I'm so blown away right now from finishing this fantastic novel. Mr. Tregillis has created a brilliant book, and I concur with the blurb from Game of Thrones author, George R.R. Martin blurb, “A major talent,” indeed.
The ending was so awesome, and redeems the grim nature of this book. More on that later . . .
The same characters from book one are back, and it’s about twenty years after the end of an alternate history World War II, and is now 1963, the height of the Cold War. The Soviet Union appears to have all of Europe, even France.
The alternate history is fascinating, but that is not the point of the book. This is a character novel and focuses very tightly on the protagonists, so we get three main point of view characters. There is very little detail given about the wildly divergent world so different from what happened after World War II in our world, but the details we do get are tantalizing, especially for history buffs.
Raybould Marsh, the British super-spy, is now a broken down middle-aged man with a terrible home-life and he’s working as a gardener after getting fired from all his other jobs. His journey is incredibly bleak and sad, the most depressing of all the storylines. He should have listened to his warlock friend, William from book one, but he didn’t, and Raybould and his wife, Liv, had another child. BIG MISTAKE.
William Beauclerk is also back, he was the warlock in Bitter Seeds who helped the British Empire fend off the Nazis who had super-human warriors. British warlocks negotiate with the eidolons (think demons) and accomplish feats of magic that boggle the mind, but the cost is high. Think . . . a blood price, and/or the souls of unborn children. William is no longer doing what he did before and has recovered from some of the horror of what he had to do during World War II, and he has the happiest life of all the characters. However, Will is still traveling down a very dark and dangerous road that is leading him toward a terrible confrontation.
Klaus, the former Nazi superman warrior is also back, but he is a pale reflection of who he was before, when he was at the peak of his power. After twenty years in a Soviet research camp he is incredibly broken and his storyline is so sad and very often quite poignant. I felt so bad for him, as he has been abused his entire life.
Raybould, William, and Klaus are the three main point of view characters, although there is one other with minor scenes, Reinhardt, another former Nazi superwarrior.
The most fascinating character is still Gretel, who is the sister of Klaus. She has the power of precognition and is so devious and brilliant. Tregillis gives us a look into her thoughts at the end of the book, which is worth all the dreary sadness of what went before. All the groundwork Tregillis did in book one (and two) paid off big time at the end. Wow, standing ovation.
Gretel can manipulate the time-line and might just be in charge of the future, but can she change it, or just delay things with her actions? You’ll have to read this book to find out.
***Look for the short story available on Kindle, about Gretel that precedes this trilogy, “What Dr. Gottlieb Saw,” and learn more about her as a teenager. It’s a great short story and worth the 99 cents, and you don’t need a Kindle to read it. You can read it on your browser while you’re on Amazon.com. Read it after you’ve read Bitter Seeds, not before, as it kind of gives things away.
Overall, The Coldest War had a lot of tension, brilliant, razor sharp prose, and some pretty amazing action. There were so many great chapter endings and twisted moments. Tregillis is a master of the complicated and awesome plot, and I’m stunned at the foreshadowing he did in book one, which came out in book two. It’s a must, in my opinion to read these books in order, as the sequel builds on book one big time. There is some recap about what happened in book one (thankfully), but I think readers would be a little lost had they not read Bitter Seeds.
Strangely, as I read Coldest War, I felt like the book was too perfect sometimes, meaning: "How the heck did Tregillis pull this off and make this book so great?!" It just felt like there was nothing wrong, and that bugged me a little. I kept thinking, “I'm going to see a chink in the armor here somewhere,” but it never materialized.
The only real negative of this book was that it was so dark and depressing that some people will find it hard to take, but as long as readers get to the ending, it will all be okay. My feeling that the book was too depressing was erased with the fantastic ending of course. I’m not going to spoil it here, but suffice it to say that it will leave you floored and wanting book three, Necessary Evil (April 2013) really bad.
So, yes, the book was harsh and depressing most of the time, but Tregillis kept the tension up so much that no matter the sadness I felt for the characters, I could still face reading on about them, as I wanted to find out what was going to happen. That is the mark of great writing.
I’m just so impressed with this series and feel like Tregillis succeeded big time. I have no doubt that book three will be a triumphant conclusion to a great series.
I had a great time at the very first Salt City Steamfest. Sadly, I can't attend the second day as I have a prior commitment. (sigh)
***If you're looking for the notes from my "Exploring Steampunk Novels and Stories" presentation, look back two entries on my blog, or click this link here. I have links to the books I was discussing and the Founders of Steampunk video from World Fantasy that I mentioned.
First I want to thank Nivi, the Director of the convention, pictured below in costume, for having me. She even mentioned me on her channel 5 TV interview, which was cool. Nivi is awesome and there were so many people in incredible costumes, including her.
Pictured: Nivatima R. Dimentia
I had to wear my own costume, which included my leather vest, derby hat, gold pocket watch, belt with gears and cogs on the buckle (and a cool winding mechanism), and of course, my brass goggles--which got a lot of positive comments.
Pictured: Steampunk fan and author Paul Genesse
Steamfest was incredibly well attended, and several hundred steampunk fans packed into the hallways, meeting rooms, and the ball room of the Red Lion hotel. The convention had already made enough money to cover their expenses and then some, so that bodes well for having one next year. I sure hope they do as this was a lot of fun.
The only negative was the temperature. The air conditioning was not good in the hallway, but was okay in the ballroom. The hotel staff were working on the problem at least. I guess it was ironic that it was hot and steamy.
The first activity was wander the halls and see all the cool vendors, then to attend author Zachary Hill's presentation on Victorian era weapons from 7-8 PM. Zach has a history degree and gave an awesome presentation with lots of pictures featuring Victorian weaponry. You should really check out his "Minimum Wage Historian Blog" which is packed with awesome information and presented in hilarious fashion.
After a belly dancing performance by Zahirah's troop it was my turn to go on. I did a solo presentation (not belly dancing, sorry) in the ball room titled: Exploring Steampunk Novels and Stories. It went really well and the crowd was awesome as I went over the seminal works in the genre and discussed my own experiences with steampunk. Most people get into steampunk through the fashion, but I'm hoping that more of them will read some stories and books.
Afterward, I did a little book signing and met some cool steampunk fans and writers. It's always great to chat with fellow book lovers and readers.
I managed to attend half of a presentation called "Steampunk Goes West" by Stanley ________? but had to leave at 11:00 PM for my reading.
I was invited to read a bedtime story at a steampunk pajama party. First, artist and author Howard Tayler sang a song (who knew he was such a great singer!), then "Dave" D.J Butler sang a cool steampunk song and played guitar that he wrote, then he read from his City of Saints steampunk series which features notable characters: Edgar Allen Poe, Samuel Clemens, and Richard Burton (a famed British explorer) and of course it centers in 1800's Utah. It's a must read for Mormons, as there are quite a few historically significant mormon characters in the series as well.
Check out City of Saints on Amazon.com.
Then I read the first scene from my novella in Steampunk'd, The Nubian Queen, and a later scene with Queen Sahdi and Duke Zander as they boated down the Nile. I read for a little under 20 minutes and it was the best reading I've done in a long time. I'm totally going to read from this again at conventions, as it went over really well.
Howard Tayler ended up doing a reading as well, then I closed the evening by singing a short lullaby, "Soft Kitty" from Big Bang Theory, but instead of singing the line "sleepy kitty" I of course sang, "steamy kitty." Fun times.
Check out Steampunk'd on Amazon and read my story, The Nubian Queen. This book is almost out of print, so order soon.
Exploring Steampunk Novels and Stories
Find out where the steampunk genre started and learn about the novels and stories that spurred the modern steampunk movement. Author and editor, Paul Genesse will lead a discussion of the past and present works that have defined the genre, and mention his conversation with K.W. Jeter, the man who coined the term, “steampunk.” There will also be a group discussion of the steampunk books fans are reading today.
(This is the tongue in cheek letter that K.W. Jeter wrote in 1987 to Locus Magazine and was published in April 1987, where he coined the term “steampunk.”)
Enclosed is a copy of my 1979 novel Morlock Night; I'd appreciate your being so good as to route it to Faren Miller, as it's a prime piece of evidence in the great debate as to who in "the Powers/Blaylock/Jeter fantasy triumvirate" was writing in the "gonzo-historical manner" first. Though of course, I did find her review in the March Locus to be quite flattering.
Personally, I think Victorian fantasies are going to be the next big thing, as long as we can come up with a fitting collective term for Powers, Blaylock and myself. Something based on the appropriate technology of the era; like "steampunks", perhaps...
Here are the links I’m planning on mentioning in the presentation:
“We weren’t hampered by knowledge” (about science). “Any revision of history that we do is accidental, as we don’t know anything about the real history.” Tim Powers
“Imaginary science is better and more fun than real science.” K.W. Jeter
“Anubis Gates is a complete fake as far as steampunk.” Tim Powers (author of Anubis Gates)
“Homunculus (by James Blaylock 1986) and Infernal Devices (by K.W. Jeter 1987) are perfect steampunk.” Tim Powers *Side note, the sequel to Infernal Devices is coming out from Tor Books in 2013 and is called "Fiendish Schemes"
Links to websites which go into detail about the great steampunk novels
The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling
Infernal Devices by K. W. Jeter
The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers
The Warlord of the Air by Michael Moorcock
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore
Steampunk: anthology, ed. by Ann VanderMeer & Jeff VanderMeer
The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
Perdido Street Station b y China Mieville
Extraordinary Engines: the Definitive Steampunk Anthology
Souless by Gail Carriger
Leviathan by Scott Westerfields
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
Steampunk Trilogy by Paul Di Filippo
Homunculus by James Blaylock
Morlock Night by K. W. Jeter
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll & Mister Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Apparition by Michaelbrent Collings (spoiler free)
This is the scariest book I’ve ever read. I devoured Apparition in two episodes of all night reading and had a really hard time putting it down. I didn’t even mean to read the book at that exact time, but once I read the first chapter I was hooked. I had to keep going and couldn’t stop until I hit chapter seven.
Awesome one minute book trailer
Apparition tells the very intimate story about a family of four: mom, dad, and their two kids, a teen girl and young boy. It explores one of the most horrible concepts I can imagine, filicide: the deliberate killing of children by their parents. That concept alone is horrifying and Collings uses it to ratchet up the terror to a level I haven’t seen before.
Brilliant journal entries written by an unknown person (until the end) precede each chapter and they are some of most chilling lines I’ve ever read. Then the chapters themselves move forward with relentless narrative drive page after page.
The first four chapters are so tense and gripping, and lead up to a big event, which sets up the rest of the book. After the big event, the family which the novel revolves around, are devastated and things just get worse for them as the book continues.
After the big event, the book is tense, but slows for a while as we get to know the main characters, and spend some time in their minds. It is a necessary build up and the characterization is stellar, which of course leads to another series of horrific events that will leave you gasping for air.
The ending of Apparition was incredibly scary and blew me away. I could not stop reading and stayed up hours past my bedtime because I had to finish it and know what happened to these expertly drawn characters who felt so real.
I know that Michaelbrent Collings is a screenwriter and I can see this being an A-list Hollywood horror movie. It would be extremely scary, especially the ending, which pulls together so many threads and gives us the answer why seemingly normal parents suddenly snap one day and kill their children.
APPARITION, FIVE STARS, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for fans of horror and those who want a good scare . . .