Friday, February 8, 2013

Book Review: Clark's Law by Jim Mortimore


     “Clark’s Law” begins with four lies that shape the events of the Babylon 5 universe. The first is the captain that opened fired on the Minbari, claiming they fired first, and setting off the Earth-Minbari war and sparking the racism (speciesism?) that becomes a major plotpoint in the story arc. The second is Clark insisting that the reinstated capital punishment will apply to humans as well as aliens; he himself takes part in the racism of such groups as the Home Guard. The third is by G’Kar himself, after the Narns have used Centauri technology to bomb the homeworld of the Tuchanq race, promising that the Narns are only there to help the Tuchanq. The fourth lie is by the Tuchanq themselves. One of their own kills the last of the Narn with implied authorization, but the other Tuchanq insist that they will not acknowledge it happened.
     When we come to present day, we see the Tuchanq have suffered under the Narn much as the Narn suffered under the Centauri, and thanks to the machinations of Londo and his spidery friends, have thrown off their persecutors and are ready to ask the League of Non-Aligned Worlds for aid in rebuilding their planet. However, among the group that arrives on Babylon 5 is the killer known as D’Arc, responsible for the murder of the last Narns. The Tuchanq arrive and begin a ritual, but are interrupted by some Home Guard types. Ivanova is forced to stun them all, only to discover something terrible. The Tuchanq do not sleep, as that interrupts their “Song of Being”. As a result, those that were stunned will awake psychotic (sort of the opposite of how sleep affects us). D’Arc does indeed awake, more psychotic than she already was, and promptly goes to kill a human to “steal” his “Song of Being”. But during the fight she receives brain damage that leaves her with the mind of a child. With that, Babylon 5 becomes the center of a political fight over capital punishment.
     I felt that this novel was much closer to the flavor of the TV series. We are given a conundrum that has no particularly right answer (although the author gets a bit anvilicious on his own opinion, but as I’ve said before, it ain’t B5 without a few anvils), and see how this conundrum is being used by Our Villains, who, by the way, are wandering Babylon 5 and stealing changeling nets from unwitting minions and trolling Sheridan. (No, really. Sheridan, who’s been brooding over the Shadows, turns his back on his scalding soup for two seconds and when he turns back it’s cold. You tell me that isn’t the Shadows trolling.) Kosh also trolls a bit and gives Sheridan cryptically helpful advice. Lyta shows up briefly, and the author curiously decided she was deaf, although she isn’t. Ah, well. We also get a side story with Londo and G’Kar sniping at each other as usual, and a glimpse of the future Penitent!G’Kar. Overall, this was one of the better novels, well-written and riveting, with an ambiguous ending that hints at the greater story arc. Well done.

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