The book Necessary Evil by Ian Tregillis is the third and final science fiction time-traveling novel of his brilliant Milkweed Triptych series of books. The other two books in the series are Bitter Seeds (2010)and The Coldest War (2013). Necessary Evil continues the time-traveling exploits of Britain’s best spy, Raybould Marsh, as he attempts to thwart both the destruction of humanity by the elder gods, Cthulhu-like monsters called the Eidolons, as well as the self-serving schemes of the manipulative Gretel.
Gretel and her brother, Klaus, are products of a Nazi scientist bent on creating super humans. In the series, Gretel attempts to ensure that at least one timeline will exist that she will survive in to a ripe old age. She has the ability to see all possible futures and alter certain aspects of them to produce whatever outcome she desires, including leading a person up to the point where he or she believes he or she has no choice but to commit suicide. With a person who knows all possible futures as a foe, and also faced with the evil Eidolons, who turned his own son into one of their tools, how can Marsh hope to succeed?
Raybould Marsh is not without his resources, however. He has been trying to travel various timelines, to both save England from the Nazis and the Eidolons, and to try to prevent his daughter, Agnes, from dying at an early age, and his son from being made into a tool of the Eidolons. Though he would also like to thwart Gretel’s plans, he sometimes must work with her, if by doing so he has even the slimmest chance of making sure that humanity survives in at least one timeline.
Britain’s defense against the Nazi efforts to create super humans is to do something a bit similar, themselves — calling up British warlocks to assist their war efforts. However, by doing so, humanity calls attention to itself, and are forced to pay a blood-price to the elder goods known as the Eidolons. The Eidolons cooperate, to a point; but, they really plan to destroy all of humanity.
They believe that they are so far above humans that they do not even have names for them, and the hate humans and want to see them ended; but…they do call Marsh by name, whether out of fear, honor, respect, or some combination of reasons. Marsh and his odd ability to survive and attempt to crush their plans, despite the seeming impossibility of it, makes him unique among all other humans to the Eidolons.
While the first two books in the Milkweed Triptych were intense and action-packed, Necessary Evil is the best book yet in this amazing trilogy by Ian Tregillis. Like the first two novels, Necessary Evil is extremely well researched, though the author admits to taking liberties with history in it.
Marsh hates to do certain things in Necessary Evil, like doing as the Eidolons demand and chopping off his friend and fellow agent’s finger with a pair of garden shears, or cooperating with Gretel; but, he tries to reconcile these things in his own mind as being “necessary evils.” It disgusts him to have to work with Gretel, who he feels is responsible for causing his daughter, Agnes, to die, and for other horrid things to happen. However, she might be onto something, if humanity can be spared, even to a small extent, if the timeline where she lives can be created.
The “necessary evils” that Marsh faces will force him into confronting and questioning his own beliefs about what loyalty is, and if it’s okay to betray a person, organization, or a country, if it means that a greater good comes out of the “necessary evil.”
For example, when Klaus asks his sister who Marsh is, and wonders if he works “for the Schutzstaffel,” Marsh considers it to be a “nauseating suggestion.” And yet, by helping Klaus and Gretel escape from England — at least, at this point in Necessary Evil, cooperating with Gretel — he realizes that Klaus “had a point: by participating in their escape, I was guilty of treason against the Crown.”
Necessary Evil by Ian Tregillis is one of the best science fiction books of 2014, and the conclusion will leave you stunned and wishing that the Milkweed Triptych wasn’t over. Check out Bitter Seeds and The Coldest War first, if you haven’t — then, get this fascinating book of time-travel. If you do, you’ll become a lifelong fan of the writing of Ian Tregillis.
Written by: Douglas Cobb