Necessary Evil by Ian Tregillis
|Book Name:||Necessary Evil|
|Formatt:||Hardcover / Audiobook / eBook|
|Genre(s):||Science Fiction / Alternate History|
|Release Date:||April 30, 2013|
“Triptych (noun): a set of three associated artistic, literary, or musical works intended to be appreciated together.”
It is telling that Ian Tregillis’ three books about superheroes created in World War 2, Bitter Seeds, The Coldest War and Necessary Evil are called the Milkweed Triptych – not the Milkweed Trilogy. This is because, unlike most series, they are parts of a whole, acknowledging that the beginning and the end are reflections of each other.
It is a work of art so outstanding in its complexity that is difficult to imagine how Tregillis even began to plan the series out in the first place. The smallest, most insignificant things mentioned in passing in Bitter Seeds take on world changing importance in Necessary Evil. Tregillis’ alternate take on later 20th Century history is a dark and uncompromising journey into the depths of despair, constantly thought-provoking and always surprising. It’s a mind-blowing series that everyone should read.
At the heart of The Milkweed Triptych is essentially a battle of wills between Raybould Marsh, a British spy, and Gretel, a product of a Nazi program to create super humans, who has the ability to see the future. It’s man vs. superman with our very existence as the prize.
In Necessary Evil, Marsh is back and in more ways than one. He’s travelled through time, from 1963 to 1940, to try to save mankind from destruction by a race called the Eidolons. This other-dimensional race are the source of power for the British warlocks who Marsh enlisted in the first place to fight the German super humans, only to find out that he had unleashed a far greater evil.
To do overcome the Eidolons, he must trust his hated nemesis, Gretel, who’s been responsible for destroying everything good in his life – as well as enlist the aid of the one man he knows will get the job done – his younger self.
He arrives midway through the events of Bitter Seeds, into a world that might be at war but where his other self’s life is still full of hope, love and optimism. Those emotions are the spine of the book – which is particularly refreshing considering how bleak things turned out in the previous two. Marsh the elder is a man with the power to reset everything – and he takes advantage of that to not just try to save the world but also stop the actions, the seeds, that will destroy his life like a slow cancer. And, having come from the cold war that his marriage had become, he finds being with a wife who still loves him very intoxicating. The question is how far he’ll go to stop the Eidolons and ensure his own future personal happiness, and the cost that has on others – particularly his other self. What necessary evil will he be willing to undertake and still hold onto his soul? Can he save himself without destroying himself?
It’s fascinating watching Marsh the Elder manipulate the other, battling at the same time with his own personal desires while also wanting to stop the Younger Marsh making the disastrous choices he himself made.
We also get to see inside Gretel’s mind for the first time. On one hand, this exploration is fascinating, particularly as thoughts are literally crossed out as she dismisses options and adjusts the future, watching the butterfly effect of her plans, but on the other, it humanizes a character that has been a force of pure evil up until now. In my review of Bitter Seeds, I commented on how “her total emotional detachment from the world around her makes her a truly great villain,” however we discover she has needs and fears like everybody else. Gretel is still a unique creation but the process robs her of a great deal of her mystery – and therefore some of her appeal. The reality is no one is truly evil – we are all the heroes of our own story – even Hitler thought he was the good guy – so again it’s a credit to Tregillis that he’s unafraid to develop Gretel in this way.
Necessary Evil is a great conclusion to one of the best series of recent times. As unpredictable as its predecessors, it’s a black magic thrill ride that makes you think as well as makes your heart race. Tregillis is a master at work, mixing so many genres together in his unique melting pot, until we are left with something so delightfully unlike anything else published today.