. They make sense because the reader can clearly see the cause-and-effect. His stories are also told from the perspective of a wide cast of characters representing all sides in each set of events. The result is that he presents history without the judgement of who is right and wrong, leaving the reader to decide.

In this case, readers join the following characters:
*an American housewife, who had been trapped in Czechoslovakia during the German invasion and has spent years slowly making her way back to her home in Philadelphia. Now she hopes to urge America to take up the fight against the Nazis.
*an American army official serving in China, which is torn by a civil war between the Communists and the Democrats as well as constant attacks from Japan. He finds himself falling in love with a local girl and a move to Manila, where he will find himself in an area that will be greatly affected by the shift in the war.
*a German u-boat officer who shares the difficulty of serving on one of the most dangerous vessels in the fleet
*a German Panzer gunner
*a Jewish Czech serving as a sharpshooter in the Spanish Civil War
*a Jewish girl living with her family in Nazi Germany
*an Armenian pilot serving in the Soviet air force
*A Japanese officer serving at a camp where Russian POWs are being used in horrific experiments

The historical figures that we all know and are familiar with take the backseat as these everyday people tell the story.

Harry Turtledove is never an easy read, but it is always worth the effort to enjoy the tale and explore what could have been!

User Comments

'The historical figures that we all know and are familiar with'---whew! I told Turtledove I was tired of being the star!! :O)


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