So, after nothing of any consequence happened in “West and East”, things finally happen in “The Big Switch”. Specifically, a big switch.
Because Great Britain actually ended up declaring war on Germany over Czechoslovakia, Chamberlain was never defeated and Churchill never took over. After the French and British armies stopped the German push for Paris and started pushing them back, and with Russia pressured by both Germany/Poland and Japan, Hitler sends Hess semi-officially this time to try to swing a deal to bring Britain and France on their side against Russia, citing the bigger threat of the Communists. For some reason never really explained in the book and that doesn’t really follow from my reading of history, Britain and France agree, mostly after the most vocal opponent of the idea, Winston Churchill, is killed in a traffic “accident”. Thus, the war in the West at least somewhat ends and all of the focus is in the East, with dire implications for the war in Spain.
This move is the first really big change to history in the series. It also effectively ends one of the bigger changes as Japan turns its attention to Asia and to the United States, culminating in a less effective attack on Pearl Harbour. The only issue I have is that I don’t really see why either Britain or France would go along with this instead of simply declaring a truce and ordering the Germans out of their territory. That they don’t ask the Germans to vacate Czechoslovakia makes sense give how they were willing to abandon it before Hitler declined the invitation, but there is little reason for France to go to war on the side of the country that just invaded France and has always been a major threat, and even less for Britain since Britain didn’t have much to try to defend there against Stalin. Perhaps the guarantee of Poland was still in effect here, and they’re taking into account that Hitler only attacked them because of the fight over Czechoslovakia. Still, this is puzzling, especially in light of how Britain gets out later (in the next book) and France doesn’t.
This highlights the main issue that I’m having with this series as a work of alternate history. The focus on all the small stories leaves us with no real idea of what’s going on in the corridors of power. On the one hand, this lets us sweat along with the little people and wonder why in the world those decisions are being made … but on the other hand it leaves us wondering what the reasoning is for them to act this way given the historical context. For really good alternate history, we need to see how the changes to history lead to this point, and the focus of the series completely works against that.
Ultimately, though, the book is entertaining, and that things actually happen makes it far superior to “West and East”.