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Hitler's War
Harry Turtledove
Del Rey, 496 pages

Harry Turtledove
Harry Turtledove was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1949. In 1977, he received a Ph.D. in Byzantine history from UCLA. In 1979, he published his first two novels, Wereblood and Werenight, under the pseudonym Eric G. Iverson which he continued to use until 1985. In 1991, he left the Los Angeles County Office of Education, where he worked as a technical writer, to become a full-time author. He won the Hugo Award for Novella in 1994 for "Down in the Bottomlands" and "Must and Shall" was nominated for both the 1996 Hugo Award for Best Novelette and the 1996 Nebula Award for Best Novelette.

Harry Turtledove Website
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

"If that newsman was lying about the weather in Minsk, what else was he lying about? Had the Poles really bombed the city at all? Had the Germans joined them? How much of what he said about the war in the West was true? Was anything he said true? Anything at all?"
Hitler's War Alternate history novels are a subject I find fascinating. Knowing how our world sometimes turns on a single event, the prospect of tinkering with such issues is a seam of literary gold, and among the most prominent miners is Harry Turtledove. So it was with great enthusiasm that I began to read Hitler's War, the first in a new sequence of what might have been. This time around, the author's launch point is the assassination of Konrad Henlein in 1938, which gives Hitler the excuse he needs to follow his desire to invade Czechoslovakia. England and France are appalled by the German aggression, and refuse to sign the treaty offered by Hitler. Even though neither side is really ready for another big war, the die is cast, and before anyone can pull back, an alternate take on World War II is well underway.

What follows is almost five hundred pages worth of war as seen through the eyes of the little guy. A tank driver, a pilot, an infantryman, a U-boat commander, a family of German Jews, and an American woman trapped behind enemy lines, plus half a dozen others. Some of the time this works, especially when Turtledove is describing life under the Nazi and Soviet regimes, or how the average person just wants to survive, no matter what uniform he is wearing. However, the approach is just as often irritating and too tightly focussed on the minutiae. Just because men in the field do not have a view of the big picture, is no excuse for keeping readers in the dark. I frequently found myself bored with reading tales of life in war that I felt I'd read a thousand times before. The author tries to present nationalities from an authentic perspective, but comes up short on several occasions. For example, a member of the British Expeditionary Force is described as possibly discovering that his fiancée was "having it on" with the local greengrocer, when the correct expression would be "having it off." In another sequence, a U-boat commander uses the word "skedaddle," which is very much an Americanism. Such basic failings in research and attention to detail detract from the realism Turtledove is trying to create, and frankly should never have made it to the final edit.

The book is called Hitler's War, yet the Führer only appears right at the beginning, and again while on a surprise visit to his front line troops. It is then that we finally learn something interesting about what is happening above eye-level. The author's preference for generic cut-out characters, as opposed to a genuine lead or two, makes it hard to care much about any of them. One character, a mouthy American woman, even had me wishing that a Nazi would shoot her, so that someone more interesting might emerge. Ultimately, Hitler's War is a rather long, distinctly mediocre opening sequence, where not enough happens. Harry Turtledove has written several highly entertaining novels, but this one is disappointing.

Copyright © 2009 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at

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