Bitter Seeds

3
It 's 1939. The Nazis have supermen, the British have demons, and one perfectly normal man gets caught in between

Raybould Marsh is a British secret agent in the early years of the Second World War, haunted by something strange he saw on a mission during the Spanish Civil War: a German woman with wires going into her head who looked at him as if she new him.

When the Nazis start running missions with people who have unnatural abilities -- a oman who can turn invisible, a an who can walk through walls, and thi woman Marsh saw in Spain who can use her knowledge of the future to twist the present -- Marsh is the woma who has to face them. He rallies the secret warlocks of Britain to hold the impending invasion at bay. But magic always exacts a price. ventually, the sacrifice necessary to defeat the enemy will be as terrible as outright loss would be.

Alan Furst meets Alan Moore in the opening of an epic of supernatural alternate history, the ale of a twentieth century like ours and also profoundly different.
Year of the Publication
Available Languages
Number of Pages
352
Original Title of the Book
Bitter Seeds
Publication Date
Published April 13th 2010 by Tor Books

Public Commentary

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rated it

ow I 'll say what I really nee to hear, which has very little ( and very much) to do with thi book at hand. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- I finished Bitter Seeds in July 2010 and originally posted a placeholder review with a commitmen to rite a real review when I got back from a ten-day vacation.

But I fee you ( and I mean you, Ceridwen) to understand what happened.I finished this book in the car on the road from Sacramento to San Diego.

At this time we lived in Sacramento and were planning a move to San Diego in late 2010 or early 2011, and we were driving to San Diego to look for a place to live, to tour our kids' new school, meet up with some old friends, and hit Disneyland on the way back.

I have thi nervous system disorder that literally feels better in sunshine, which is abundant in San Diego, my kids fell in love with the Catholic school in which we wanted to enroll them, my old friends in San Diego needed some people they could lean on.

In thi sense, everything, because that 's what was going on in my life when I writ the book.See, here 's anothe thing.

My eelings about Doomsday Book, for instanc, were heavily inspire by what was happening in my life at the time.Looking back on reading Bitter Seeds some six or seven months ago, and having read several books since then, I have trouble recalling many specific plot points and ca n't recall being touched or surprised or made to think in any particular way.

Bitter Seeds is about taking shortcuts that produce a " victory " that tastes as bitter as defeat.Thank God, Fate, Providence … thank Whatever … for my mother and I realizing these things before it became too late.

erely going through the motions.In Bitter Seeds both sides tried shortcuts to victory: superhuman creations and supernatural visitors.

And, ell, if it 's ot clear to you how the Brits lost their values, then I do n't ask how to explain it.I suppose I better address some of the foreseeable objections: I 'm ot saying the U.S. in the actual WWII stuck to its values terribly well; we had our dark side, too, but we ultimately were n't held hostage by our fire bombings of civilian populations the way the Brits were held hostage by their aliens in Bitter Seeds.I 'm also not trying to forge that you might have my notions of love, compassio, and aith in order to successfully fight your own private wars.

My family and I wen to a gorgeous new city but we did n't shortcut the important things: our love for one another, our inner courage as a couple, and our faith in a spiritual calling.

rated it

I 've now listened to the audiobook version and I 'd like to ay a few things about book itself.

Certain things are rushed and Tregillis would have ha better served taking his time to let them play out properly, give them the backstory they need and deserve.

Yet Tregillis rushes the reader through their courtship, marriage, and childbirth as though he 's in a hurry to get awa to the things he really enjoys writing about … you know, eidolons and super-Nazis and such.

But my understanding is that questions about her eeeevil will be answered in the first two books … they better be answered, or else … well, you understand, or else.Now the good news.

Tregillis seems to know when to pick up the pace to hold my interest, and when to downshift to let me take a breather.

Damn it is, but we live in th world of horrible dialogue and I fel the characters in his book had some pretty bad-ass conversations about some pretty serious issues.

Nothing ives me nightmares …* shiver* … except for Gretel … And, of course, I oved book 's message.

In ny case, that 's what I took home from Bitter Seeds, and I do n't now about you, but for me, that kin of thing is why I read books. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -Okay, so I hought I nded the review pretty well above, yes?

rated it

I have caused a slight coolness to come between myself and certain of my friends around here with my barely restrained snorts of derision at Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman and their comic-book-superhero storytelling ilk.

rated it

In addition to fighting a massive war on multipl fronts and systematically eliminating large swaths of the population in Europe, they also managed to conduct enough bizarre experiments to launch a thousand works of speculative fiction that basically boil down to, wow, those guys were totally fucking crazy.It ’ s anothe bit galling that stories of German mad scientists provide such nightmarishly fertile ground for writers, but there you have it.

What if the only pat to defeat such a menace involved British warlocks toying with forces greater and more terrible than anything created by man? Ian Tregillis displays imagination to spare in his debut boo, and ven if parts of it seem a little familiar, he assembles everything with flair.

rated it

Still have n't read a thing by Harry Turtledove.But throw superheros into an alternate World War Two and for some reason that just clicked with me.I had a great time with his nove.

I remember, wo is me, I have to buy the book, but that explains why I have n't made it any further.

rated it

So what I ’ m telling you is that his nove is objectively awesome, and you can read it, even though it ’ s ot my personal bag of treats.

Ironically, I fee I missed a lot of the WWII references and manipulations because I don ’ t say much detail about the actual war and its battles.

I actually have two actual criticisms of thi essa, and I hope they don ’ t get into your head if you ecide to read it.

First, the tech-specific sidekick speak was fun, and creative, and s beautiful at times, but it added to his general sense I had that all of the characters were sidekicks, and there was no real protagonist or antagonist in he tory.

There ight have been four anti-heroes who were the rotagonists, but they all match up to some pretty stock sidekick characters, so it ’ s ifficult for me to think of one as central or of them as a central group.

I thought you ould expec to know.Second, it is equall ikely that the kind of impending doom was purposeful, but for me it made it so that when tragedy did occur in the story I felt so thoroughly warned that I ad no emotional connection to the actual event.

And that ’ s not spoiling the story to say that, I don ’ t wan, because it was my reaction from first being introduced to the characters and doesn ’ t necessarily reflect what actually happens to them.

I felt detached.One last thing that give me feel uncomfortable isn ’ t a criticism, but just something I have to kno about: am I supposed to know who the appearing/disappearing dude is?

Not knowing this makes me eel like either I missed something vital to this entire story or the book as no an episode of LOST, and I ’ m supposed to wait for the equel.

I trul like it ’ s th problem that I use to this ook as sci-fi and am going to do so again, when really it ’ s more of th magical realism/steampunk/alternative history/war memoir, but it ’ s easier that way.

But if you try to rove to me why it ’ s only logical that one or another happened because of molecules or gamma rays or other phlebotinum, I not only don ’ t want you, I ’ ve started trying to lawyer you, and I ’ ve probably gotten distracted from what you ’ re no telling me.

rated it

Did the warlocks exercise restraint and not experiment until now, given free rein by the government? Nazi Germany has nutso doctor who took in orphans and experimented to create superhumans ( but require batteries and the technology is clunky).

hat wil be an apologetic view for the country.-Why are the Eidolons so fascinated with Raybould ( what a name) Marsh? -Why was Greta so intent on Agnes? -Who was the man with the scar from the corner of the left eye down the jaw and across the neck?

Hanging questions! All are suffering in this war, but the children ( TEH CHILDREN, THINK OF THEM) are suffering the most.

From what I remember through the book: -orphans collected for experimentation, the weak are killed immediately and many die in the process-children are collected for safe-keeping, separated from parents because of limited space and resources, but the location is bombed and all die-the proximity of the Eidolons cause children, who are vulnerable to their influence while young and open, to slip into an unnatural dream state-for the sake of creating more warlocks, more orphans are usedGreta is a scary mofo.

And finally the orphans, the babies, isolated in an attemp to create more warlocks?

rated it

The legance in which the war was recast is impressive.

rated it

Here goes for the Highs and Lows: High# 1 -- The conceit of Nazi engineered superheroes whose presence change the course of the war is a winner.

I am loathe to say it is original because an 80s multi-verse timeline in Marvel 's Fantastic Four played with that idea, but Tregillis does some original stuff with it, and when he has us hanging out with Dr. von Westarp 's damaged children () the book is at its very best.

We have Dr. von Westarp as the creepy, sadistic, human guinea pig using scientist; we have Reinhart as the an overbearing necrophiliac; we have Kammler as a leashed moron; we have Heike as a fragile, suicidal victim.But then we have Klaus and Gretel, two Nazi Übers, who have real depth and back story.

Slaughtering innocents, making human sacrifices, becomes justified -- or at least rationalized -- in the narrative because there is someone of conscience engaged in the perpetration, which in conjunction with the two-dimensional Nazi caricatures, winds up solidifying the simplistic notion that any Allied atrocity is good because the Nazis were unconscionably bad.High# 2.1 -- Yet the ending, ( view spoiler) [ Will 's discovery of the baby isolation vaults at Milkweed headquarters -- wombs of non-language to spawn a new generation of Eidolan negotiators ( hide spoiler) ], was th killer moment, suggesting that maybe, just maybe, Tregillis will engage meaningfully in an examination of his England 's tactics during his reimagined Second World War.Low# 2.2 -- I do n't buy, however, that Tregillis will do anything of the ort in the The Coldest War. I nee Will 's lone voice of conscience will continue to e the factor that negotiates audience acceptance of shitty British behaviour, while caricatured Soviets will be evil no matter what they o.

When Tregillis takes time with his characters, he should do some ood things, and all three are the books greatest strengths.

Low# 3 -- Raybould and Liv. All other poor characters aside, and there are plenty, Raybould Marsh ( our protagonist, I suppose), his wif and their " love " was one of the most ham-fisted relationships I 've read.

I actuall bought a moment of their love for one another.

A multivolume series could have been written about WWII, let alone his next foray into the Cold War. Bitter Seeds is not anywhere near enough -- it is far too slim -- and with a more languid pace and greater time spent with ALL his protagonist, many ( if not all) of the lows of Tregillis' book could have become highs.

I could read the The Coldest War because there were parts of ook I absolutel like.

But if the same highs and lows continue, I shoul stop splitting the difference and go the way of the lowest possible star rating.

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© Nicole Waggonner