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The Coldest War (Milkweed) Hardcover – July 17, 2012

4.5 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews
Book 2 of 3 in the Milkweed Series

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Editorial Reviews


The Coldest War is like a cross between the devious, character-driven spy fiction of early John le Carré and the mad science fantasy of the X-Men. …Eloquent and utterly compelling.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“Engrossing… Tregillis ably mixes cold war paranoia with his mythology, and the cliffhanger ending sets up the concluding volume quite well.” ―Publishers Weekly

“A major talent.” ―George R. R. Martin on Bitter Seeds

“A white-knuckle plot, beautiful descriptions, and complex characters--an unstoppable Vickers of a novel.” ―Cory Doctorow on Bitter Seeds

About the Author

IAN TREGILLIS lives near Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he works as a physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory.


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Product Details

  • Series: Milkweed (Book 2)
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books (July 17, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765321513
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765321510
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #173,737 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The Coldest War is book 2 in alternate history series The Milkweed Triptych, and the sequel to Bitter Seeds. If you've come here to decide whether to read Bitter Seeds--do it!--I'll still be here when you get back. If you've come here to decide whether The Coldest War builds on the potential of Bitter Seeds, then my recommendation remains unqualified. Bitter Seeds is the type of book that relies on its sequel to reach its full potential; The Coldest War explains the mysteries that left Bitter Seeds incomplete. The two biggest differences between Bitter Seeds and The Coldest War is that the latter is quite as bleak, and we never see inside the heads of the Soviets. Spoilers for Bitter Seeds (and minor spoilers for The Coldest War) abound ahead.

The Coldest War begins 20 years after the events in Bitter Seeds. History has now diverged considerably from our own. Britain's gamble to end the war was successful, but at the cost of a Soviet continental Europe. With America trapped in an endless Depression (but with Nixon as president; the first rule of alternate history is: Nixon is always president), the Cold War pits a very overmatched Britain against an even large USSR.

The protagonists from Bitter Seeds are back, albeit worse for the wear. Klaus and Gretel are war prisoners of the Soviets. Marsh is a cuckolded husband reduced to working as a gardener. Only Will, of all characters, is doing reasonably well. But the past haunts him as well. But events pull Marsh and Will back into Milkweed's orbit, and Gretel takes it upon herself to change the game.

Jumping forward 20 years between novels is extremely difficult to pull off, which is probably why we see so few authors even try it. That's too bad.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Review of The Coldest War, (Book two in the Milkweek Tryptich) by Ian Tregillis

(No big spoilers, except for a few minor ones that regard the set-up)

I just finished The Coldest War, book two of three in the Milkweed Tryptich cycle by Ian Tregillis. I devoured it.

I read book one, Bitter Seeds (now out in mass market paperback by the way) in about three days and the same applies to book two. I would have read faster if I'd had the time.

I'm so blown away right now from finishing this fantastic novel. Mr. Tregillis has created a brilliant book, and I concur with the blurb from Game of Thrones author, George R.R. Martin blurb, "A major talent," indeed.

The ending was so awesome, and redeems the grim nature of this book. More on that later . . .

The same characters from book one are back, and it's about twenty years after the end of an alternate history World War II, and is now 1963, the height of the Cold War. The Soviet Union appears to have all of Europe, even France.

The alternate history is fascinating, but that is not the point of the book. This is a character novel and focuses very tightly on the protagonists, so we get three main point of view characters. There is very little detail given about the wildly divergent world so different from what happened after World War II in our world, but the details we do get are tantalizing, especially for history buffs.

Raybould Marsh, the British super-spy, is now a broken down middle-aged man with a terrible home-life and he's working as a gardener after getting fired from all his other jobs. His journey is incredibly bleak and sad, the most depressing of all the storylines.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read Bitter Seeds first, and, unusually, I actually enjoyed this (the sequel) more - I would still recommend first reading Bitter Seeds to get to know the characters as young and likable (as opposed to the bitter middle-aged men they become here) - but you could potentially just start reading this book, the background is filled in pretty thoroughly.

Plot: 20 years after Britain manages to win WWII with the (morally highly questionable) help of highly unpleasant omnipotent beings in alliance with the USSR (conventional means having failed in the face of engineered Nazi super-men/women), the Cold War is about to turn hot as the USSR (controlling all of continental Europe) prepares to unleash their own super-heroes.

1. Fascinating alternative history of the Cold War - amateur consumers of WWII and Cold War history and fiction will definitely find enough to sink their teeth into. At the same time, the historical detail isn't unnecessarily belaboured or over-stressed: you won't have to wade through pages of non-plot-related background or attempt to spot obscure historical references.

2. Great protagonists. Which does not mean they're likable - anything but. Bitter, scarred, angry middle-aged men do not make the most attractive characters - yet Tregillis's genius lies in making us care about them regardless.

3. Excellent writing - unobtrusive narrative style; dark, brooding tone.

1. If you're a real history buff, you may be bothered by the paucity of details in the description of this alternative world.
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