Tor.com has just posted an excerpt from Ian Tregillis's The Coldest War, a sequel to his smashing debut Nazi X-men vs English warlocks alternate history, Bitter Seeds. I've got a review queued up for Coldest War (which is a captured-Nazi-Soviet-Xmen-Ninjas v English warlocks novel), and I just loved it. Tregillis is one of the most exciting new writers in the field today, with a gift for history, storytelling, and action rarely matched. Coldest War is out on July 17, which gives you plenty of time to read Bitter Seeds.
Warlocks do not age gracefully.
Viktor Sokolov had drawn this conclusion after meeting several warlocks. Now he watched a fourth man from afar, and what he saw supported his conclusion. Age and ruin lay heavy over the figure who emerged from the dilapidated cottage in the distant clearing. The old man hobbled toward a hand pump, an empty pail hanging from the crook of his shriveled arm. Viktor adjusted the focus on his binoculars.
No. Not gracefully at all. Viktor had met one fellow whose skin was riddled by pockmarks; yet another had burn scars across half his face. The least disfigured had lost an ear, and the eye on that side was a sunken, rheumy marble. These men had paid a steep price for the wicked knowledge they carried. Paid it willingly.
This new fellow fit the pattern. But Viktor wouldn’t know for certain if he had found the right person until he could get a closer look at the old man’s hands. Better to do that in private. He slid the binoculars back into the leather case at his waist, careful not to rustle the mound of bluebells that concealed him.
The clearing was quiet except for the squeaking of rusted metal as the old man labored at the pump, a narrow pipe caked in flaking blue paint. But that noise felt muted somehow, as though suffocated by a thick silence. Viktor hadn’t heard or seen a single bird in the hours he’d lain here; even sunrise had come and gone without a peep of birdsong. A breeze drifted across his hiding spot in the underbrush, carrying with it the earthy scents of the forest and the latrine stink of the old man’s privy. But the breeze dissipated, as though reluctant to linger among the gnarled oaks.
Ian was one of my Clarion writing workshop students, and was, even then, a remarkable writer.