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Literature: Bitter Seeds
Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvelously: for I will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you.
Habakkuk 1:5 (KJV)

There are no great men, only great challenges that ordinary men are forced by circumstances to meet.
Admiral William Halsey

Behold: I give you the Overman.
Friedrich Nietzsche

It’s 1939. The Nazis have supermen, the British have demons, and one perfectly normal man gets caught in between. Raybould Marsh is a British secret agent in the early days of the Second World War, haunted by something strange he saw on a mission during the Spanish Civil War: a German woman with wires going into her head who looked at him as if she knew him.

When the Nazis start running missions with people who have unnatural abilities — a woman who can turn invisible, a man who can walk through walls, and the woman Marsh saw in Spain who can use her knowledge of the future to twist the present — Marsh is the man who has to face them. He rallies the secret warlocks of Britain to hold the impending invasion at bay. But magic always exacts a price. Eventually, the sacrifice necessary to defeat the enemy will be as terrible as outright loss would be.

The novel Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis depicts an Alternate History World War II where a Nazi Mad Scientist figures out how to turn children into powerful psychic soldiers. As a result, the Nazis are indisputably winning the war. A clever British spy witnesses one of these kids doing their thing and realizes his countrymen need a paranormal equalizer of their own. Fortuitously, his best and oldest friend Lord William Beauclerk knows a thing or two about the supernatural and is willing to bleed for king and country. Thus, the Milkweed project is born and things then proceed to get worse.

The first book of The Milkweed Triptych. Followed by The Coldest War.


Examples

  • Alternate History
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The Nazis in charge of the psychics project are more focused on the more flashy psychics, than they do on the more subtle ones despite having a wider range of applications. Best exemplified when needing to eliminate a defector in a public area, instead of the psychics who can turn intangible, invisible, have precognition or telekinetic powers, they send out the pyrokinetic to make the defector spontanously combust in the middle of a crowded hotelbar, despite it being a covert mission.
  • Badass Normal: Raybould Marsh has his moments.
  • Black and Gray Morality: Granted, they're fighting Nazis but still, the British do some exceedingly evil things in the name of king and country.
    • The author explicitly described the book as "a novel in which good people do bad things".
    • Interestingly while the Nazis are pretty much as bad, even if you only talk about the two side's respective supernatural weapons program. The British atrocities get more screen time than their Nazi counterparts.
  • Blood Magic - required to summon the Eidolons. Beyond that, it takes more and more blood to summon them each subsequent time.
  • Body Horror: You get psychic powers. Great! Too bad you have to have giant WWII-era batteries wired directly into your brain to fuel them.
  • Brother-Sister Team: Subverted with Gretel and Klaus; thanks to her precognition, he's always responding to her gambits.
  • The Chessmaster: Gretel. A sociopath with perfect precognition.
  • Conditional Powers: The kids' powers only work as long as their batteries are charged.
  • Creepy Child: All the Nazi psychic children but Gretel is creepy even to the other Tyke Bombs. She even was one before she was taken in by Doctor von Westarp.
  • Creepy Crows
  • Cool vs. Awesome: Battery-powered Nazi psychics vs British warlocks summoning Eldritch Abominations.
  • Downer Ending: The book ends with Marsh's wife pregnant with an unholy child, and the British government taking children and putting them in total isolation to turn them into warlocks.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Eidolons.
  • EMP:
    • Pixies, designed by the British to knock out the batteries.
    • In the short story "What Doctor Gottlieb Saw" Gretel creates an improvised EMP device by sabotaging a diesel generator.
  • Fingore: When Will mucks up a negotiation, Marsh has to cut off one of his fingers with garden shears to appease the Eidolons.
    • Before the events of the novel, Klaus had his fingertips stuck inside a granite wall when he lost concentration, and had to have them amputated with a bone saw.
  • For Want of a Nail: Happens literally in "What Doctor Gottlieb Saw" — Gretel arranges a fatal accident and proves her abilities as a seer making her indispensible to the Nazis, all by arranging for a single nail to end up inside a generator.
  • Gentleman Wizard: Lord William Beauclerk
  • Ghostapo / Stupid Jetpack Hitler: The Götterelektrongruppe started out as Thule Society occult hogwash, then Mad Scientist Doctor Von Westarp applied the scientific method to things and got his battery-operated psykers.
  • Got Volunteered: After Klaus breaks Gretel out of the Admiralty, the British kill two birds with one stone by recruiting everyone who saw him use his supernatural powers into the new section set up to combat them, which at the time was short of recruits.
  • Innocent Flower Girl: Subverted; Gretel likes to gather wildflowers, but it's only a sociopathic facade.
  • Intangible Man: Klaus' Willenskräfte. Can only use it as long as he can hold his breath but doesn't have to worry about falling through the floor.
  • I Love the Dead: Reinhardt is so obsessed with Heike he has sex with her corpse after she is Driven to Suicide.
  • Invisibility: Heike.
  • Kill All Humans: The ultimate aim of the Eidolons, as the mere existence of our form of life is abhorrent to them.
  • Killed to Uphold the Masquerade: A British officer is executed on trumped-up charges of espionage and sedition because he's spreading rumors of what's going on.
  • Kubrick Stare: Gretel on the cover of the paperback.
  • Language of Magic: Knowledge of Enochian is required to negotiate with the Eidolons once summoned.
  • Mad Scientist: Doctor Von Westarp.
  • Mind over Matter: Kammler is an extremely powerful (and extremely brain-damaged) telekinetic.
  • Mundane Utility: Reinhardt comes up with a way to make roads in the desert with his pyrokinesis. It works — barely. The groups efforts are more effective when clearing a path through snowfields and the Ardennes forest.
  • One Person, One Power: Each child gets one power and one power only.
  • Oracular Urchin / Mad Oracle: Gretel.
  • The Plan: Everything Gretel does.
  • Playing with Fire: Reinhardt is a mean bullying pyrokinetic.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: The means by which the Enochian lexicon was derived.
  • Psychic Powers: The Willenskräfte wielded by the children. Pyrokinesis, telekinesis, phase-shifting, invisibility and, scariest of all, decades-range precognition.
  • Race Against the Clock: Doctor Gottlieb has one day to prove that a test subject's death wasn't accidental (the time it takes for Doctor Von Westarp to return from Berlin) or he'll be executed as The Scapegoat.
  • Spy Fiction: Of the Stale Beer variety.
  • Summon Magic: the British Warlocks can summon the Eidolons. Then the negotiations begin.
  • Teleporters and Transporters: Marsh figures out how to get the Eidolons to do this for them.
  • Tested On Humans: A group of concentration camp inmates are used for a demonstration for Heinrich Himmler.
  • World War II

The Milkweed TriptychAlternate History LiteratureThe Coldest War
The Milkweed TriptychSpy LiteratureThe Coldest War
LeviathanDiesel PunkClockwork Century
The Milkweed TriptychHistorical Fiction LiteratureThe Coldest War
The BeyondersLiterature of the 2010sBlackout
The Milkweed TriptychSuperheroThe Coldest War
The Milkweed TriptychHorror LiteratureThe Coldest War

alternative title(s): Bitter Seeds
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