by Harry Turtledove
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
In Two Fronts, the penultimate novel in Harry Turtledove's "The War That Came Early" series, Germany has suddenly found itself fighting a war against Russia in the east and France and Britain in the west. Although this bears some semblance to the war it fought in reality, the differences in Turtledove's timeline mean that the United States is not directly involved in the European war and the Germans feel a resentment against the British and French who had been their allies in previous volumes until they turned against the Germans, forcing the current situation.
Turtledove's always large cast of characters covers the conflict from most sides, with the Japanese soldier Hideki Fujita providing insight into the war in the Far East, Marine Pete McGill cruises the Pacific around an Hawaii isolated from both the rest of the Pacific and the United States as America's sole base in the ocean. Aristide Demange gives a perspective on the Western European front from the French point of view while pilot Hans-Ulrich Rudel sees the same front, but with the added perspective of the traitorous actions of the French after they turned against the Germans.
With the entire world to cover, it is interesting that Turtledove does place some of his viewpoint characters in proximity to each other. His two characters in Spain are not only both fighting on the same side of the conflict, but Chaim Weinberg and Vaclav Jezek even interact with each other. Turtledove's two civilian viewpoint characters, Peggy Druce in Philadelphia and Sarah Bruck in Mü
nster, are both women, although with Turtledove's penchant for killing and maiming his characters, it is quite possible that one of the male viewpoint characters may join them in civilian life before the end of the series.
The two front war in Europe is similar to the war that was actually fought, but there are significant differences, with the Americans remaining isolationist and leaving the British, French, and Russians, to fights against the German war machine on their own. The United States is focusing its own attention on a Japan that is having much more success in the Pacific and willing to do whatever it takes to win. Without the Concentration camps, Jews like Sarah Bruck and her parents, the Goldmans, are still being mistreated by the Nazis, but the Nazis are not required to divert a significant amount of their manpower to initiate and maintain the Final Solution. Furthermore, the camps are not there to stir up revulsion against the Nazis, making Turtledove's war a "cleaner" war that the one that was actually fought.
Two Fronts is the penultimate novel in "The War That Came Early," yet Turtledove doesn't give a strong indication of the endgame. Although there are hints dropped by Herb Druce that Turtledove has another major twist in store for the readers and his alternative world before the end of the series. If Herb's clues are carried to fruition, the final book will provide an intriguing ending to a war that is similar to the war in our own timeline, although different enough to be surprising.
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