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Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis book review

There’s the bare bones of a good novel in Ian Tregillis’ Bitter Seeds, but it hasn’t been thought out well enough. From a great opening, Bitter Seeds founders on its basic premise that everything that happens in this alternate history of World War II where the Nazis have deployed technologically enhanced supermen and superwomen with special gifts and the British have turned to demonic spirits, depends on the ability of Gretchen, one of the superwomen, to predict the future and act in accordance with it.

That doesn’t seem like so much of a problem at first, but increasingly nothing can happen in the novel except following Gretchen’s agenda. That means nothing really matters and the story has nowhere to go. The British put their efforts into soliciting demons and paying a blood price to blockade the English Channel, but none of that really goes anywhere. The Nazis zip around Europe and besiege England, but don’t seem to get around to pushing into the USSR.

Rather than the battle between technology and mysticism that the novel’s blurb advertises, it’s more of a pointless stalemate with none of the characters really accomplishing anything. Tregillis proves the paradox that knowing the future leaves you helpless but that doesn’t make for much of a story. It’s not Tregillis’ writing that fails here, or his ability to tell a compelling story, it’s the plotting that locks him into a novel that goes nowhere. By the end the war has ended, with little intervention from any of the characters, and nothing really seems to matter.

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