The master of alternative history asks the question, 'What would have happened if World War II had started in 1938?'. The results are thrilling.
The two sides of the Spanish civil war are still locked in a blood-soaked stalemate. Stalin's purge of the Red Army is barely underway. And Neville Chamberlain - sickened by the arrogance and duplicity of the Germans- does not return from Munich waving the piece of paper that would give the Czech arms factories to Hitler and postpone the war until 1939.
On October 1, German tanks cross the Czech frontier, touching off declarations of war from France, from England, from the USSR. Poland, fearing the Russians more than Hitler, declares war on the German side. Soon Fascist Spain attacks Gibraltar, the Japanese army crosses the Manchurian frontier into Siberia . . . and the British Army sets off for France, which has launched a pre-emptive attack on the Rhineland.
The war we know as World War II has begun - a year early, in an entirely different way.
Alternate historian Turtledove (The Man with the Iron Heart) brings the deprivations of war to life in this vision of a very different WWII. After Konrad Henlein is assassinated in Czechoslovakia in 1938, France and England refuse to condone Hitler's plans for annexation, so he invades instead. American Peggy Druce, caught behind the lines, gets a firsthand look at the period military hardware and nationalistic mindsets that Turtledove so expertly describes, though readers looking for more characterization or plotting may be disappointed. Action in the Spanish Civil War and on the Mongolian border muddy the waters, possibly setting up for a clearer plot in subsequent volumes. Until Turtledove reveals more of the direction this scenario will take, there is little to differentiate it from many of his other novels.
This book is very entertaining, but unfinished. I felt cheated.