Necessary Evil is one of those final books in a trilogy (the alternative history fantasy Milkweed Triptych) that is impossible to talk about without badly, badly spoiling the prior two books. So if you haven’t read Bitter Seeds and The Coldest War—go! Now! (Or at least read my reviews of the two first.) Tregillis provides quite a bit of exposition and explanation of prior events (perhaps too much, although I found myself a bit lost at times), but it’s no replacement for the first two books in the trilogy. You really need to read them to properly appreciate Necessary Evil.
Necessary Evil picks up where The Coldest War left off, with Marsh transported 20 or so years into the past by the Lovecraftian Eidolons. It’s an odd way to tell a story. Only Marsh and Gretel (now a POV character at times) are the characters they were at the end of The Coldest War. The rest are back to Bitter Seeds form (including Marsh the younger). It was incredible plot twist, but I can’t help missing the Klaus of The Coldest War and I can’t help wishing we’d learned more about the Soviet’s supermen program. We also wind up seeing many of the events of the first novel, albeit in a different light, as Marsh the elder desperately races to change fate (whether of the standard issue or Gretel-orchestrated variety).
Necessary Evil is erudite as ever, and Tregillis both writes beautifully and with a punch. The freedom of the genre continues to be used to plumb the depths of human nature. The title gets dropped a few times—as you might expect, there are some necessary evils to prevent the end of the world we saw in The Coldest War. The need for an end somewhat limits it and probably leaves it the weakest of the trilogy, but Necessary Evil is still a dang fine book, and caps a truly phenomenal series. I can’t wait to see what Tregillis has up his sleeve next.
The Kindle edition includes a nifty bibliography on WWII. And the Kindle edition brings the added advantage that you don’t have to look at that awful US cover.
5 of 5 Stars.