|A remote farm in post-WWI Germany receives abandoned
children. It is run by Doktor von Westarp, a man exploring new science. Three Gypsy
children are brought in one autumn day, but only two survive the first day. Meanwhile, in
London, a convalescent war veteran spots some children pillaging his garden. One shows
spirit when he confronts them. Enter heroes and villains. Fast forward to the Spanish
Civil War, and the Nazis are road testing their latest experimental weapon: precursors of
Nazi Supermen. But one of the Nazi advisors is having doubts. Our heroes and villains
Tregillis has set up an interesting alternate history: Nazi Supermen. To
balance the equation, the British have witches. The main protagonists are a motley bunch.
Ray Marsh is an action hero, but he seems a little out of place. He is assisted by one of
his few friends, Will Beauclerk, and both work for John Stephenson, the war veteran from
scene two. Klaus and Gretel are the orphans from scene one, modified by von Westarp to
pass through matter and be precognitive respectively, though Gretels precognition is
not always on. Technology is required to harness their talents, indeed to even manifest
Tregillis has written a good story and the inside of the book assures me that it is the
first of a trilogy. Being an alternate history, Tregillis has felt free to play with
certain aspects and actions of the early part of WWII. Some of this was a little jarring.
But he was writing for dramatic effect, not truth. But all stories hang on the actions of
the main characters, and some of Tregilliss characters just didnt seem to be
right. I found it interesting that Marsh was invariably Marsh, never Ray, but Beauclerk
was always Will and never Beauclerk. An important psychological difference and I felt
greater connection to Will than Marsh. On the other side, Klaus and Gretel obviously have
a surname, but Im damned if I learnt it. Of all the characters, Gretel is the most
interesting perhaps because she is the most enigmatic. Certainly the scenes she was in
were always the most interesting.
The book ends with the cliff-hanger for book two, The Coldest War.
Im not giving anything away by saying the Red Army has captured Berlin. It promises
to be an intriguing book, provided the politics isnt clumsy.
Bitter Seeds is a good read but not necessarily to
everyones taste. If you like Alistair MacLean and diesel punk, this may be the book