Saturday, November 10, 2012

Babylon 5 Book Reviews

     Most unfortunately, Babylon 5 is done and over. Plans had been made for another movie, but then Richard Biggs and Andreas Katsulas (and now Michael O’Hare) had to inconvenience everyone by dying. Luckily for us, we had dedicated people to write books. Unluckily, not all those books are created equal.

     My first review is of “The Touch of Your Shadow, The Whisper of Your Name” by Neil Barrett, Jr. We start off with Babylon 5 being more chaotic than usual. The Trinocular Film Festival is going on and the Consortium of Live Eaters are rioting (and have plans to, well, eat someone/something alive). The Life in Transition group, who believe life was a terrible mistake by the Universe, are in a fight with the Fermi’s Angels biker gang. (Yes. There is a biker gang on Babylon 5. No, I do not understand this either.) And there’s this giant green wormy-thing floating around in space and freaking everyone out. Including Kosh.
     You know it’s bad when Kosh is freaking out.
     So it appears the green wormy-thing is giving everyone horrible nightmares. Lennier dreams of running about in a loin cloth, Delenn dreams that Sheridan tries to kill her, Sheridan dreams Delenn is trying to kill him, and Martina Coles, the telepath that is there because the author set the book in the post-Talia pre-Lyta days, is having nightmares and having Kosh poke at her mind. Why does Kosh poke at her mind? It’s never entirely explained. Something vague about warning people. I think he just likes female human telepaths. He does tend to get overly personal with them. *cough"energytransferral"cough*
     Meanwhile, Earth Alliance is doing, you guessed it, nothing. Also the Centauri and Narn are fighting, but that’s old hat.
     The book revolves around the growing crisis as the worm grows closer, affecting everyone’s minds, causing them insomnia and making them more and more aggressive. It’s…okay. It’s not a bad book, but it wasn’t really that great. I feel like so much more could have been done with this storyline. We get some anvils dropped about our fear of things different from us, but…that’s about it. I mean, I know Straczynski dropped anvils from time to time, but his anvils felt poignant and meaningful. These anvils felt stale and over-done. Naturally, everything pans out according to the dreams, which means Hilarity Ensues. (Lennier is running around in a loin cloth. Do not ask me to take that seriously.) So, nice try, but it could’ve been better.

     My second review is of “To Dream In The City of Sorrows” by Kathryn Drennan. This is considered the first purely canon novel for the Babylon 5 series, as it was written by Straczynski’s wife, who has 24/7 access to his brain. In it, we find Sinclair when he is first stationed on Minbar as ambassador. He is frustrated by his attempts to get in touch with Catherine and his lack of news from the outside world. Catherine, meanwhile, is mucking about on the Rim and finding oddly exploded planets and getting chased by strange black alien ships, which is a great idea I’m sure, and Marcus is trying very hard to be a good boy and manage the family mining company while his brother travels the galaxy looking for ancient conspiracies to fight.
     Then, Sinclair is told the real reason he is on Minbar-they believe he has Valen’s soul (OBVSLY) and that he must take over the Rangers and prepare them for a coming war against the Shadows. We get a fantastic line where Sinclair says something about “even I could have come up with that”, and a great deal of giggling ensued. We get to delve a little more into the Minbari political system. We also get to meet Ulkesh, whose main job in the Vorlon hierarchy is apparently to be a pain in the butt to everyone, and watch as he and Sinclair bicker like an old married couple. In fact, between Ulkesh and Neroon the jerk quota is more than filled up for this book. Then, our three storylines converge: Catherine arrives on Babylon 5 to find that Delenn and Garibaldi already set up a plan for her to get to Minbar; Marcus’ brother joins the Rangers and returns to recruit Marcus (“Hello, are you willing to let Valen into your life?”), only for the Shadows to come RIGHT THE EFF OUT OF NOWHERE and blow up the mining colony. Marcus promptly heads off to seek revenge.
     This book is not only well-written, it feels like Babylon 5. I felt like I was getting a good back story to what was going on with Sinclair while Babylon 5 devolved into its usual chaos. And we also get some intriguing little hints about Catherine’s fate. (In fact, I recall hearing something elsewhere about how Valen’s family was somewhat…odd. HMMMM.) All in all, an excellent book, and a good addition to the series.

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