The Big Switch  
Author Harry Turtledove
Language English
Series The War That Came Early
Genre(s) Alternate history
Publisher Del Rey
Publication date July 19, 2011
Preceded by West and East
Followed by Coup d'Etat

The Big Switch (Del Rey, July 19, 2011) is the third volume of Harry Turtledove's The War That Came Early series of alternate history.

The book covers a period roughly between January-February 1940 to January 1941, as the analog for the Second World War wraps up its second year. While Germany is able to finally subdue Norway and drive British and French forces out, it still cannot make sufficient progress in France proper, and is able to do only slightly better in Poland against the Soviet Union. Japan meanwhile, is able to finally take Vladivostok.

Peggy Druce, an American tourist stranded in Europe by the war, is finally able to return home, where she finds herself somewhat alienated by the largesse of the country and the isolationist tendencies of her friends.

In mid-1940, everything changes when Rudolf Hess parachutes into Scotland. He is taken to government officials by Sgt. Alistair Walsh, and proposes an alliance among Britain, France and Germany against the Soviet Union. The arrangement, the "big switch" of the title, is made not long after its primary opponent, War Minister Winston Churchill, is killed by a drunk driver. Walsh, rather than fight the Soviets, leaves the army, and falls into the orbit of a group of MPs who oppose first Neville Chamberlain and his successor Horace Wilson. As 1940 drifts into 1941, Wilson begins showing more authoritarian tendencies (including using Scotland Yard detectives to tail Walsh), prompting Walsh and his MP friends to speculate about a possible coup.

With France now an enemy of the USSR, the Czechoslovakian government in exile migrates, and the various soldiers, Vaclav Jezek included, head for Spain to help the Republican cause. While the Republicans had the upper-hand at the beginning of the year, the big switch terminates all aid from Britain, France, and the Soviet Union, leaving the Republicans' hope of victory dim.

Faced with more enemies in the west, the USSR concludes a peace with Japan, ceding them Vladivostok and the surrounding areas. The USSR turns all of its attention west, while Japan begins looking south, while trying to keep a lid on the rebels in occupied China, which sees several terrorist attacks. One such attack claims the life of Vera Kuznetsova, the love-interest of U.S. Marine Pete McGill. In Japan's puppet state of Manchukuo, Russian and Chinese POWs are accommodated for in Harbin--home to a biological warfare laboratory, Unit 731, where they are used to test chemical and bacterial agents.

In the United States, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, angered by the big switch, cuts off all aid to Britain and France, decrying their support for naked tyranny and aggression. He also cuts off oil and scrap metal to Japan. Both acts help him win an unprecedented third term. The U.S. extends no aid to the Soviet Union, however, which is soon forced to pull its forces back within its own borders in the face of the new alliance. Minsk is mentioned as having fallen, with optimists predicting the capture of Smolensk some time in 1941.

Germany begins to step up its persecution of the Jews by building ghettos in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. It makes no move against its own Jews, or the Jews of Poland.

On Sunday, January 12, 1941, Japan, angered by the USA's decision to cut off all supplies of scrap metal and oil, launches a war against the U.S. by attacking various territories in the Pacific; the Philippines is their primary target. Thus, as the book ends, the U.S. is drawn into a tangential part of the overall war.