Another in a long line of alternate history novels from Harry Turtledove, The War That Came Early features a WWII that never happened. It's 1938. In Spain, Marshal Sanjurjo's Nationalist forces are still struggling against the Republicans, while in Europe Adolf Hitler prepares to send his untested and unready army into action in Czechoslovakia, following the assassination of a Czech Nazi. Britain and France move to protect their Czech ally, even as Josef Stalin's Soviet Union looks hungrily at Poland, and Japanese troops in the Far East prepare to march into Siberia. With America still refusing to enter the war, and Fascist sympathies on the rise in Britain and France, the question of just who is going to end up at war with who becomes anybody's guess.Books in the series include:
West & East
The Big Switch
Last Orders (upcoming)
Tropes featured in this series include:
Action Survivor: Most of the main cast, who are civilians or low-ranking combat soldiers just trying to get through the day.
Alternate History: And how. Germany wrecks her army invading Czechoslovakia and cannot fully conquer Paris. Stalin's invasion of Poland turns everybody against him, resulting in France and Britain allying with Germany and invading the USSR. Japan attacks first the USSR and then the USA, unleashing germ weapons to help with the latter. The US fights Japan, but does not intervene in Europe (at least as of the time of this writing). Then a military coup in England, coupled with revolt in the French army causes the British and French to switch sides again. And in the background, the Spanish Civil War between the Republicans and the Nationalists (led in this timeline by Jose Sanjurjo, rather than Francisco Franco) continues unabated.
Antivillain: Most German viewpoint characters, including Ludwig Rothe, Theo Hossbach, Willi Dernen, and Julius Lemp are relatively good guys who happen to be on the wrong side of the war. Not so Japanese viewpoint character Hideki Fujita whose participation in the killing of prisoners moves him out of the "anti" and squarely into "villain" territory.
Anyone Can Die: Unsurprisingly given that it's Harry Turtledove. Typically when a character dies, someone else in their unit will takeover as the viewpoint character, as when Theo Hossbach takes over for Ludwig Rothe.
Badass: Vaclav Jezek, Czech antitank specialist turned sniper, who racks up a truly impressive number of kills, including two German snipers specifically sent to hunt him down, and Nationalist General Francisco Franco.
BFG: Vaclav Jezek, a Czech soldier uses an obsolete antitank rifle as a sniper rifle. It's a 13mm monstrosity that bruises his shoulder whenever he fires it, but it's got a range of two kilometres and lets him pick off German, and subsequently Nationalist Spanish officers who would otherwise be safe.
Big Bad: Hitler, Stalin, and the Japanese Emperor all share the role within the context of WWII; in the Spanish Civil War, Marshal Sanjurjo takes the role.
Brits with Battleships: Represented by WWI veteran Alistair Walsh. The British Army under Sir Archibald Wavell eventually launches a coup d'etat against the collaborationist government and sets up a provisional government.
Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: Averted. The French government briefly allies with Hitler but eventually turns on him, and the French main characters are very brave.
Final Solution: Put on hold for the moment, with Hitler not wanting to alienate his British and French allies by publicly exterminating the Jews. Now that Britain and France have turned on Hitler, however, the odds are not looking good for the continued safety of Germany's Jewish population.
Fire-Forged Friends: Vaclav Jezek, a Czech soldier who initially has a very poor opinion of Jews, and Benjamin Halevy, a French-Czech Jew who is assigned to his regiment as a translator. The two soldier through the first Franco-German War, and the Spanish Civil War together, becoming very close even as they continue to mock one another.
Historical-Domain Character: Stuka pilot Hans-Ulrich Rudel and U-Boat Captain Julius Lemp are both viewpoint characters for Germany. Many other historical characters, like Hitler, Stalin, Chamberlain, Churchill (who is killed by an assassin), Roosevelt, Montgomery (who dies in a plane crash in 1942), Sanjurjo, and Franco (who is shot by sniper Vaclav Jezek) appear in supporting roles as non-viewpoint characters.
Nazis with Gnarly Weapons: Represented by Hans-Ulrich Rudel, Ludwig Rothe, Theo Hossbach, and Willi Dernen during the first four books.
Pink Mist: More than justified by the 13mm rounds that Vaclav's antitank rifle is firing.
Politically Incorrect Hero: Vaclav Jezek makes some unflattering remarks about Jews before getting to know Benjamin Halevy, Alistair Walsh refers to the French as frogs, and Pete McGill and the other Marines are quite racist in their descriptions of the Japanese and Chinese.
Politically Incorrect Villain: Most of the German characters are quite racist towards the Jews (with Theo Hossbach a notable exception), and Japanese viewpoint character, Fujita, represents the very worst of his country's racism and refusal to take prisoners.
Sniper Duel: West & East features two of these between Vaclav Jezek and German snipers Fegelein and Puttkamer, both of whom are sent specifically to hunt him down. Vaclav wins out both times.
Sniper Rifle: Fegelein, Puttkamer, and eventually Willi Dernen all use Mauser sniper rifles. They are badly outranged by Vaclav's antitank rifle though, even if they are more accurate.
Tank Goodness: Averted by Ludwig Rothe and Theo Hossbach's Panzer II, which while not quite a case of Tanks for Nothing, is a very fragile vehicle that isn't heavily armed enough to even come close to compensating. Played straight by the Panzer III and IV, and especially the Tiger. On the Russian side the T-34 and KV-1 definitely fullfill this role.
Took a Level in Badass: Willi Dernen after some training from Marcus Puttkamer and gaining a Masuer Sniper Rifle. Vaclav Jezek after he discovers he can use an antitank rifle as a sniping tool.
Your Cheating Heart: Peggy Druce has a drunken one night stand with American consul Constantine Jenkins while trapped in Berlin. Back home, her husband Herb has an affair with a woman named Georgia. It ends in divorce after they both find out.