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Bitter Seeds Hardcover – April 13, 2010

4.0 out of 5 stars 123 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Milkweed Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Debut novelist Tregillis breathes new life into alternate military history with this fun take on WWII. In this version of 1939 Germany, the insane Dr. von Westarp has given WWI orphans superpowers, such as fire-starting, intangibility, and invisibility. As they use their abilities to aid German expansion, young mutant Klaus starts to suspect that he and the other soldiers are being manipulated by his precognitive sister, Gretel. Meanwhile, British secret agent Raybould Marsh recruits his old college buddy, magic-wielding aristocrat Will Beauclerk, to the British cause. Tregillis has trouble fleshing out characters and is overly fond of worn-out plot devices—a disastrous raid survived only by the protagonists, an urchin destined for greatness—but the action sequences are exciting and intense, and the clash of magic and (mad) science meshes perfectly with the tumultuous setting. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

In the Spanish Civil War, British secret agent Raybould Marsh thinks he saw a German woman with wires growing out of her head. Once WWII erupts, he learns that his eyes weren’t fooling him. The Germans have developed various kinds of real live supermen, such as the wired-up lady, with the ability to foretell and influence the future. The British have their own, equally secret occult arsenal, including warlocks to conjure “friendly” demons and fight the other kind. A member of the Wild Cards group, Tregillis begins a saga in his first novel, one that may rival Naomi Novik’s Tales of Temeraire as a sustained historical fantasy. --Roland Green

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; First Edition edition (April 13, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765321505
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765321503
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (123 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,404,628 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Susan Loyal on April 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ian Tregillis' stunning debut novel, Bitter Seeds, escapes categories and defies description. It's an alternate history of World War II, in which the Germans truly develop "supermen," battery-powered, and in which the beleaguered British secretly call on malevolent powers beyond our space/time to defend their island, paying in blood. Tregillis bases his fantastic elements so thoroughly in philosophical, scientific, and occult preoccupations from the mid-20th century, however, that the novel reads almost like mainstream historical fiction. The echoing footsteps in the halls of the Admiralty after the blackout curtains have been drawn might almost be sounding in C.P. Snow's Strangers and Brothers novels. Indeed, the escalating cost of defending Britain, though expressed as dark fantasy, resonates strongly of the desperate race to develop a nuclear bomb that Snow recounts in his novel The New Men.The New Men (Strangers and Brothers)

Our primary viewpoint characters are Klaus, proud of his successful engineering as a superman but increasingly haunted by the process, and Raybould Marsh, an intelligence officer who would have preferred to be in an Alan Furst novel. As Marsh begins to grasp how much the Gotterelektrongruppe changes the nature of the war, he turns to William Beauclerk, whose grandfather taught him a secret language that allows negotiation with the Eidolon--a language Will would much rather forget. The internal conflicts that drive the main characters make them complex and interesting. Additionally, both Klaus and Marsh come to realize that they are being manipulated by Klaus' precognitive sister, Gretel, who has her own enigmatic agenda.
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Format: Hardcover
1939. In the closing weeks of the Spanish Civil War, British intelligence agent Raybould Marsh is dispatched to meet an informant who claims to have vital information about some of Nazi Germany's top-secret weapons being field-tested in the conflict. The informant explodes in front of Marsh with no apparent cause. As the clock ticks down to war between Britain and Germany, it is discovered that Germany has developed technology that can turn certain, gifted individuals into super-beings, people who can turn invisible, manipulate fire or even predict the future.

Britain's fortunes in the war turn sour as the Germans seem to be constantly one step ahead of them, destroying the transports carrying out the evacuation of Dunkirk and striking down the radar towers that will be needed to protect the country from Luftwaffe bombing. But Britain is not completely unprotected, and the newly-formed Milkweed organisation has resources to call upon which dwarf even the powers of the German ubermensch. But these powers are not to be summoned lightly...

Bitter Seeds is Ian Tregillis' debut novel and is a brash, refreshing alt-history which sees Nazi superhumans and British warlocks battling to the death during WWII. It's a cool premise, generally well-handled with a large and complex story being effectively told through a small number of POV characters on both sides. However, if the story sounds too big to be contained within a single volume, you would be right. In an increasingly annoying trend in modern SFF publishing, Bitter Seeds is the first novel in a trilogy (dubbed The Milkweed Triptych) despite this fact not being mentioned anywhere on the cover or inside the book.
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Format: Hardcover
Wanting to build a superman and superwoman, German scientist Dr. von Westarp chooses WWI German orphans as his base for his experiments. Although many die and others are deformed, by 1939 the mad scientist has succeed in constructing his master race. However as WW II breaks out, he plans to use them to insure The Third Reich is victorious and remains in power for a thousand years. However, one of the successful test subjects Klaus fears his sister Gretel is using her precognitive skills to manipulate the team, but what agenda is remains unclear.

Meanwhile British secret agent Raybould Marsh, who has his own father figure in Stephenson, knows first hand how powerful the enemy supervillains are as the German war machine blitzkriegs through all enemies. He enlists mage Will Beauclerk to help the British side, whose chances of victory seem slim. Will brings on allies from the warlock community including Olivia whom Marsh marries and has a daughter with her. When he ignores the warning not to deal with the mysterious Eidelons who will offer little and demand a lot, Will sees no other hope as the Germans are winning in the air, land and sea due to being the superpower.

Although the cast is never fully developed beyond comic book stereotypes, readers will enjoy this entertaining action-packed alternate historical thriller. With homage to Moore's Watchmen, fans of action-packed WWII dramas will appreciate the loaded Bitter Seeds as superpower German warriors battle the mages of Britain for control of the continent and ultimately the world.

Harriet Klausner
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