Two Fronts (The War That Came Early, Book Five)
by Harry Turtledove
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Del Rey Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780345524683
Date: 23 July 2013
List Price $28.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /
The big switch came, and now the war is being fought once again in the East and the West. The multiple points of view (POV) continue to tell the story of an alternate World War II. Although thrown for a loop by the changing alliances, Germany is not out of it. On a personal level, many of the characters struggle with basic life and family issues as the war continues. There will be several deaths and at least one POV character will die with a new POV starting after that death.
The two female POVs, Peggy Druce and Sarah Bruck, face similar problems. They are both trying to survive and keep their family together. Sarah is trapped in Münster where the Allied bombing is destroying more and more of the basic infrastructure and Jews are banned from bomb shelters. Peggy after being away from home so long must deal with a husband who travels for work while they try to forgive each other's sins.
Although fighting in Spain, Chaim Weinberg also has family problems. His marriage to La Martellita is over now that Carlos has been born. He also has to survive the continuing trench warfare. Chaim still sees Vaclav Jezek, the Czech sniper that killed Franco. Vaclav is probably my favorite character in the series. He in turn finally reconnects with his family.
Julius Lemp is still terrorizing the Atlantic. He is increasing his tally of destroyed vessels. His results will finally allow him to be promoted. He can go further if he survives and his crew doesn't destroy too many ports.
New planes, weapons, and panzers are coming to the front lines for Anastas Mouradian, Ivan Kuchkov, Hans-Ulrich Rudel, Willi Dernen, and Theo Hossbach. They try to survive a Russian Winter and the changing ebb and flow of the front.
Alistair Walsh has rejoined the British army now that they are back fighting the Germans. His first stop is North Africa. The trip to Egypt is longer now as unfriendly forces control Gibraltar. It wasn't too bad when they were only fighting the Italians, but once the Germans arrive, things get a lot more difficult.
Aristide Demange is part of the French forces that cross the lines in Russia. They must make their way back to the West so that they can engage the Germans. Supplies and German planes are a constant issue. What awaits the returning French is not a great bargain, but better in their mind than supporting the Nazi regime.
In the Pacific Pete McGill is seeing the fleet and American power sink all around him. The situation on Hawaii isn't much better as constant air raids by the Japanese rain death and destruction. But Pete wants revenge for the death of his lover. On the other side, Hideki Fujita is part of the project that is bringing the worst to the enemies of Japan. He needs to reclaim his honor, and he doesn't care who he needs to kill to reclaim it.
There still seems to be a lot of ground to cover in the next and potentially final book in the series. Although on their heels, the Germans are not even close to broken. They have a technological edge and I would not be surprised if Germany develops the first nuclear bomb. The only question is who they attack first. Cases can be made for hitting the British Isles as well as stomping on the Russian beast.
The Japanese warrior view of war is in stark contrast to modern sensibilities. The Japanese fight to win, and surrender is not an option. They will use any and every weapon available to them. They proved it when they fought the Russians and then started to perform human testing on captured soldiers. Now fighting in China and against the United States in the Pacific, they will use all of the tools that they have developed. I believe that their version of total war will bring significant retribution. The coming retribution may scar those that give it as much as those receiving it.
With all of the questions to be answered, the conclusion to the series should be action packed. Two Fronts is a good novel. It does suffer a little from having to set up future action, but it does offer action that is telling on its own, such as the Japanese tactics against the United States and the British.
I enjoy how Turtledove did not try to gloss over how little the Japanese cared about anyone that wasn't Japanese. The introduction of new German technology could be the decisive edge, but the huge manpower edge of the Russians is difficult to overcome, especially when there is planning for all of the materials that can be brought into the war.
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