Necessary Evil by Ian Tregillis (Milkweed #3)
Posted August 21, 2016on:
published in 2013
Where i got it: from a friend
Necessary Evil is the final book in Tregillis’s Milkweed series, and this book takes place immediately after the gut punch cliffhanger ending of the second book in the series, The Coldest War. So, I really can’t talk in any detail about Necessary Evil without giving epic spoilers for the entire series. #sorrynotsorry
Before I get to the spoilers, let’s go back in a time a little bit. Back in 2013, I read the first book in the series, Bitter Seeds. It was one of the darkest books I’d ever read. When I finished it, I thought to myself that this Tregillis guy is a damn awesome writer, but I don’t know if I can read anymore of his stuff. A year went by. And suddenly, all I could think about was this series – what happened to the characters? So I finally read the second book. And it was even darker and more soul wrenching than the first one. And when I finished it, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I couldn’t stop thinking about how lonely Gretel is, that maybe she was a victim, that she’s a horrible human being and I hate her, but she is lonely and a victim. I couldn’t stop thinking about how how Raybould Marsh got to this point in his life, where his wife barely talks to him and their son is, well . . . not even going to go there because then I have to thinking about why his son is the way he is. Like the earlier books in the series, Necessary Evil was an utterly engrossing page turner.
I just now described Necessary Evil to my husband with “it’s about the psychology of redemption and every page is like a punch to the nuts and you just want to die on every page”. He laughed, a little.
While I was reading Necessary Evil, a line from my review of Bitter Seeds kept popping back into my head:
“When the cost gets too high you are supposed to know it’s time to stop.”
Over the course of the series, Will and Marsh realized the cost was far too high for what they were getting from the Eidolons. But when you work for people to whom money is no object, how do you get them to stop spending? By becoming the enemy.
And with that, it’s epic spoiler time.
In The Coldest War, Marsh gets to spend a little too much time with Gretel. Not enough to understand her, but enough to understand how much he hates her. At the end of the that novel, the world practically ends. And Gretel has a plan, a selfish plan, to save it. The only way to stop the end of the world in 1963 is to go back to the beginning, and to stop it from happening. She drags Marsh back in time to 1940 with the mission of destroying the Farm, and stopping Milkweed’s existence. The title of the book itself is quite a spoiler. (And now that I think about it, the title of Bitter Seeds is a play on words, if not a spoiler, for the entire series. Damn do I love it when an author plays a long game like that!)
It’s always been thought that Gretel could see the future, that she had prescience, precognition. But she doesn’t just see the future, she sees all time lines, all the time. She sees choices and options, and how to manipulate the present to ensure a future of her choosing happen. The scenes we get from Gretel’s point of view are absolutely disturbing and horrible, and it’s even more horrifying to realize that from her point of view everything makes perfect sense. If she wasn’t such a bitch, I’d want the entire novel to be from her point of view. But omg WOW is she a total bitch.
What’s always fun about time travel stories is the supposed time travel paradoxes. If you go back in time and meet yourself, is it a paradox? If you go back in time and kill your younger self or stop your younger self from being born, is that a paradox? Well, Marsh not only meets his younger self, he meets his meets his wife, Olivia. Older Marsh is still in love with his wife, and he fights with himself about the possibility of stealing younger Olivia away from younger Marsh. Meeting your younger self isn’t a paradox. The paradox is more a psychological one – Should older Marsh make decisions that benefit only himself and his 1963 timeline, or his younger self’s timeline? If young Marsh has a happy marriage, will older Marsh ever benefit from it? Watching older Marsh with Olivia will break your heart more than any of the political machinations in the book.
That’s another thing I love about this entire series – all the subtle psychology. What makes someone do what they do? Why does Klaus feel so protective of Gretel? Why does Gretel act the way she does? Why do Will and Marsh betray everything they believe in? How close does older Marsh get to stealing Olivia away from younger Marsh? Everything everyone effects everything else around them (and that sounds so deceptively simple!), and now Marsh has a chance to make completely different decisions. If you could go back and do things over, what decisions would you make differently?
This entire series is utterly engrossing. Historical fiction, magic, weird technology, batteries wired into kids heads, Chthonic intelligences, world politics, crumbling marriages and intimacies you want to protect from everything bad in the world. If you like any of the things in that last sentence, this is a series for you. Yes, it is ultra dark, and may be too dark for some readers, but it’s so addictive. A little like Szechuan peppercorns – the taste weird and make your tongue numb and you probably shouldn’t eat the whole jar, but you just can’t stop eating them.