by Harry Turtledove
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Last year, Turtledove published the third volume of his "Supervolcano" series entitled Things Fall Apart. That title could just as easily have been applied to Last Orders, the final volume of his "The War that Came Early" series.
Covering action on the Pacific, Western, Russian, and Spanish fronts as well as activity in Philadelphia, midway through the novel sudden changes occur which cause an almost domino effect, bringing the war that has raged through the six volume series to a sudden end.
Turtledove's characters continue to run the full gamut, from civilian Peggy Druce in Philadelphia, dealing with the aftermath of her divorce from Herb and finding her way within the Pennsylvania Democratic Party to Julius Lemp, trying to carry the war in the Atlantic to the Allies, but stymied by the suspicions of the SS and eventually party leaders and Admiral Dönitz, who wonder about the loyalty of Lemp and his crew, as well as every other naval commander.
The first key moment in the book come in Spain, where sniper Vaclav Jezek continued to take shots at Nationalist officers trying to recreate the success he had when he managed to kill Francisco Franco. In Germany, an uprising in Münster is witnessed by Sarah Bruck and her family, although the Jews of Münster aren't participating in the riots which were sparked by the treatment of the popular Catholic bishop.
Reflective of unspoken dissatisfaction with the manner in which the Nazis are waging the war on multiple fronts, the uprising of Münster begins to draw resources the Nazis would rather use against their external enemies, with Turtledove's various tank teams and infantry men pulled from the front to help suppress the uprising. While over the previous five novels, these individuals, including Adi Stoss, the probably Jewish tank driver, are simply being pointed at foreign enemies to fight for the Nazis, now they must begin to question where their loyalties lie, and whether the Nazis and Germany are synonymous. As may be expected, Stoss, Lemp, and Arno Baatz come to various different conclusions. And none of them, or the readers, can be entirely sure where the loyalties of those around them fall.
While there is a fair amount of military action in Last Orders, told from the many viewpoints Turtledove has been following, there is also plenty of room for examining his characters, and not just in terms of their loyalty to Germany or the Nazis. In the Pacific, Japanese soldier Hideki Fujita and US Marine Pete McGill both find themselves in situations with regard to their countries that make them question whether their countries value them. On the Western front, Aristide Demange and Alistair Walsh are fighting a war and hoping for a return home, while Chaim Weinberg in Spain must deal with rapid changes in the battle he has been waging since long before the World War broke out. Turtledove focuses attention on all of their personal stories even as he describes the battles raging around them.
Once things fall apart
, the action wraps up pretty quickly, in many cases leaving plenty of room for Turtledove to follow up on the lives of his characters in subsequent novels. However, Turtledove demonstrates an almost Whedonesque ability to kill off his characters and just because someone manages to live until the peace doesn't mean they will live to appear in any potential sequels. While the war itself is wrapped up pretty well in Last Orders, the book does leave the reader with the feeling that the stories Turtledove has told aren't quite finished.
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