In the first few pages, Hitler’s War shows remarkable promise. In a new record for Turtledove, that promise is cast away within the first two chapters. I was a third of the way through it when I recognised an ugly truth. I was bored. I didn’t care what happened to the characters. I didn’t want them to live, or to die, or to make babies with their girls. I didn’t care about them in the slightest.
Hitler’s War is based around two promising PODs, rather than one. A famous Spanish Nationalist survives a plane crash that would have killed him. A famous German from
The Turtledove books that are well remembered focused on a tiny number of characters. The Guns of the South, Toxic Spell Dump and Ruled Britannia only had a small number of main characters. The only book with a vast cast of characters that worked out near-perfectly was How Few Remain. The longer sets of books, particularly the Great War books, dragged on and on and on, with so much repetition that one wonders if Turtledove was writing for someone with poor short-term memory problems. I still have a fond space in my heart for the WorldWar books, but even they were stretched too far. Turtledove is not so much interested in the story as what happens to the people caught up in events. Sometimes this works. It just doesn’t work very often and it really doesn’t work for Hitler’s War.
Turtledove offers us what should have been an interesting cast of characters. There’s a German Jewish girl in
He does show us intriguing glimpses of his research. Historically, the Poles did sell out the Czechs. At the same time, of course, they were caught between Hitler and Stalin. (This point does get made in the book.) Even so, they passed up their best chance to stop Hitler right there and then. There are moments when he shows the tactics of the alternate war. There are moments when he repeats himself, a problem so excessively bad in his early works that it has spawned derision among the AH community. The book needed an editor. I know someone I could recommend, if Turtledove were interested.
The alternate European War is decidedly odd, to say the least.
There’s only one problem with this scenario.
It’s utter nonsense.
The Germans in 1938 were FAR weaker than Turtledove suggests. They had shortages in pretty much every area, and weak in trained cadre. A war of almost any duration would have run the risk of burning through all their stock. They would be attacking a tough opponent dug into the second-strongest defence line in
Turtledove, despite being branded the Master of Alternate History, has a nasty habit of using
If Hitler really did launch Case Green, there would be a good chance that the Czechs could hold him off themselves, without help. If the French Army came over the border with just a division or two, they’d brush through the tiny force Hitler left to the west, even if they had a McClellan in command. They’d realise pretty quickly that Hitler had been bluffing and keep moving onwards into
The really annoying part of this book is that a lot of intriguing ideas are tossed in and then out again. Hitler faces a coup launched by the German military and survives – what happened then? We never get told. How was he so much stronger than in
There comes a time, in the life of every best-selling author, when he becomes editor-proof. A Tom Clancy. Stephen King or JK Rowling (and yes, a Harry Turtledove) does not HAVE to listen to an editor when he or she is told that the book needs a rewrite. They can merely threaten to take their name to another publisher to get their way. Their books degenerate into masses of poorly researched and badly-written text, barely showing hints of the great genius they once allowed to flourish. And then they lose popularity and wonder why.
Sic Transit Gloria…
(People interested in a proper look at a WW2 in 1938 would be advised to check out - http://www.changingthetimes.net/samples/darkvalley/on_to_berlin.htm)