Aaron's Reviews > West and East

West and East by Harry Turtledove
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Sep 19, 10


In this sequel to Hitler's War, Turtledove is continuing his The War That Came Early series that was exploring what might have happened if Hitler had made a grab for Czechoslovakia earlier than in real history. As with what really happened, the early surges in the war were successful for Nazi Germany, but in this new timeline, things have not gone as well as they did in reality.

Germany failed to take Paris in the drive west. The Soviet Union, in an attempt to prevent the Germans from invasion have attacked Poland, driving that country to work with the Nazis to defend its borders. The Nazis are so concerned about the Eastern Front that they drive north and invade Scandinavia in an attempt to place a barrier between them and potential approaching Allied forces.

Spain's Civil War between the communists and the nationalists takes on greater importance as it becomes another theater of battle backed by the Axis and Allied forces.

Japan has placed more focus on the land war. With the United States not feeling drawn into the war, the Japanese are more concerned with the "Bear of the North" coming down to prevent their actions in Korea and China. As a result, Japan strives to take the Trans-Siberian Railway in the hopes of breaking Moscow's ties to it's eastern port, Vladivostok.

As with all of Turtledove's works, the book is filled with historical details and a lot of research, but the real strength is in the design of his characters. Rather than telling the story through historical figures, he creates everymen and -women to share there experiences as they live through history, as alternate as it may be. These include:
*an American woman fighting to escape from Germany after being brought their from Czechoslovakia during the attack on it. She just wants to get home, and her temper seems to be blocking everyone's willingness to help her out.
*a Jewish girl in Münster whose brother fled in the first book to serve in the German army. Now, she and her family are being confronted with the policies that are being set in place against the Jewish population.
*a German pilot who has a plan to improve the armaments on his plane.
*a Czech sniper serving in France who is hoping to win freedom for his country by fighting with its allies.
*a Russian and an American who are serving in Spain to try and help their side win the civil war.
*a u-boat captain striving to serve the Nazis in a battle to not only sink military vessels, but also keep supplies from neutral parties from reaching the British Isles.

Both sides of every facet of the war are represented with realistic characters that the reader care for and are interested in. Through them, the reader gets a better sense of how the war is affecting them. In a sense, it is this type of alternative history that helps us better understand our own.

I already can't wait for the next book in this series to see where Turtledove is going to take history in this timeline.
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