BPP Psi Corps #1 – Dark Genesis: The Birth of the Psi Corps

We’re back again, this time starting the first trilogy of novels, collectively called the “Psi Corps Trilogy.” This set of books were based on a script written by JMS, and are considered canon, and all three were written by J. Gregory Keyes. In this first novel, we learn Bester’s backstory, and see just how the Psi Corps began. The novel starts in 2115, then quickly covers 80 years of time—basically from 130 years before the events in the movie “In the Beginning”, and ending about 50 years before the same. If compared to Season 1 of the original series, these events span from 142 years to 62 years before the start of Season 1.

When the trilogy was released, JMS endorsed it heavily, stating, “For my money, this is probably one of the best B5 novels ever done, and it takes quite a risk, because even though you see ancestors of some of our characters, there are none of the regulars in it. It’s our first attempt to really flesh out the B5 universe and future history. Anyway, it’s a hell of a read, and I commend it to you without reservation.” Our one side note: you may actually see one regular in this book. I’m sure you’ll figure out who it is before it’s pointed out to you though…

The action begins when the presence of telepathy is proven, resulting in widespread distrust and paranoia throughout the human population. People turn on those they know or suspect to be telepaths, and “teeps” find themselves hunted. An organization called the Metasensory Regulatory Authority (MRA) is formed by Senator Crawford, publicly to identify and protect telepaths, but quickly it could be argued that the regulation, segregation, and training given to telepaths to serve society was actually a way to control them. Within a short amount of time, it’s also learned that telepathy isn’t a naturally-occurring ability in humans, leading to further fear.

During all this trauma, many telepaths see what’s happening and don’t want to be regulated. Instead they hide from the MRA and forma a small network (a resistance?) to try and remain free. Psi Corps is then formed to attempt to bring members of the resistance (rebels…rogues) back into the fold, unharmed. This only confirms the fears of those resisting and the rogues become militant in an attempt to protect themselves and their freedoms. The irony is they’re not fighting “normals”; they’re fighting other teeps.

As all these struggles unfold, Kevin Vacit and Natasha Alexander (Lyta Alexander’s grandmother) go to Venus where they meet with the Vorlons and are told about the Shadows. Now aware of what is a dire threat, Kevin decides he can’t maintain or support the existence of the MRA and Psi Corps on one hand, and the rogues on the other. Based on the threat, he orders the hunting and elimination of the rogues. Interestingly, just like Natasha is the grandmother of one of the series regulars, Kevin is the grandfather of a significant regular in the series. (If you don’t mind knowing who it is, we’ll post the name at the very end of this entry.)

In spite of the amount of time this novel covered, we were in strong agreement that it was a fantastic start to what should be an incredible trilogy. Furthermore, while knowing the full B5 story that is revealed in the TV shows and movies definitely helps with overall context, this book could very well be enjoyed by any science fiction fan, and may even serve to bring new fans into the larger B5 universe. Our ratings were a 4.5, 5 and 4.5 (out of 5), giving us an overall Boom Scale rating of 4.66.

Next time we’ll discuss the second book in the Psi Corps Trilogy, called Deadly Relations: Bester Ascendant. If it’s anything like this first book, it’s going to be awesome.

You can find us at http://www.BabylonProjectPodcast.wordpress.com, on Facebook at The Babylon Project Podcast or on iTunes.  You can email us at TheBabylonProjectPodcast@gmail.com.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Just remember… When there’s no boom today, there’s boom tomorrow. There’s always boom tomorrow!

(As promised, if you want to know who the other regular is, who Kevin Vacit is the grandfather of: it’s Steven Kevin Dexter, renamed as a child to protect his identity as the offspring of rebels. His new name: Alfred Bester. As an interesting nugget of additional information, he’s named after a real-world Science Fiction author.)

BPP Novel 9: To Dream in the City of Sorrows

This time we’re looking at the final novel in the set of nine (what people call) standalone novels: the much-anticipated To Dream in the City of Sorrows, by Kathryn M. Drennan. With what we already knew about this book, there was little concern about how good it was rumored to be. It was everything we’d expected and hoped for and/or remembered. Toward the end of the show, we mention that this was Raul’s third time reading the story over the years, it was Jim’s second, and JP’s first time through. It was unanimous that it was worth every minute of time spent to read it, or reread it.

As we’ve talked about each of the standalone novels, we’ve commented on whether or not each book is considered canon. In this case, it’s worth sharing this quote from J. Michael Straczynski himself: “To Dream in the City of Sorrows is not simply a licensed book set in the BABYLON 5 universe. While most of the Dell books to date have contained some elements that are considered canon, this is the very first one that is considered canonical in every small detail. What you hold in your hand is an official, authorized chapter in the BABYLON 5 story line. This is the definitive answer to the Sinclair question, and should be considered as authentic as any episode in the regular series.” (February 17, 1997)

There are really three stories here: the main story told about what happened when Jeffrey Sinclair left Babylon 5. The supporting stories, which are almost full stories on their own, revolve around Sinclair’s wife Catherine Sakai, and Marcus Cole.

The main story occurs primarily in the Minbar city of Tuzanor (also known as The City of Sorrows). The secondary story lines begin elsewhere but quickly join with the main story on Minbar as well. Sinclair is reassigned from Babylon 5 to Minbar as the Earth’s new ambassador. While there, he quickly learns there’s another, much more significant agenda in play: to make him the leader of the Rangers (Ranger One), and to bestow the title of Entil’Zah upon him. Though this story gain depth in our understanding of Minbari culture, the cultural casts, and how they view their history relative to Valen and his prophecies. We also see how the significant tensions between the Minbari and Humans is both stressed and eased by the Minbari need to address Sinclair’s potential, significant role within Minbari culture. Sinclair is pulled unknowingly and unwillingly into all of this through his nomination to become Entil’Zah.

Catherine, who has been away from Sinclair for longer than either would desire, returns to Babylon 5 to surprise him, only to be surprised herself when she learns he’s no longer the station commander and has moved to Minbar. She then follows him there. Through this story, we learn just how deep the love is between her and Sinclair. Once on Minbar, she supports this adventure he’s found himself pulled into, and works to become a ranger herself, as one of the first human Ranger trainees. A brief element of her story as she journeys back to her husband is her encounter with the essentially unknown Shadows in hyperspace.

Marcus, who is a mess after his father’s death, has thrown himself into running his father’s business. He doesn’t appear to enjoy it or want to do it, all the while taking great risks with his own life, perhaps in order to somehow distract or diminish the pain of his loss. His vagabond brother arrives for a visit, get’s lectured by Marcus for not helping run the family business, and ends up learning about the thing that has focused his wayward life: becoming a member of the Minbari Rangers. Marcus initially dismisses it all as one more stray adventure and useless path his brother is running down; his brother ensures him this isn’t the case, but Marcus seems unconvinced. Shortly after, when his brother’s life is lost in an attack (turns out by the Shadows) on and loss of the family business, Marcus decides to honor his brother’s request to consider the Rangers, and makes his way to Minbar. What unfolds is a wonderful description of how Marcus becomes the man, and the Ranger we knew him to be in the regular series.

We were all in agreement that this novel clearly stands out as the best of the standalone stories. We anticipate it will remain one of the best, even when compared to the three trilogies that also occur in the Babylon 5 universe. Our ratings were a 5, 5 and 5 (out of 5), giving us an overall Boom Scale rating of 5.0.

Speaking of trilogies, the next time we meet, we’ll discuss the first book in the Psi Corps Trilogy, called Dark Genesis: The Birth of the Psi Corps, by J. Gregory Hines. Our understanding of these trilogies is that they’re much better than the overall collection of standalone novels, so we’re looking forward to getting them started.

You can find us at http://www.BabylonProjectPodcast.wordpress.com, on Facebook at The Babylon Project Podcast or on iTunes.  You can email us at TheBabylonProjectPodcast@gmail.com.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Just remember… When there’s no boom today, there’s boom tomorrow.  There’s always boom tomorrow!

BPP Novel 8: Personal Agendas

Here we are, looking at the second to last standalone novel Personal Agendas, by Al Sarrantonio. We approached this one with cautious optimism, since it follows a very well written novel that brought us home to the Babylon 5 universe we all love so much. Turns out we weren’t let down; the book warranted our optimism. There were highs and a few lows though, but overall it was well-received.

Personal Agendas filled in some of the backstory revolving around G’Kar’s captivity on Centauri Prime under the ruthless rule of Cartagia. For those familiar with the television series, you know Sarrantonio focused this story on a very dark and heavy set of events. He does this well, and attempted to give the reader a break now and then through several other light-hearted, if not cute, side stories. This worked with mixed results. At the center of the story, G’Kar and Londo form a secret alliance. G’Kar is going to suffer and place himself at great personal risk to assist in the killing of Emperor Cartagia. This could cost him his life. Meanwhile, in exchange, Londo will work to end the Centauri rule over the Narn Homeworld. Things get a little sideways when Londo is captured by a squad of well-intentioned Narn, intending to free G’Kar. They work in ignorance of what’s actually in play, and what they’re putting at risk in terms of liberation for the citizens of both worlds. A basic knowledge of the television series ensures you already know both of our heroes will survive, however, the main story here is told well enough that it becomes a page-turner as you’re left wondering just how this will resolve in a manner that doesn’t disconnect from the series.

Readers will either find the B-stories amusing, perhaps even funny at times, or they’ll find them annoying. Either way, they’re a welcome relief to the high-stakes drama and emotional heaviness of the main story.

In the end we enjoyed the book very much, and we think you will too. Our ratings were a 3, a 4, and a 4.5 (out of 5), giving us an overall Boom Scale rating of 3.83.

Next time we meet, we’ll discuss the ninth and final standalone novel, To Dream in the City of Sorrows, by Kathryn Drennan. If you’ve participated in the many seasons of the podcast, then you know we’ve mentioned this novel many times. We’re anticipating something great!

You can find us at http://www.BabylonProjectPodcast.wordpress.com, on Facebook at The Babylon Project Podcast or on iTunes.  You can email us at TheBabylonProjectPodcast@gmail.com.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Just remember… When there’s no boom today, there’s boom tomorrow.  There’s always boom tomorrow!

BPP Novel 7: The Shadow Within

We’ve arrived at the seventh and much-anticipated standalone novel The Shadow Within, by Jeanne Cavelos. And it was worth the wait!

The story takes place just before the Babylon 5 television series pilot episode “The Gathering” and was clearly well researched, and also presumably informed by the author’s familiarity with the characters as we know them from the series. The book was authored and published at a time when Ms. Cavelos would have had access to the first three seasons, and part of the fourth season, of the TV show. It looks like she was as much a fan as we are. The book is considered canon, along with the ninth and final standalone novel.

The novel filled in some missing info for a few key storylines: specifically what happened to Anna Sheridan that resulted in her apparent death, and later the discovery that she was actually working with the Shadows; and also additional information (backstory) related to Captain Sheridan when he was the commander of the Agamemnon prior to taking command of Babylon 5. We watch Sheridan’s career get frustrated by a combination of incompetence among his junior officers, perhaps fueled by something more sinister. With Anna’s story, we learn just how deep her love for John was, and his for her. It made her loss that we learned about in the television series even more heartbreaking. Related, we meet Mr. Morden for the first time (chronologically) and discover he’s actually Dr. Morden. One of the most interesting elements of the story is that we learn to appreciate (and maybe even respect) the character we all love to hate. Seeing Morden as he was before the Shadows took control of him was truly interesting.

As the novel progresses, we bounce between Anna’s and John’s stories. As is the case with good storytelling, each time a segment of Anna’s storyline ends, you hope to hurry through the next segment of John’s story so you can get back to find out what happened. But then when that segment of John’s storyline ends, you can’t wait to race through Anna’s to get back to what’s happening with his situation. The story unfolds quickly as a result, and in the end you feel like you were watching a couple of well-paired episodes, or perhaps what would have made a great Babylon 5 movie.

If you like this novel, you’ll be happy to know Ms. Cavelos is also the author of “The Passing of the Techno-Mages” trilogy: one of the three trilogies we’ll read and review together after we finish with the last standalone novel.

We enjoyed this book very much. Our ratings were a 4.5, a 5.5, and a 5.0 (out of 5), giving us an overall Boom Scale rating of 4.7.

Next up is the penultimate standalone novel, Personal Agendas, by Al Sarrantonio. We’re optimistic that it will be a good experience, even though it doesn’t carry the same positive reputation as The Shadow Within, or the ninth standalone, To Dream in the City of Sorrows. If you’re reading along with us, grab your copy and enjoy!

You can find us at http://www.BabylonProjectPodcast.wordpress.com, on Facebook at The Babylon Project Podcast or on iTunes.  You can email us at TheBabylonProjectPodcast@gmail.com.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Just remember… When there’s no boom today, there’s boom tomorrow.  There’s always boom tomorrow!

BPP Novel 6: Betrayals

The sixth standalone novel we’re discussing is Betrayals, by S.M. Stirling.

Raul offered a very useful way to view this book: as an anthology composed of two short stories and a novella. Taking this view helped frame or structure what we read. We all agreed this was a far better than the last two books—combined—even though, like the last several, this book seemed to contain more book than actual story. This is where the anthology perspective helped.

Overall, the book focuses on a significant diplomatic conference occurring on Babylon 5, driving an acute need for superb security. The primary attendees: diplomats from the Centauri Republic and Narn. At the same time, a previously unknown race called the T’ll arrive, currently ruled by the Narn, and seeking asylum. The trouble begins. A member of this unusual race commits a murder, and in the course of being pursued and apprehended, is rendered unconscious. For the T’ll, this is essentially a death sentence. Unconsciousness destroys what is a continuous memory within the individual, causing a return to the same mental state as a newborn. The friction between the Centauri and Narn is exacerbated by the current and deadly friction caused by the T’lln delegation. Things get even messier when President Clark gets involved: directing Captain Sheridan to oversee a fixed trial and death sentence for the T’lln assassin. Given that the assassin is already “dead” and a child now exists instead, the death sentence wouldn’t be justice. It would be the murder of an innocent. Sprinkle in some interesting dynamics with the press, present to cover the Centauri-Narn negotiations, and the creativity of Captain Sheridan, and the story concludes pretty well.

Some of the “odd themes” we’ve seen in the standalone novels presented themselves again: yet another new race (which we never hear from or about again), and a strong presentation on Narn aggression and dominance. Other more canonical themes are there too, including friction between the Narn and Centauri, and between Earth Gov and Babylon 5.

Our ratings were a 4, a 3.5, and a 3.5 (out of 5), giving us an overall Boom Scale rating of 3.67.

Next is the long-awaited novel The Shadow Within, by Jeanne Cavelos. You’ve stuck with us this long, so please continue reading and join us next time when we discuss one of the two standalone books that is generally well received.

You can find us at http://www.BabylonProjectPodcast.wordpress.com, on Facebook at The Babylon Project Podcast or on iTunes.  You can email us at TheBabylonProjectPodcast@gmail.com.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Just remember… When there’s no boom today, there’s boom tomorrow.  There’s always boom tomorrow!

BPP Novel 5: The Touch of Your Shadow, the Whisper of your Name

Next up, we read The Touch of Your Shadow, the Whisper of Your Name, by Neil Barrett, Jr. This is the fifth of nine stand-alone novels. Given how the first four weren’t that great, we were hopeful this one might shine a little, but ultimately we were disappointed. While not as bad as Clark’s Law, this book felt like a short story crammed into a full-length novel. As a result, this made Barrett’s book just okay, at best. And that’s not a strong endorsement. There was also an issue with where the story fits in the overall timeline. The book never says, and there’s disagreement out on the web. The best estimate is provided by the Lurker’s Guide, and even that doesn’t fully address the continuity issues. The bottom line is, by the time this novel was written, the TV series was in the third season, yet it seems like the author may have never watched an episode.

We’re back to riots on the station, and they’re presented in a way that suggests this is sort of a normal thing. Balanced against the TV show, we know this isn’t the case, so the suggestion is becoming somewhat annoying now that it’s appeared in several of the novels. While not well done, the reader can assume that some of this is caused by, or enflamed by, the emergence of an alien entity that causes everyone on the station to misbehave. It’s a reasonable explanation, but somehow still falls short, primarily based on how the author unfolds the story. In the end, a giant, green worm-like creature (9 million miles long and half a million miles wide!) approaches the station. It’s somehow real, but also not real, in that while everyone can see it, it doesn’t register on sensors. No one knows what it is, where it came from, if it’s hostile or not, or where it’s going. The odd behavior of station personnel seems to increase in severity as the creature draws closer. In response, forces from Earth and B5 approach it, examine it as best they can, and even fire at it, with no real consequences. While this appeared to be a way to build drama, it didn’t. Frankly, it took too long and made the story boring.

The space worm finally arrives and passes through the station (or the station passes through the worm…) and everything returns to normal. We’d like to tell you there’s more to the story than that, but there really isn’t. The worm is referred to as a shadow because of the problem that it’s seen but not apparently substantive. By the way, there’s no connection between this shadow and THE Shadows we’re all familiar with from the B5 universe. Your hosts seemed to agree there were enough comedic elements here (intentional or not, like Fermi’s Angels) that this may have been better written as a light-hearted comedy novel. But it wasn’t, so some of these kinds of characters and events fell flat or just seemed silly since they weren’t a part of a real attempt at humor. There was also some agreement that the one redeeming character in the story was Martina Coles—someone who could have been better developed and even appeared in other novels. But she was unique to this story, and not a part of the TV show or subsequent books. Oh well.

Two interesting aspects of the story that we briefly discussed toward the end of the program. First, there was a real potential for a cool story about a creature (the space worm) that even the Vorlons didn’t have knowledge of. This could have been very interesting and even a little terrifying. The author toyed with this concept a bit, but in the end, let it fall on the floor. Second, this novel is in some ways comparable to the movie Thirdspace. The movie wasn’t all that great either, but there are some real similarities between the two. We leave that for your consideration.

Well, we unanimously disliked the book—sadly a developing trend. Our ratings were a 1.3, a 0.5, and a 1.5 (out of 5), giving us an overall Boom Scale rating of 1.1. Once again, based on the much higher ratings out there on the socials (GoodReads, Amazon, etc.), if any of our listeners enjoyed this, we genuinely want to hear why. Not to be critical of you, but to see if the three of us missed something in our own reading of the material. Also, keep in mind, these standalone novels are what they are, and aren’t considered canon except for the 7th and 9th books. With that in mind, it’s a little easier to manage expectations. It also means we’re drawing closer to at least two that should be pretty good. Not saying numbers six and eight aren’t good—we just don’t know yet. Then as noted during the episode, the three trilogies are all considered to be solid and definitely worth the time to read, so hang in there.

Please continue reading along and join us next time when we discuss the sixth stand-alone novel, Betrayals, by S.M. Sterling.

You can find us at http://www.BabylonProjectPodcast.wordpress.com, on Facebook at The Babylon Project Podcast or on iTunes.  You can email us at TheBabylonProjectPodcast@gmail.com.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Just remember… When there’s no boom today, there’s boom tomorrow.  There’s always boom tomorrow!

BPP Novel 4: Clark’s Law

The next stand-alone novel we read and reviewed is Jim Mortimore’s Clark’s Law. This is the only novel he wrote within the B5 universe, although he has writing credits for novelizations within the Dr. Who universe. The print copy was published by Dell in February 1996, and ran 288 pages. The story takes place in 2259, at the end of Season 2 and occurs between “Comes the Inquisitor” and “The Fall of Night”. sometime prior to “The Coming of Shadows” (Season 2, Episode 9). This book is not considered canon.

Well, we went from liking the previous novel quite a bit to not liking this one at all. Here’s the story: A newly discovered species called the Tuchanq come aboard Babylon 5 and in short order an unfortunate series of events results in several of the Tuchanq losing consciousness. This species never sleeps, but instead gains rest and maintains individual identity through a complex series of songs. What wasn’t known or understood by station inhabitants (including the command team) is that when a Tuchanq loses consciousness, they essentially lose their minds. D’Arc, commits a murder, is rendered unconscious and is left with the mind of an infant or child. The moral discussion that ensues and guides the story is that this “new” creature with no memory or identity related to the one that committed the murder, can not be held responsible for the crime. In a tangential power play, President Clark is trying to bolster his growing dictatorial control of Earth, and uses the incident to to prejudge D’Arc and mandate the death penalty for the crime, showing he’s a strong president and wiling to do what it takes to maintain order and discipline to protect the people and allies of Earth. This sets the stage for the tension of the primary storyline, as Capt Sheridan and his officers struggle with how to handle what’s morally right versus the unjust mandate to execute D’Arc.

In an odd and very unbalanced side story, we are shown a Babylon 5 where significant rioting is occurring while it seems the station officials are either unwilling or unable (or both?) to simply maintain the peace. It’s through this series of events we noticed that almost all the major characters were written inconsistently with those we know from the series. Also unfolding at the same time is the primary side story of G’Kar and Londo, in which G’Kar attempts to brutally murder Londo and then commit ritual suicide. In an incredibly planned and deliberate act, G’Kar stabs Londo brutally, and leaves him to die. The author leaves us with the impression, this was a major decision, but not really a big deal for G’Kar. These weren’t the characters of the TV series. The same was particularly true of Ivanova and Vir, Franklin, and to some extent Sheridan.

The significant events that took place in this novel didn’t come close to fitting into the B5 story arc we all know and love. It was truly as if Mortimore was given basic plot points and the B5 story bible, but he never actually watched an episode of the show. Outside of the specific disconnection of the characters as written, versus the show, none of these very significant events ever manifest in the series: G’Kar’s attempted murder of Londo, the existence of a species called the Tuchanq, many other species also mentioned that we’ve never seen, rioting on the station, a very muted and passive Commander Ivanova, etc.

All the themes we could identify in the book have run through the previous novels. Your hosts presumed that there was probably a master list of themes provided by JMS to all these authors to incorporate into their writing as the specific stories allowed. In Clark’s Law, we saw elements of crime and punishment, deceit and false accusations for political gain, corrupt government (specifically Earth), capital punishment, conflicts of morality and the growing tension between Earth and Mars.

One final note: we all agreed the author appeared to use the novel as an instrument to lecture his readers on his particular views of several of these moral issues, especially capital punishment. He also seemed to take a very odd shot at liberal democracies in general, and arguably the specific form of a federal republic. Well written Science Fiction has always had a significant role in examining social and ethical issues (contentious ones in particular) by placing the issue at the heart of fictional events and writing about them in a way that the reader is outside of the issues. In this case, the author failed to do this. The story was so badly written, he came across as lecturing us with his perspectives rather than letting us work out our own perspectives based on the story.

We unanimously disliked this book. Our ratings were a 1.5, a 0.5, and a 1 (out of 5), giving us an overall Boom Scale rating of 1. We’d never tell someone not to read a book, but this is one we’d warn you away from unless you have nothing better to do.

Please continue reading along and join us next time when we discuss the fifth stand-alone novel, The Touch of Your Shadow, the Whisper of Your Name, by Neal Barrett, Jr.

You can find us at http://www.BabylonProjectPodcast.wordpress.com, on Facebook at The Babylon Project Podcast or on iTunes.  You can email us at TheBabylonProjectPodcast@gmail.com.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Just remember… When there’s no boom today, there’s boom tomorrow.  There’s always boom tomorrow!

BPP Novel 3: Blood Oath

The third stand-alone novel is Blood Oath, written by John Vornholt. This is his second and final B5 novel. The print copy was published by Dell in September 1995, and ran 256 pages. The story takes place in 2259, sometime prior to “The Coming of Shadows” (Season 2, Episode 9). This book is not considered canon.

We liked this book, quite a bit. The story was primarily about G’Kar and focused on his attempts to remedy an assassination attempt on his life—actually a third attempt! For fans of the original series, you’ll remember the second attempt was a part of the episode “Parliament of Dreams” (Season 1, Episode 5). In this third attempt, Mi’Ra, the daughter from a rival family on the Narn Homeworld swears a blood oath (the Shon’Kar) to finally avenge her father’s death, the disgracing of his name, and the resultant destruction of her family, all caused by G’Kar as he rose to the Third Circle. Very early in the story, G’Kar is made aware of this intended assassination. He tells no one, and departs on a shuttle which explodes, killing him instantly. Or so it seems. We quickly learn he’s still alive, his death was faked in an effort to stop future assassination attempts, and to get to the Narn Homeworld to remedy the problem.

The rest of the novel happens there, where we get to enjoy a relatively deep and very interesting dive into the Narn Homeworld, many new Narn characters, and layers of the Narn culture. What made this novel stand out more than the first two was the author’s ability to very accurately capture most of the familiar characters, and to make everything feel like it was inspired or even written by JMS. There were a few oddities (like with some of Mike Garibaldi’s behavior), but nothing that was really that bad. At the end of the novel, with things resolved, we also enjoy a very well written surprise when we learn of Londo’s role in helping G’Kar through the struggle of trying to end the Son’Kar.

Of the various themes that ran through the book, some were unique to this story, while others also ran through one or more of the earlier novels. These included an examination of different forms of justice; the differences in how justice plays out within the Narn culture as well as the differences in justice between races; deceit and deception; reconciliation and friendship.

Your hosts definitely enjoyed this book and even described it as a fun story to read. When we rated the book, we ended up with a 4.5, a 4.0, and a 4.5 (out of 5), giving us an overall Boom Scale rating of 4.3.

Please continue reading along and join us next time when we discuss Clark’s Law, by Jim Mortimore.

BPP Novel 2: Accusations

The second novel we read in the “set” of stand-alone novels is Accusations, written by Lois Tilton. This is her only B5 novel. Accusations was 278 pages and published by Dell in April 1995. Like Voices, this story occurs in 2258, during Season 2 of the original B5 series, and is also not officially considered canon.

There were some interesting similarities and differences between this novel and the previous one. While the story here is different and occurs primarily on B5, once again we see the themes of false accusations made to cover up some other issue, the accused being guilty until proven innocent, government corruption at high levels, corporate corruption, and tensions between Earth and Mars.

In Accusations, Commander Ivanova’s old flight instructor, J.D. Ortega, sends her an urgent and very short message from Mars letting her know he’s on his way to B5 and asking for a face-to-face meeting. Susan is intrigued and arrives at the meeting location, only to discover Ortega’s murdered body. As would be expected, she reports it to Mr. Garibaldi. They quickly learn that Ortega is (surprisingly) a wanted terrorist from Mars, setting the stage for the rest of the novel. Susan can’t reconcile what she knows of her old instructor with this fresh allegation. B5 is told an officer from Earth (Commander Wallace), will arrive shortly due to high-level interest in Mr. Ortega related to his supposed terrorist activities.

Meanwhile, raider attacks on commercial shipping remain problematic, and have come to a point where it seems as if the raiders know when and where freighters will be, and when they’re just far enough from protection to be most vulnerable. Susan begins looking for, and starts to identify, commonalities between the attacks: shipments originating from Mars, and apparently always carrying strategic metals. She suspects these attacks and seizures of cargos have a criminal aspect tied back to Earth and Mars.

When Wallace and team arrive, not only do they seize the entire murder investigation (something normally left to B5 security), but they present credentials from the Joint Chiefs that lock Mr. Garibaldi out of his own security system and all evidence tied to the case. Related, although Ortega’s contact with Ivanova has only been seasonal (characterized as exchanging Christmas cards over the years), Wallace accuses her of the murder and ties her to Ortega’s alleged terrorist activities as an accomplice. Wallace has Susan received of her position as XO.

Sheridan smells a rat but goes along with things, since technically everything appears to be proper. While only Wallace and his team keep the details of the investigation away from B5 leadership, Sheridan creatively uses Susan’s enthusiasm and analytical skills to take command of a Star Furry wing and begin to meet freighters at the locations she’s determined they’re most vulnerable. She and her wingmen end up in multiple confrontations with raiders, and capture one for questioning. She quickly confirms the raiders are in fact given specific shipments and locations to attack in order to take the cargo—the strategic medal called Morbidium, used for military weapons. She also learns Ortega was aware of this and had evidence there was an insurance scam (or worse) going on, facilitated by senior members of Earth Gov and the shipping companies.

As the story wraps up, we learn that the metal wasn’t just Morbidium, but ingots of a new medal called “Super Morbidium” which could be used for the secret development of new weapons that could essentially cut through all known metals. While this advance in technology would be truly beneficial to Earth in light of the recently ended Earth-Minbari war, and useful to prepare for what we know to be the upcoming Shadow War, it was being handled in a way to allow select government and corporate officials to profit. Worse yet, this profit was coming at the expense of lives. Ortega and Ivanova were simply the most recent two being set up to pay the price for knowing too much—with Orgega murdered to ensure he didn’t talk, and Ivanova silenced with the risk of even worse consequences for having connected the dots between the loss of select cargos and her old instructor Ortega. Even so, our heroes do what they do best, and maneuver the situation to ensure Wallace is exposed for what he’s doing. Ortega’s honor is restored posthumously, Ivanova’s honor is restored and she resumes her duties as XO.

We all enjoyed the “feel” of the story, and agreed the characters were written in a manner that they were consistent with the characters from the show. As we observed, we could “hear” their voices as we read the novel. The only real exception was Sheridan, whom we all agreed was written okay, but somehow just a little “off”. We also noted that there was one awkward moment with Susan that seemed out of character, involving a red dress. (If you read the novel, you’ll see what we’re talking about.) The only big beef we had with the author was her apparent lack of research into and understanding of military rank and authority. Even so, overall we liked the novel.

At the end we cover our favorite plot points and quotes. When you listen, we’d love to know if any of our favorites matched yours. We’d also love to hear your overall thoughts about the novel, so be sure to let us know on social media or by email.

Overall, your hosts rated Accusations with a 3.5, a 2.5 and a 4.0 (out of 5 booms), for an overall Boom Scale rating of 3.33.

Next, we’re on to the novel Blood Oath, the second of two novels by John Vornholt. Read up and join us for the conversation!

You can find us at http://www.BabylonProjectPodcast.wordpress.com, on Facebook at The Babylon Project Podcast or on iTunes.  You can email us at TheBabylonProjectPodcast@gmail.com.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Just remember… When there’s no boom today, there’s boom tomorrow.  There’s always boom tomorrow!

BPP Novel 1: Voices by John Vornholt

bpp-book1 copy

As we dive into the first of the novels associated with the Babylon 5 universe, we read and discussed Voices. Written by John Vornholt (his first of two B5 novels), published by Dell in 1995, this story takes place sometime between the Season 2 episodes “Points of Departure” (Episode 1) and “A Race Through Dark Places” (Episode 8). This is the first of nine “stand-alone” novels, in addition to three trilogies we will read and review.

Since we’re turning the page and moving to written works rather than audio-visual, we opened the show with a quick discussion and agreement on the relevance we’d give to novels that are either considered canon or not. We agreed that while it’s interesting to note which are considered canon, our approach is driven primarily by whether or not we enjoy each novel. As we move through these books, you’ll see that it won’t matter much. For those who want to know: we noted that while JMS had a hand in all the novels, several are accepted as canon, while others aren’t. The only two from the stand-alone books accepted as canon are #7 and #9. If you stick with us though, the issue won’t be a distraction.

With Captain Sheridan recently assuming command of Babylon 5, the Psi Corps runs into issues trying to hold a convention on Mars due to terrorist bombings and threats. The fall-back plan is to ask Babylon 5 to host the event, on neutral turf, and arguably in an environment more easily secured from threats. Reluctantly, Captain Sheridan agrees, the event is scheduled, and as everyone gathers, a bomb goes off, killing a number of the attendees and almost killing Mr. Bester. The resident station telepath, Talia Winters, appears to be at fault, and flees to protect herself from what we can only hope is a frame job. In addition to being accused of the bombing, she’s now a fugitive telepath: a charge alone that breaks Psi Corps rules and presumes her guilty. While on the run, events unfold on both sides as Psi Corps (Bester) attempts to capture and kill her; and Mr. Garibaldi, working with the aid of folks on Earth and Mars to bring Talia secretly under their protection while they build the case to prove her innocence.

In the end, we learn she is innocent. We also see Bester and the Corps realize this is the case, but are too proud to admit they were wrong in declaring her responsible for the bombing. Things resolve well in the end, but not without an appropriate amount of suspense and drama.

We discussed a number of themes present in the novel, many of which span the original television show, including: terrorism; politics and the influence of corporate (specifically a commercial telepath company called “The Mix”) attempts to control politics; being a fugitive / running from the law; telepaths in general; and the emerging role and power of Psi Corps, and even a little bit of the tensions between Earth and Mars.</p>

Overall, your hosts rated Voices with a 1.25, a 3 and a 3.5 (out of 5), for an overall Boom Scale rating of 2.6.

Next, we’re on to the novel Accusations, by Lois Tilton. Read up and join us for the conversation!

You can find us at http://www.BabylonProjectPodcast.wordpress.com, on Facebook at The Babylon Project Podcast or on iTunes.  You can email us at TheBabylonProjectPodcast@gmail.com.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Just remember… When there’s no boom today, there’s boom tomorrow.&nbsp; There’s always boom tomorrow!