One of my first alternative history (audible) books. Saw this in hardback, was waiting for the paperback - but to my surprise (even better) it's on A..Show More »udible!
Basically, the British are losing the war - the US did not join in the war and the Germans have created the ??bermensch (Superman/women) - sociopathic orphans taken from WW I, and endowed with X-menesque power by mad scientists.
In response, a desperate Admiralty establish the Milkweed organisation - British warlocks that use magic to fight back.
I believe this is Tregillis' first novel - stunning piece of work and fortunately there's more to come as this is the first book of the Milkweed Triptych (trilogy).
In the first book of the Milkweed trilogy, British secret agent Raybould Marsh and his poncy toff friend Will Beauclerk tried to find a way to fight s..Show More »upersoldiers created by Nazi science. The solution was the top-secret Milkweed project: gathering Britain's warlocks, who can bargain with cosmic horrors called Eidolons, they used magic to destroy the Reich's armies and counter the supermen, at the cost of sacrificing their own citizens.
In Necessary Evil, Raybould Marsh is sent back in time thanks to Eidolon sorcery and the machinations of Gretel, the most powerful of all the original super-soldiers, with the power to see the future and, it turns out, all the many possible branches it can take, and choose between them. Gretel is basically unstoppable: she brings into the question the very existence of free will, since nothing happens that she doesn't foresee. Unfortunately, she foresaw the end of the world in every possible future, and so schemed to create a new timeline in which the Eidolons don't destroy the world and she lives.
Thus, Necessary Evil is not only an alternate history but a time travel novel. The older, scarred Raybould Marsh has to somehow manipulate his younger self and his friend Will into not using the power of the Eidolons to save Britain from the Nazi supermen. The problem with this, of course, is that saving the world might mean losing World War II. With a younger Gretel also involved, still playing her omniscient games, the plot twists through replays of events in the first book, taking them in new directions.
Like the first two books, Necessary Evil is heavy on plot and imagination, and while the characterization is still a little shallow at times, the tormented Raybould Marsh, seeing a wife that still loves his younger self, manages to elicit sympathy, while Gretel becomes, almost, human. Still crazy and evil, but human. The "necessary evils" the characters are required to perform cause quite a bit of angst, but they never really search for alternatives.
Time travel is tricky to pull off; time travel combined with an all-seeing precog even trickier. How do you create surprises and avoid paradoxes? Tregillis manages to pull it off without unraveling the plot. The ending is just right: a climactic battle, a bittersweet victory, and just desserts. It's a fine ending to the trilogy.