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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 18 August 2012
The fourth volume of Harry Turtledove's "The War That Came Early" series opens up at the start of 1941 onto a very different conflict. Britain and France have come to terms with Nazi Germany, and have even joined them in their ongoing war with the Soviet Union. The United States faces a series of setbacks against the Japanese, with whom they are at war after a series of sudden attacks throughout the Pacific. And the civil war in Spain drags on, a forgotten precursor to the conflict now raging. As the year unfolds, however, events begin to reorient the alignments. A military coup in Britain topples the government and rejoins te struggle against the Nazis, and with the French wobbling the prospect of a two-front war rears up as an unwelcome prospect for the Germans. But can they defeat the Soviets before that prospect becomes a reality?

Readers who have reached this point in the series already know what they will be getting in this latest installment, and those who have enjoyed following his cast of characters will find much to satisfy them here. Moreover, Turtledove continues to provide more in the way of the action than he did in his second volume West and East, which helps to keep things lively. Nevertheless, there is still a sense throughout this book of treading water, as much of the key events - both personal and political - seem to consist of undoing the developments of his last book, The Big Switch. Because of this, the whole series is starting to feel bloated, as Turtledove stretches out events that could (as he has demonstrated in previous series) have covered more dramatically in fewer volumes. Diehard fans of Turtledove's works may not mind, but for anyone seeking to follow up his earlier, better works they might find his latest alternate history series something of a disappointment.
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on 10 August 2012
If you're a regular reader of Harry Turtledove's books, you'll know what to expect here, multi-character POVs across a sweeping backdrop of alternate history. Its all present and correct here, but...after the "Big Switch" of the third book in this series, this whole book felt as though Harry realised the whole idea was a bit ridiculous (and it was, on a couple of levels) and he spent all of this book unpicking the plot in order to return things to what looks increasingly like alternate history that's not very..."alternate". This version of WWII is different, but is different enough to sustain the narrative over the next few books in the series? I'm really not sure it is.
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Fourth volume in a series of alternate history novels entitled 'The War that came early' which depicts how things might have gone had World War Two started in 1938.

This is not a good jumping on point. New readers should start with Hitler's War.

This volume runs for four hundred and sixteen pages and is divided into twenty six chapters.

It contains some strong language and some scenes of an adult nature. But not very much. Of either.

Following on from the end of the third book in the series, which saw Britain and France join with Nazi Germany to fight Communist Russia, but with hints of British people who didn't like this being about to do something about it, things continue.

In the usual style of this writer's. With multiple viewpoint characters having single scenes, and the narrative getting back to each one every so often.

As with earlier volumes of this series, though, the problem remains that not a lot of the characters are very interesting. And many are just rather generic grunts. Another of Turtledove's traits of having big events unfold offscreen does happen, and initially this is a pretty pacy and readable volume because things do seem to be going somewhere. But once again, most of it does involve generic characters going through the same old paces and saying the same old things. One plotline hinted at on the back of the book, which promises interesting developments in the life of particular character, frustratingly comes to absolutely nothing. And they're not seen for a long time in the middle of the book.


It is very readable. The pace picks up a lot with some events at the end, some of which do leave people in cliffhanger like situations. And you will get one real surprise also. Plus, the scenes of combat are exceptionally well rendered.

Thus this series drifts onwards. It still remains not quite his best work, but at the same time it does leave me wanting to know what will happen next. You can find that out in Two Fronts (War That Came Early (Del Rey Hardcover)). There's a preview chapter from that at the end of this volume.
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on 16 October 2012
Coup D'etat is the fourth book, in the 'War That Came Early' series. At the start of this book, Japan has just attacked Manila,and Hawaii to bring the USA into the conflict. France and Britain are still fighting in the Soviet Union, alongside Nazi Germany. In Spain the Civil War between the Nationalists and Republicans still drags on.

While I found the book quite enjoyable for the most part, there are a few bits that are monotonous, particularly the scenes set on the Eastern Front, where a lot of the characters are based. I felt the 'big switch' that occured in the previous book hard to swallow, and that reduced my interest in the parts of the story set in the Soviet Union, also.

I felt the parts of the book set in the Pacific the best, as it had more of an alternate history 'feel' to it. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, in upcoming books.
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on 18 April 2014
This is my second review of one of Harry's books and to say I am disappointed is an understatement. Yes it follows his style of multiple characters, visited several times in the course of the novel and many are interesting and well depicted but they seem to be involved in one long moan against the war, the leaders, the opposition, the conditions etc and as for the greater scheme of things, the larger plot you have to spot the clues to see what is happening and sadly not a lot. This is my greatest complain, the action seems to be bogged down in the minutiae forgetting to show us what is happening on a larger scale. The great reads of the American civil war and beyond series seems to have been jettisoned for character over plot.
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This is the fourth book in a series which speculates about what might have happened if World War II had started in 1938 after the Munich peace talks failed. This is going to be very much a "marmite" book which some people like and others hate.

The books in the series to date are:

1) "Hitler's War"

2) "West and East (War That Came Early)"

3) "The Big Switch: The War That Came Early"

4) This book, "Coup D'Etat"

5) "Two Fronts (the War That Came Early, Book Five)"

"The War that came early" is yet another alternative version of World War II from Harry Turtledove. It is quite astonishing that he can still find new perspectives from which to write about that war, but he does.

Nothing in this review is a spoiler for "Coup D'Etat" but it is completely impossible to say anything meaningful about this fourth book in the series without major spoilers for the third book which precedes it. If have not read the third book, might wish to do so and you don't want to know what happens in it, I recommend that you don't read further here and avoid descriptions of the fourth and subsequent books.

In the opening of the first book Turtledove made two changes in real history, and the first two volumes in the series work from there. First, in 1936 General Jose Sanjuro wasn't killed in a plane crash and consequently Sanjuro rather than Franco becomes leader of the Nationalist side in the Spanish civil war. Secondly, during the Munich negotiations, Henlein (leader of the Sudeten Germans) was assassinated, giving Hitler an excuse to press for even more punitive terms against Czechoslovakia.

In this history Chamberlain and Daladier finally recognised that Hitler was determined on war, and suspected that he had actually ordered Henlein's murder himself. They found the spine to tell Hitler that if he invaded Czechoslovakia Britain and France would honour their obligations to the Czechs. Hitler did order the invasion of Czechoslovakia on the spot, and the war started a year earlier than in real history.

There was (and is) a commonly held view, at the time of Munich and subsequently, that the democracies were not ready for war in 1938 while Germany was. Many years ago my late father summarised this view in seven words when I asked why Chamberlain failed to stand up to Hitler at Munich: he answered "We would have lost the war then."

This series is entertainment rather than a serious academic study, but the first two books tried to address the question of whether that view is right, by projecting through what might have happened, taking account of the fact that the lineup of countries on each side was not identical, of the state of preparedness of various nations, and of the military and naval kit which would have been available to the combatants in a war which began in 1938.

Both Britain and Germany would have been forced to make more use of armoured vehicles armed only with machine guns (Bren carriers and the Panzer I), or very light tanks such as the Panzer II: biplane fighters and bombers would have been used much more by all sides.

In real history, German war plans in 1938 for war against France were based on a slightly updated version of the Schlieffen plan which had been tried and failed in 1914. However, at the start of the war a copy of those plans fell into British hands. Knowing this, the Germans changed their strategy to the "Manstein Plan" for a punch through the Ardennes, and this strategy succeeded brilliantly and knocked France out of the war in 1940. In "Hitler's war" the Schlieffen plan is tried again with pretty much the results which most military historians think would have resulted if the Germans had been daft enough to stick with it.

By the start of the third book the Germans have clearly failed to secure the rapid victory against France which they actually achieved in 1940, and are slowly and painfully being driven back, though their armies are well inside French territory: in the East the Germans and Poles are gradually driving the Russians back.

At this point Turtledove posits a further "What if" change in events from the real World War II - what if there were a change around in the pattern of alliances? Hence the title of the third book.

Now if you were to ask me whether such an event would have been remotely likely I would have to say definately not. Particularly in the timeline proposed in this series, because some of the very same people who showed more spine in the first book "Hitler's War" than they did in reality, and were actually more willing to stand up to the evils of Nazism, diverge from historical events in quite the opposite direction in this book.

And because some of the events in real history which reinforced British hatred of Soviet communism and nearly did lead to British and Soviet troops fighting one another - such as Stalin's invasion of Finland - were in this timeline forestalled by the earlier start to the war against Germany.

Having said that, there was an element within Britain and France, small minority though they were, who hated communism more than nazism and argued for a course of action similar to that which those countries take in the third book and are following at the outset of this one. Which makes it a legitimate "what if" to ask provided you don't pretend it is a likely one. Turtledove went out of his way to recognise that there would also have been many people in Britain and France who strongly opposed any rapprochement with Hitler.

At the start of this fourth book those people are still extremely unhappy that Britain and France are, in their opinion, on the wrong side of the war against the Nazis. So much so that both politicians and generals are prepared to contemplate what would normally be unthinkable in a mature democracy - a move to overthrow the government ...

As usual for a Harry Turtledove book, the war is seen through the eyes of a large number of fictional viewpoint characters, one or more from each of the countries involved. This time these include an American woman caught in Prague by the outbreak of war who finally got home in the third book and is now trying to raise support to get America to oppose the Axis powers, a Jewish family in Munster, a German panzer wireless operator, infantryman, stuka pilot, and U-Boat skipper, French, British and Japanese sergeants, a Czech corporal who found himself fighting in the Spanish civil war when the free Czech forces in France were allowed to escape there when France changed sides, two Russian Air Force pilots one of whom is now leading troops on the ground, and an American Marine.

The brother of the Jewish girl viewpoint character is hiding from the Nazis by having enlisted in the Wehrmacht under a false name, and Turtledove has now kept us guessing for three books whether he is the driver of the Panzer in which a Wehrmacht viewpoint character is radio operator. Major historical figures like Hitler, Roosevelt and Franco get mentions as they impact on the lives of the viewpoint characters or vice versa.

Turtledove's homework on the tactical capabilities of equipment available to the armed forces of all sides between 1938 and 1941 is mostly pretty good. For example, and I thought the depiction in this novel of the problems the germans had in dealing with the latest soviet tank designs, the T34 and KV1, was a good reflection of the problems those machines actually caused the Germans during the first year of Operation Barbarossa.

The Stuka pilot in the book, Hans Rudel, who is presumably based on the historical pilot of that name, is still flying a "Panzerbuster" variant of the Stuka armed with 37mm guns, similar to the JU87-G series. In the series Rudel was flying combat missions from 1938 and anti-tank Stukas from 1939, in real history Rudel was not allowed to fly combat missions until 1941 and the JU87-G was not deployed until 1943. This book is set in 1941, so it has reached the date at which the real Rudel was flying combat missions, although it is still two years early for the Germans to have anti-tank stukas.

Wanting to see what will happen to the viewpoint characters is one of the things which holds my interest in this series: killing the occasional viewpoint character is one of the ways Turtledove brings home the cost of war, especially how an action which is the work of seconds and then forgotten for one person can be a complete change or the end of everything for another. There is a poignant example towards the end of this book as Turtledove describes in a couple of sentences how one viewpoint character, noting someone doing an effective job for the other side, quickly and effectively guns him down as one might swat an irritating insect.

At the start of the next paragraph Turtledove introduces a character by his full name who had previously been described only by his ranks and surname. The individual concerned had been the comrade and boss of a previous viewpoint character throughout the four books up to this point, but that viewpoint character turns out to have been the man who the soldier on the other side shot and killed in the previous paragraph.

The new viewpoint character, keeping low to avoid getting shot himself, takes a careful look to make sure that there is nothing he can do for the comrade who has fought by his side through several years and nearly four books' worth of war, and seeing that there isn't, crawls back to his men while keeping his friend's body between himself and the enemy. "Acting as cover was the last favour the kid could do him or anybody else."

This is the fifth alternative version of World War II which Turtledove has written. He has previously done a series with aliens from Tau Ceti invading in 1942 (the "Worldwar" series which starts with Worldwar: In the Balance (New English library)). He's also done a parallel history following pretty much the real track, in a world where technology uses magic rather than engineering (known variously as the Darkness, Derlavi, or 'World at War' series) which starts with Into the Darkness. There is an alternative World War II in his massive ten volume history of a Confederate States of America which survives for nearly a century following a Rebel victory in the US Civil War, and in which the same roles as in the historical WWII are carried out by different people - this is the "Settling Accounts" quartet. Finally there is a pair of novels, "Days of Infamy" and "End of the Beginning" which explore the possibility that Japan might have backed up the air strikes on Pearl Harbour with a land invasion of Hawaii.

Having done so many alternative versions of World War II, you would think he would find it impossible to say anything new about them or maintain the reader's interest. There have been some negative reviews of the books in this series - at first mostly along the lines of "good concept, poor execution" and unsurprisingly other people were pretty scathing about the idea that Britain and France might line up with the nazis. Not all readers will enjoy this as much as I did. And ironically some - not all - of the viewpoint characters in this series somehow do not seem quite as "real" to me as those in the fantasy WWII series set in a magic world often did.

Turtledove also has a bad habit of repeating the same information time after time, and there is some of that in this series, from how hard machine-gunners often found it to surrender, to how junior enlisted men were wise not to argue with noncoms. Either he or his editor appears to have picked up on this concern - this fourth book was not nearly as bad about that kind of repetition as the first three.

Overall I enjoyed reading all four books in this series and I think many Turtledove fans will likewise enjoy them, provided you will not be completely put off to find Britain and France allying with the Nazis. I didn't think the third and fourth books were quite as good as the first two in the series, but I still enjoyed the story.
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on 28 January 2014
Harry Turtledove is the MASTER of alternative history. The War That Came Too Early series has proven to be his best yet and has been a real roller-coaster ride so far
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on 17 December 2012
Vintage Turledove ...I did not need to say more..Everyone who loves this author as I Do won't find any reason to be disappointed ...
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