|Cover artist||Dmitri Ezepov|
|Publication date||July 14, 2015|
The novel begins on November 23, 1950, after Chinese forces have intervened in the Korean War. In OTL, Chinese troops were able to encircle UN forces at the Battle of Chosin, but the UN forces were able to break out and evacuate North Korea in good order. In Bombs Away, the Chinese appear to have been much more aggressive early on, with the result that about three UN divisions are encircled and systematically destroyed over the closing weeks of November and into December, despite U.S. efforts to provide air support.
As is typical for Turtledove's multivolume works, the narration of Bombs Away is told through several POV characters. Cade Curtis, a U.S. soldier who is caught behind enemy lines at Chosin, and begins making his way south. President Harry Truman, the novel's only historical POV, authorizes MacArthur to use atomic bombs against China proper if it is the only way to improve the situation.
While the situation deteriorates, various civilian and military POVs have their destinies shifted. Soviet tank commander Konstantin Morozov is moved to East Germany, as is Hungarian soldier Tibor Nagy. West German vet Gustav Hozzel sees the U.S. military mobilize in Fulda. Ihor Shevchenko, a Ukrainian vet, worries that he'll be taken from his collective farm. Soviet pilot Boris Gribkov is moved to Provideniya. U.S. pilot Bill Staley, stationed in South Korea, is soon tasked with carrying atom bombs. His wife, Marian raises their daughter, Linda in Everett, Washington, and tries not to worry too deeply about her husband. In Glendale, California, Aaron Finch works as an appliance delivery man. British widow Daisy Baxter runs her pub, as the global situation reminds of the days leading up to World War II.
The U.S. finally launches its attack in Manchuria on January 23, 1951. One of its survivors is Vasili Yasevich, a Russian expat residing in Harbin. On February 1, the Soviet Union attacks Britain, France, and West Germany, triggering the NATO treaty. For the next several weeks, the U.S. and the USSR exchange tit-for-tat bombings of strategic possessions in their respective territories, including attacks in various Soviet satellites, until the USSR and it satellites launch an invasion into Western Europe, beginning World War III.
On March 2, 1951, the Soviets are able to stage atomic bombings along the entire U.S. west coast and interior, destroying several key cities. Boris Gribkov's crew targets Seattle, and winds up being the only crew to return home. His bomb also destroys nearby Everett. Marian and Linda Staley survive, but lose their home and are forced in to a refugee camp. Aaron Finch witnesses the atomic attack on Los Angeles, but Glendale isn't harmed. He becomes a minor hero when he captures a Soviet pilot who'd parachuted over the city.
In response, the United States launches a full scale nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. This includes an attempt to decapitate Soviet leadership by destroying Moscow along with numerous other cities. Stalin manages to escape to Kuibishev where he continues overseeing the war effort. Another key city the U.S. destroys is Kiev, completely upending Ihor Shevencko's life.
In the meantime, the land war in Europe is initially successful for the Soviets, as they overrun Austria, and push into northern Italy. As seen through the eyes of several POVs, Allied forces in West Germany are in a constant state of retreat throughout the spring and into summer. For the time being Truman decides not to use nuclear weapons over West Germany or the major cities of Eastern Europe, as Truman hopes that the war will eventually lead to rebellions within the Soviet satellite states.
In April 1951, the Soviet Union detonates bombs in the Panama and Suez Canals. Boris Gribkov gets another city under his belth, the time Bordeaux. The Soviets also conventional explosives against air fields in Britain. The United States responds by stepping up its nuclear campaign against the Soviet Union. With neither side willing to back down, civilians, soldiers and politicians on both sides wonder how much, if any, of the world will be left by the time the war ends. For Tibor Nagy, the war ends in a German field. He's replaced by Isztvan Szolovits as POV.
The novel ends with the U.S. military efforts in Western Europe in dire straits, as the Red Army continues to advance through West Germany and towards the French border, despite taking heavy losses. For the Soviets, critical damage to the Trans-Siberian railroad system and the destruction of almost all of their major cities (with the Americans targeting even more cities as the war continues) hampers Soviet war efforts as their economy and infrastructure are strained to the breaking point. Even old veterans like Ihor Shevchenko are no longer safe from conscription.
The Korean War has became a sideshow, with both sides having their supply-lines heavily damaged. Cade Curtis has made it back to enemy lines and is a rising star thanks to attrition. Bill Staley isn't so lucky, being shot down over the U.S.S.R.
As the first volume ends, Boris Gribkov drops an atom bomb in Paris.