Friday, May 24, 2013

Book of Choice: Bitter Seeds

1940: Great Britain has just lost an army at Dunkirk, the Miracle of Dunkirk didn't happen. Secret reports reveal that the German has successfully bred soldiers with supernatural abilities who can walk through walls, start fires, throw whole tanks with just their mind or predict the future.
Desperately, the British look for supernatural help of their own and find that they have a number of warlocks who can be convinced to join in the war effort. The warlocks enlist the Eidolons, strange, malevolent beings who ask a price for their help that gets harder and harder to pay.

I love alternate history books and Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis is one of the best I have read. It's the first of a trilogy, the Milkweed Triptych, and I'm definitely going to read the rest as well.

The Eidolons and the effect they have are incredibly creepy, precisely because they never make an actual appearance. They are much too alien to be really understood and right from the start, there's the feeling that the warlords are messing with things that are out of their control. Tregillis only ever describes as much as he absolutely needs to and lets the imagination of his readers do the rest, an effective technique that, for me, is a big part of the book's attraction.

The characters are well-rounded, but it's hard to find one to like. It would have been easy to paint them black and white, but that would probably have made for a very boring book. As it is, the character I liked most was Klaus, one of the supersoldiers who comes to doubt the program that created him and who was, as a Sinto, only tolerated because of his ability anyway. The British, who would have been the natural heroes and who are very likeable at the beginning, become so ruthless and caught up in their desperate struggle for victory that it's almost painful to read. There are no easy answers here when you put yourself in their position.

A minor thing, but a rare one: the German spoken in the book was correct. No grammar mistakes, no typos (that I saw). I appreciate it when authors/directors do their homeworks and don't go all Die Hard on the German.

Reviews 2013

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