BPP: Babylon 5 Short Stories Part 2

In this final episode of the Babylon Project Podcast, we discussed the second three of six short stories from the Babylon 5 universe:  “Hidden Agendas”; “True Seeker”; and “The Nautilus Coil”.  As with the previous episode, this one was particularly special because we were joined by our Producer, Troy Rutter to help us wrap things up.

First, we discussed “Hidden Agendas”.  Written by J. Michael Straczynski, it was published in the official Babylon 5 Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 22 (in May 2000).  The story takes place on 21-22 January 2262, very shortly after Captain Lockley assumes command of B5 and just a few days after Byron arrives on the station.  As a reminder, during Episode 4 (“Rising Star”) in Season 5, Susan Ivanova’s absence from the series was explained by stating she was given command of one of the first Warlock class destroyers.  This story builds on that.

Susan Ivanova, in command of EAS Titans, arrives at Babylon 5 with this new Warlock class destroyer to meet with President Sheridan.  She’s there to quietly ask for help to determine if there might be dormant Shadow technology integrated into her ship.  After more traditional searches turn up nothing, Sheridan (with a part of Kosh inside of him) is able to board and take Ulkesh’s ship and use it to determine there is in fact Shadow technology onboard, at which point he permanently deactivates the technology.  This secretly leaves the fleet with at least one new Warlock class destroyer that isn’t able to be influenced by the Shadows.

Your hosts all agreed the story was worth a thumbs-up from each.

Next, we reviewed “True Seeker”, written by Fiona Avery.  

Occurring in 2269, this story happens just two years after the series Crusade ends.  It was published in B5 Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 23 (in July 2000), two months after Hidden Agendas.  Alisa Beldon, the main character in this story, was also a character in the original B5 series, Season 1, Episode 17 (Legacies).  She was a P10 telepath that Talia Winters tired to recruit into the Psi Corps while Susan Ivanova was working to prevent it.  Delenn steps in and offers her the opportunity to go to Minbar and train to become a True Seeker.

Alisa finds Jerrica Thomas, a Narn girl living on Earth after being evacuated from her home during the Narn-Centauri War.  Alisa vows to help Jerrica find her true heritage and takes her to Na’Toth to keep safe while she seeks Jerrica’s birth records.  She discovers Jerrica was actually named G’Ryka and is the daughter of G’Kar!  While there, G’Kar returns to Narn after an extended absence to resolve a dispute about who should fill his long-vacant seat in the First Circle of the Kia’Ri.  With Jerrica (G’Ryka) present, G’Kar endorses and insists that his daughter take his seat, then departs to continue his journey.

Your hosts were split on this story.  Jim and JP gave it a thumbs-up, while Raul and Troy gave it a thumbs-down.

“The Nautilus Coil” was the third and final story we reviewed.  Written by Gregory Keyes, the events in this story occurred in 2265, in between the end of the original B5 series and the start of Crusade.  This was the same year the movie “Legend of the Rangers” took place in.  This story also appeared in the B5 Magazine, in Volume 2, Issue 24 (in August 2000).

Lyta Alexander calls Michael Garibaldi to her base on Ganymede to share a secret she’s found.  As you’ll recall, these two characters aren’t exactly friends.  They don’t trust each other but maintain what could be described as a cool-but-correct relationship over the years.  Michael wants Lyta to remove the block Mr. Bester put on him so many years ago, preventing him from taking revenge on Bester.  In exchange for his help, she agrees to remove the block.

The secret Lyta reveals to Michael is a secret archive under the ice that reveals the location of a planet in Vorlon space where the telepaths were created/invented.  Their goal:  find that secret before the Psi Cops do.  They fly to the planet and find a lake with its beaches covered in the scattered of humans and other species.  They meet a very old Keven Vacit (from the Psi Corps Trilogy) who came to the planet and was preserved by the Vorlons over many years.  He explains how the telepaths were created, and explains that the skeletons are the remains of those who the Vorlons attempted to make telepaths, but didn’t work.  They were killed so as not to allow them to fall into the Shadow’s hands.  He also reveals that he knew the Shadows were coming and was there to attempt to enhance his own abilities to ensure Psi Corps was ready to aid in the fight.  In the end, Vacit explains Psi Corps is still growing and expanding, much like the growing and expanding coils of the Nautilus.  The story ends when he flies Lyta and Michael to Mars.

Your hosts gave this story four thumbs-up, ending our readings of the B5 short stories on a positive note.

As we wrap the Babylon Project Podcast up, we’d like to share an interesting stat with you.  It all began when Jim and Raul hijacked an episode of the SciFi Diner Podcast many years ago to talk about B5.  From there the Babylon Project Podcast was born.  We set out in an attempt to cover every episode of the original five-season series, the follow-on series Crusade, five B5 movies, nine stand-alone novels, the nine novels that made up three trilogies, six short stories covered in two special episodes, giving us 148 episodes of heartfelt conversations about a series we truly love.  Whether you joined us for one, all 148, or some number in between, we’re thankful we may have been able to add some interesting and useful commentary to your own B5 experience.

Make sure you listen to the very end for some funny moments over the last 8 years.

Keep an ear open!  Even though the Babylon Project Podcast is complete, we’re beginning a new endeavor, covering a piece of the Sci-Fi world that to our knowledge has never been covered before!  We genuinely hope you’ll join us.

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.

BPP: Babylon 5 Short Stories Part 1

In this penultimate episode of the Babylon Project Podcast, we discussed three of six short stories from the Babylon 5 universe:  “The Shadow of His Thoughts”; “Genius Loci”; and “Space, Time, and the Incurable Romantic.”  All three were written by J. Michael Straczynski.  The episode was particularly special because we were joined by our Producer, Troy Rutter!

The Shadow of His Thoughts” was published in Amazing Stories Magazine, #597.  The events in August 2262, six days after Londo’s coronation as Emperor, placing the story during Season 5 of the original series.  London suffers from a recurring nightmare in which he’s forced to kill a helpless animal called a Chakat, and the story picks up after he awakens on the seventh day.  One of Londo’s first duties is to install a new Prophetess.  He departs the palace in a highly-ornamented carriage and meets with the young girl who is the Prophetess to be.  During Londo’s conversation with her, he learns she’s a true seer, when she tells Londo of what will be his final (in every meaning of the word) encounter with G’Kar.  This alarms Londo’s Keeper, seeing a risk to its future plans, and it orders Londo to kill the girl.  Londo disobeys and instead pulls enough jewels from the carriage to give to the young girl to carry her and her family for the rest of their lives.  He grants her freedom and to protect her, banishes her.  He installs the girl’s governess (power-hungry, not an actual prophetess and therefore no threat to the Keeper’s mission) as Prophetess, saving the young girl’s life and the satisfying the Keeper.  Later, Londo finds a note from the young girl thanking him for her freedom.  When Londo has his dream again, he frees the Chakat rather than killing it.  He never has the dream again.

All four of us gave this story a “thumbs-up”.

Next we dove into “Genius Loci”, published in Amazing Stories #599.  Events in this story take place approximately six weeks after G’Kar and Lyta Alexander depart Babylon 5 on G’Kar’s self-imposed exile.

While making a transit through hyperspace, they encounter a Psi Corps ship adrift, with only one life form on board—a dying Psi Cop.  He tells them the rest of the crew was left on a planet that scared him badly.  Lyta accesses the ship’s systems and determines the location of the planet.

Once on the planet, they separate and each of them discovers a colony.  Interestingly (or perhaps oddly) G’Kar finds a colony of Barn while Lyta finds a colony of telepaths.  G’Kar and Lyta both quickly learn things aren’t what they appear to be.  In particular, the telepaths all have the same mental patterns, suggesting they’re all one person.  Shortly thereafter, they discover the planet is actually a hive-minded telesymbiotic biomass, and has been showing both our travelers what it believed they wanted to see, probably in an attempt to keep them there.  Lyta uses her Vorlon-enhanced abilities to destroy the malevolent being, and they go on their way.

We had a split vote on this story.  Jim, Troy and JP were neutral, and Raul gave it a thumbs-up.

The final story of the episode was “Space, Time, and the Incurable Romantic”, also published in Amazing Stories #602.  

The final story for this episode was published in Amazing Stories #602 and occurs, approximately 300 years after Marcus Cole’s death (which we saw in Season 4 of the original series.

Marcus has been in cryo-sleep since his death, put there by Susan Ivanova in her meager hope that someday his life could be restored after he gave it to save her.  When he learns what happened, he decides he must resurrect Susan, no matter the cost.  Finding an archive that captured a volume of Susan’s memories on data crystals, he obtains them and brings them to a “doctor” who is willing to create a clone of Susan and restore the memories.  To pass the time between the creation of the clone and its growth to the age at which Susan died, he puts himself back to sleep for 32 years.

He awakens, takes possession of the clone and brings her to an idyllic place where they can finally “live” in peace together.

The four of us reacted badly to this story, giving four thumbs-down, feeling it tarnished (if not ruined) the character of Marcus as we knew him.

Please join us next time for what will be the final episode of the Babylon Project Podcast,when we discuss three more short stories from the B5 universe.  As always, we hope you can read along with us, and join in on 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.

BPP The Passing of the Techno-mages #3: Invoking Darkness

Invoking Darkness was written by Jeanne Cavelos.  The story takes place starting in August 2260 through 2261, covering just five months.  As we discuss the third and final novel in the trilogy, it’s worth noting that the overarching story is tragic, alluded to by the collective title “Passing of the Technomages”.  It’s noteworthy as well that the second novel’s title was somewhat optimistic (Summoning Light), but the story concludes with Invoking Darkness, an apparent downward turn.  A good bit of this book makes direct ties into the story captured in episodes of the original Babylon 5 series.  If you’ve seen the show, you’ll recognize them; if you haven’t, then when you watch the show, we trust you’ll be excited to see the hooks that were put in place then, for the events that JMS envisioned Jeanne Cavelos would capture in this set of books.

War is underway and the Shadows appear poised to win.  Tied to the television show, John Sheridan appears convinced by a Shadow controlled version of his former wife (Anna) to travel to Z’ha’dum as the Shadows try to win him over to their side.  This would eliminate the problem that he is to them…the “nexus”…as he is also the vessel containing what remains of the Vorlon Kosh.  At the same time, Galen is assigned to depart the Technomage’s place of hiding, locate and kill three rogue members of the Technomage order.  It is during and through this assignment, he ends up on Z’ha’dum while John Sheridan is there, and uses his powers in an attempt to tip the balance of the war.  While chartered to kill the rogue members of the order, engaging in direct conflict with the Shadows, and especially on their homeworld, runs directly in conflict with the decision the Circle made to go into hiding.  Without permission, Galen risks it all…for everyone.  Storylines interweave quite a bit and we see just how events unfold to ultimately bring about the passing of the Technomages.  Don’t make assumptions about what that ending for the Order looks like.  The novel is definitely worth reading to see just what that looks like!

Our ratings were a 4.5, 4.5 and 4 (out of 5), giving us an overall Boom Scale rating of 4.33!

While Invoking Darkness was the final novel in the B5 universe, we do have two more episodes of content for you.  There were also six short stories, most of them penned by JMS himself.  We intend to cover them in the order they were published, beginning with the first three in the next episode:  “Shadow of His Thought; “Genius Loci”; and “Space, Time, and the Incurable Romantic”.

Please join us next time for what will be the penultimate episode of the Babylon Project Podcast.  As always, we hope you can read along with us, and join in on 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.

BPP The Passing of the Techno-mages #2: Summoning Light

Picking up right where Casting Shadows left off, Summoning Light chronicles Galen’s assignment immediately after becoming a Technomage, focusing on the order’s assessments and preparations for the coming Shadow War.  Driving the storyline here:  the Technomages know their order is a risk of extermination and wrestle with whether to stand and fight (and just how to do that), or to go into hiding and save the order for another day, hopefully in a post-Shadow War universe where they’d be able to operate and remain true to the purpose of their order.  The information that drives the ultimate decision, and the most exciting wrinkle revealed in the book:  the technology the Technomages rely upon is of Shadow origins!  This creates a number of problems.  Morally/ethically, the order seems to stand against everything the Shadows stand for.  Practically, can the Shadows essentially hijack the Mages’ tech and use them for evil.  Related, and finally, with this fact now in the open, can the Mages truly ally with the rest of the universe, operate freely, and even potentially count on working with the Vorlons (the bitter enemies of the Shadows)?  

The biggest problem this knowledge creates is a schism among members of the order itself.  Many, especially Galen, are more than offended by the members of the Circle, who have known of the origins of their tech and kept it secret.  All this while leading an order that explicitly doesn’t keep secrets from itself.  Confidence and trust in what is viewed as betrayal leads to uncertainty and some amount of chaos.  When the Circle decides the order to go into hiding, some disagree and would rather fight the Shadows, consistent with the Order’s purpose.  The Technomages can’t trust their leadership, and to add fuel to the fire, members are actively being engaged and manipulated by the Shadows.  If they won’t come to heel, they will destroy them.  Through the several months covered by the story, we see Galen maturing as a man and as a Technomage, growing in his understanding and use of the unique power he has (and boy is he powerful!), and he begins to realize his unique place and role in the upcoming war.
One of the major storylines in this book is just how the Technomages orchestrate their movement into hiding.  Parts of how this was done were captured in the original Babylon 5 series, Season 2, Episode 3 (Geometry of Shadows).  Jeanne Cavelos does a great job of expanding on the little bit we saw, and explaining the Babylon 5 station’s role in the deceit the Mages created to allow themselves to hide the members of the Order.

Summoning Light was written by Jeanne Cavelos.  The story takes place immediately following the last book, beginning in January 2259 and covering only a few months.  It definitely bridges the gap between the first and third novels in the series, and serves very well to set up the events in the final book, and the final chapter in the story is this aptly-named trilogy “The Passing of the Technomages”.

Our ratings were a 4.5, 5 and 4 (out of 5), giving us an overall Boom Scale rating of 4.5!

Join us next time for the third and final book in the trilogy:  Invoking Darkness.  As always, we hope you can read along with us, and join in on 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.

BPP The Passing of the Techno-mages #1: Casting Shadows

With Casting Shadows, we see a solid start to the third and final trilogy of books written in the Babylon 5 universe.  As with the other trilogies, this set of books is considered canon and was based on an outline provided by JMS.  As you’ll recall, the Psi Corps trilogy was really Bester’s story; the Technomage Trilogy is Galen’s.  Those familiar with the B5 universe will remember Galen as a quirky Technomage that always seemed to appear when he wasn’t necessarily wanted, and never seemed to show up when people felt he was needed.  Now we learn Galen’s story.

In Casting Shadows, we meet a very young Galen on planet Soom, young, idealistic and immature, and a Technomage in training.  We learn of the disciplined life of those selected to train and become Technomages, the significant duration of that training, and a little bit about how their powers work.  Clearly tied to some amazing technology (of mysterious origin), the young apprentices learn to use the tech through a surrogate of the real thing, and “cast spells”.  The spells they invoke are actually only spells in appearance. In reality, they use the technology they’re tied to, to manipulate what’s around them— and so the “mage” part of the order’s name.

Galen graduates and becomes a full Technomage, but not without issues.  He demonstrates abilities that cause some concern among the members of The Circle—the governing body of the order.  Throughout Galen’s training, and especially during his testing, he demonstrates a level of power beyond what is normal for those of the order, significant enough that many are concerned Galen can’t control the power he’s able to generate.

Galen also has a young love, Isabelle.  She’s a bit more level-headed than he is, powerful on par with Galen, and an ideal complement to him.  Galen loses her when she loses her life, she charges him with a perspective on life that isn’t natural to him, and this perspective sticks with him forever.  This also appears in the TV series Crusade as he wrestles with his lost love.  His emotions, his moodiness, his idealism, tied to what could be an uncontrollable power mentioned above result in the Circle keeping Galen on a tight leash.

Running alongside all this, the Shadows are preparing for war, specifically to gain control of the younger races.  The Vorlons are watching as well, and it’s not clear what their intentions are regarding helping to prevent the Shadows from dominating the known universe.  Will they take a direct role, or not?  It appears not, causing concern among the Technomages, who are working through their own limitations and issues as potentially the only force that can stand between the Shadows and life as we know it.

Casting Shadows was written by Jeanne Cavelos.  The story takes place in the year 2258 and apparently into January of 2259, where the second book will pick up.  It covers a year or less of time.  As with the other trilogies:  this book set the stage well, for what’s to follow.

Our ratings were a 4, 4.5 and 4 (out of 5), giving us an overall Boom Scale rating of 4.16!

Join us next time for the second book in the trilogy:  Summoning Light.  As always, we hope you can read along with us, and join in on 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.

BPP Legions of Fire #3: Out of the Darkness

The third book of the Legions of Fire trilogy was phenomenal. We don’t know how the conclusion of the story, written in Out of the Darkness, could have been any better. As with the second novel, this one carried the reader into a new set of scenes, and a new set of perspectives as smoothly as a scene change in a great film. It was masterful.

Out of the Darkness was written by Peter David and based on a script written by JMS. Based on dates given in the novel, the story opens in 2275 (within a couple years before the end of the second novel), and carries us into 2278—just a year or so after the second novel ends, and in the last year captured in the movie “In the Beginning”.

The first novel was primarily Londo’s story; the second novel was primarily Vir’s story; and we decided the story in this novel was told in a way to be the interwoven and concluding stories of Londo; Vir; and John and Delenn. Peter David was masterful in how he wove these stories together in this book, focused on the primary characters, but also keeping the necessary cloud of other main/supporting characters in play. He showed equal mastery in how he very tightly wove all three novels in this trilogy together, as well as seamlessly place the events in the trilogy within the canonical narrative of the greater B5 universe.

With Londo’s story, we see the end that we knew was coming. He dies in office, in defiance of the Drakh and their Keeper that lives on (and in) him. He dies at the hands of G’Kar. In this exchange, G’Kar dies as well, at the hands of Londo (and his Keeper). What we didn’t know until now was how these two characters end up killing each other. This was incredible story-telling in that these two have been what amounts to lifelong enemies, colleagues and friends. The telling of the end of the story for Londo and G’Kar is emotional and frankly, respectful.

Regarding Vir’s story, we see all the work come to fruition that he’s done with the resistance, called “The Legions of Fire”, and with his allies the Technomages. He and his forces are postured to expose the secret presence of the Drakh, their full and enslaving control over Emperor Mollari and the Centauri government, and to also heal the wounds between the Republic and the Interstellar Alliance. Vir has truly grown into a powerful and mature political leader and warrior, and in spite of a few significant gaffs, an honorable man. This postures him to lead in the future, and put him on the best possible footing to gain the respect and trust needed to restore the Centauri Republic’s relationship with the IA.

Finally, we see John and Delenn—the two most powerful people in the IA. While this is true throughout the books we’ve read, we really see them here as parents. Their son David is a young man now and we get a good picture of the kind of young man he is. Smart? Sure—just look at his parents. Angsty? Definitely—he’s at that age that teen angst is a real thing. His moodiness and “know it all” attitude is probably exacerbated by just how smart he truly is, and all that he’s seen as the son of John and Delenn. Overall though, we see a sophomoric teenage boy who is striving to leave childhood behind and become a man. But this birthday is significant for a more sinister reason, foreshadowed earlier in the storyline. Emperor Mollari, under the control of his Drakh handler, hides Keeper in an Imperial Urn. During an awkward visit with John and Delenn years prior, he presents the urn to them as a gift to be given to David upon his 16th birthday. That day has come. While David is alone in his room, the Keeper emerges, attaches itself to him, and takes control. The Keeper then has David steal a shuttle and fly to Centauri Prime as an unwitting hostage for Durla to use to control and hopefully kill President Sheridan, as a critical part of the Centauri and Drakh attack the IA and Earth.

The novel concludes when the Legions of Fire brings Durla’s “Tower of Power” (secretly the headquarters and a primary operating base for the Drakh on Centauri Prime) down explosively, literally resulting in a rain of Drakh body parts falling on the streets and people of the capital city. In concert with this, Vir makes it clear to the people of Centauri Prime that the Drakh have been using their government as an instrument to prepare for and now to wage war against the IA. Londo is dead. In an attempt to grab power, Durla is killed as well, and the Drakh are exposed. Vir, already in touch with the IA, and having informed John and Delenn their son is safe, is left to pave the way for a new and friendly relationship with the IA. He does so now, not as an ambassador, but as the new Emperor of the Centauri Republic.

We can’t really do justice to this novel, or really this incredible story told across this trilogy. This set of books is truly the culmination of the entire Babylon 5 story. We can’t think of anyone who could have told that story better for JMS than Peter David.

Our ratings were once again a 5, 5 and 5 (out of 5), giving us an overall Boom Scale rating of 5!

But wait, there’s more! With one final trilogy left, we look forward to coloring in some of the details and mystery of the Technomages. This trilogy is called “The Passing of the Technomages” and next time we’ll discuss the first book, called Casting Shadows. This trilogy is written by Jeanne Cavelos, who is a familiar name to us, having contributed to the B5 universe before. As always, we hope you can read along with us, and join in on 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.

BPP Legions of Fire #2: Armies of Light and Dark

We rolled right into the second book of the Legions of Fire trilogy: Armies of Light and Dark, and we weren’t disappointed! This book flows seamlessly from the first, with the story shifting from focusing on Londo to putting Vir center stage.

Armies of Light and Dark was written by Peter David and based on a script written by JMS. The story opens in 2267 and carries us into 2277. These dates come directly from references early, and also late in the book.

Vir, the Centauri Ambassador to Babylon 5, takes center stage as we see his life balancing between being marginalized on the Station by everyone else there (due to the Centauri Republic’s failed moral standing and subsequent war with the Alliance); and a status back on Centauri Prime that almost feels like he’s been deemed Persona Non Grata by his own people. When home, he goes almost unnoticed. When he’s noticed by most in power (except for Londo) the attitude toward him seems to be annoyance. Consistent with what we already know about the Drakh control of the Republic, we clearly see Vir’s been cast aside to serve on Babylon 5 to keep him out of the way, while the truly powerful (under Drakh control) rebuild the Republic’s cities openly, and the military (secretly), to wage war once again.

We watch Vir grow up…maturing personally and professionally. He’s changing from the naive aide to the previous ambassador, into a mature and very politically savvy politician and strategist. This matters because of what he learns, and as a result, the action he takes to save his own people and home world—all facilitated by his perceived insignificance in the eyes of everyone else. It becomes obvious to Vir that while Londo is the Emperor, Minister Durla is exercising a signifiant and growing amount of power as the defacto ruler of the emerging police state. Before the book concludes, Durla maneuvers himself into the position of Prime Minister (facilitated by the Drakh), and is publicly the second most powerful member of the government, with only to Emperor Mollari to answer to. With Londo under direct Drakh control, Durla is effectively running the government, building a powerful military in secret, and using some forces openly to invade and take control of smaller words who are outside of the Centauri’s real vital interests. This is all done under the guise of putting down threats to the Republic, and on a more peaceful (sounding) note, to create jobs and gain the resources required to help rebuild what the Interstellar Alliance destroyed in the war. While these actions are offensive and almost imperial in nature, because of the relative insignificance of the worlds falling to the diminished Centauri Republic, the IA looks the other way. In reality, these are intended as bases from which to draw resources in order to establish the military the Republic needs to confront the IA.

Vir quietly and expertly establishes credible intelligence networks among the Centauri people, specifically those who have grown aware something sinister is going on. He also continues to work with the Technomages, granting him information and some capabilities that only they can bring. While things play out with Londo and Durla, Vir has become the primary influencer, if not the leader, of an increasingly powerful resistance movement on Centauri Prime. Allied with the Technomages, Vir is putting the pieces in place for this maturing resistance movement to eventually take back the Republic from the Drakh. With the help of the Technomages, he also finds the secret Planet Killer facility. Time is running out for Vir, the Technomages, and the resistance on Centauri Prime to set the necessary conditions to take action and end the war that’s about to be unleashed by the Drakh against Earth and the IA.

An incredible book, full of action, and driving us toward what can only be an incredible ending. We were all eager to jump right into the next book. Our ratings were a 5, 5 and 5 (out of 5), giving us an overall Boom Scale rating of 5!

Next time we’ll discuss the third and final book in the series, optimistically called Out of the Darkness. As always, we hope you can read along with us, and join in on 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… If there’s no boom today, there’s boom tomorrow. There’s always boom tomorrow!

BPP Legions of Fire #1: The Long Night of Centauri Prime

If you were with us when we reviewed the stand-alone novels, you’ll remember each novel seemed to be a roll of the dice. Would it be good, bad, a mixed bag? We never really knew until we dove in. Well, we finished the Psi Corps trilogy (which was powerful!) and now we’ve moved to the Legions of Fire (aka the Centauri) trilogy, but with no concerns. We finished the first book in the trilogy, The Long Night of Centauri Prime, and have no doubt this set of books will be as powerful as the first trilogy we read.

The Long Night of Centauri Prime, as with all three of the Legions of Fire novels, were written by Peter David, and are all based on a script written by JMS. The story opens in 2262 with events that were depicted in the television episode “The Fall fo Centauri Prime” (S5:E18). The end of the book takes place shortly before the events in the fourth Babylon 5 television movie, A Call to Arms, set in 2266. Readers should keep in mind there are also events at the end of the book that occur in 2267, creating what appears to be a bit of a continuity issue. That said, the story in the novel doesn’t harm to the original series or other canonical works. So dive in and enjoy the story.

While a lot happens, involving a significant number of characters, this is primarily Londo’s story, perhaps best summed up as the continuing tragedy of (now) Emperor Londo Mollari.

Londo is on the throne, but not alone: he is shadowed by a Drakh handler named Shiv’kala, and subject to a “Keeper”, a living being created by the Drakh. This Keeper lives parasitically on Londo, attached to his body and fully entangled with his nervous system. Long is never alone, even mentally, other than when he gets intoxicated enough to put the Keeper to sleep. As you’ll recall, at this time the Centauri Republic was at odds with the IA, and the two ultimately went to war, which the Centauri lost. Londo is ruling over a devistated planet as a result of the war.

Under the thumb of the Drakh, Londo has little latitude to resist and for the most part can only watch his beloved world being turned into a police state. The Drakh also have another willing and power-hungry Centauri named Durla, whom they place in a subordinate, but powerful Ministerial position within Londo’s government. He begins to manipulate those around him in order to create and gain power at a level that Londo doesn’t fully realize at this point.

Centauri Prime is rebuilding, but sadly this is occurring under the secret direction of the Drakh, the local puppets of the Shadows. However, their goal isn’t to simply restore Centauri Prime to its previous level of affluence. Rather, their intent is to use the rebuilt Centauri as a militarily powerful race, to attack the IA. Their specific goal is to destroy Earth and kill President Sheridan for his role in defeating the Shadows and pushing them out of known space. While the attack on the IA will be conventional, they don’t intend to use the Centauri military to destroy Earth. Instead, we learn the Drakh are secretly creating a massive weapon that can only be described as a “Planet Killer”. Late in the book, thanks to the help of a small group of Technomages, Vir learns of the Drakh scheme and their direct control over Londo, to include the name of his Drakh handler. It almost costs him his life.

We loved the book. As we hoped, it set the stage for what can only be an amazing second book in what is unfolding to be an even better series than the Psi Corps trilogy. Our ratings were a 4.9, 4.5 and 5 (out of 5), giving us an overall Boom Scale rating of 4.8.

Next time we get together, we’ll discuss the second book in the Legions of Fire trilogy: Armies of Light and Dark. We hope you read along with us, listen to our discussion, and comment on the podcast to join in on the discussion.

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.

BPP Psi Corps #3 – Final Reckoning: The Fate of Bester

Here we are, ready to discuss the third novel in the Psi Corps trilogy.  As with the other two, Final Reckoning:  The Fate of Bester was based on a script written by JMS, and are considered canon, and written by J. Gregory Keyes.  As the story ends, we pick up with Mr. Bester approximately in the year 2250, and follow him until approximately 2281, around the time John Sheridan dies and the Babylon 5 station is decommissioned.  The novel takes place on Earth, and primarily in the city of Paris.

As things kick off, we’ve moved forward in time and the Psi Corps as we knew it has ended.  Bester had served as its commander, and was unsurprisingly ruthless in his pursuit of rogues, not to mention using the power of the Corps against “normals”.  To be blunt, the book makes some correlations to his abusive authority on par with many of history’s most horrible rulers.  Within the Corps, Bester’s hand was so heavy it bolstered a new (or renewed) resistance and a telepath civil war erupted—often referred to as the Telepath War.  With the help of the Interstellar Alliance (and specifically President John Sheridan), the bloodshed ends, trials are held, and some were even declared war criminals, including Bester.  A new Corps is formed, this time to hunt these criminals down and bring them to justice.  Through the telling of the story in this novel, we see an overall shift has occurred, changing the longstanding friction between “teeps” and “normals (or Mundanes)” to something resembling a genuine balance of power between the two.

In this environment, Bester expertly fades into the background, hiding from the new Corps, and hoping to simply live his life out.  He takes up residence in a small hotel in Paris under a false identity.  The rest of the novel is really the story of Bester wrestling with himself, trying to resolve his views on life, his people (the telepaths), normals, etc.  This is fueled primarily through a surprise relationship he finds himself in with the owner of the hotel.  She was a normal and essentially trying to recover and live out her own life after a series of unrelated traumas when their paths cross.  Neither was looking for the depth of friendship they found, and as the story unfolds, the genuine love that forms between them.  All the while, he’s still on the run, doing his best to maintain the lie that is his cover, but dropping what were the best practices to ensure he remained the least vulnerable to being discovered.  Bester has to face the actual life he’s living, and some ghosts from his past.  He wrestles with things about himself that were new to him, in some cases renewed for him, or intentionally buried, and perhaps even a few things that were true surprises to him.  It’s safe to say that as we watch the fate of Al Bester unfold, one of the things this novel does is expose the realization that teeps are human, and not some sort of superior race that Bester believed they were.  The novel was this, but also so much more, and well worth the time to read.  In the end, we were in agreement that while we continued to hate all that Bester was, and all that he did, with the humanity of Bester revealed, this book was the end of an incredible tragedy.  The tragedy of Alfred Bester is on par with the tragedy of Londo Molari that we were shown through the original series.  It appropriately ends with Alfred Bester’s death, around the same time as the emotional death of one of the Babylon 5 universe’s heroes:  John Sheridan.  

This final novel in the trilogy covers the shortest amount of time of the three:  just over 30 years.  It felt shorter, and while it was a “quieter” story, it didn’t lack in the ability to hold our attention.  It was a wonderful and powerful end to the story of the Psi Corps and Mr. Alfred Bester.  Our ratings were a 5, 4.5 and 5 (out of 5), giving us an overall Boom Scale rating of 4.83.

Next time we’ll discuss the first in the next set of books, often called the Centauri Trilogy, but officially known as “Legions of Fire” trilogy.  The first novel in the set is called “The Long Night of Centauri Prime”.  If you have a copy, dust it off.  If you don’t have a copy, hunt one down .  Read with us and join us for the discussion.

BPP Psi Corps #2 – Deadly Relations: Bester Ascendant

With the second book in the “Psi Corps Trilogy” under our belts, we’re back to discuss the continuing story as captured in Deadly Relations:  Bester Ascendant.  As mentioned previously, this set of books was based on a script written by JMS, and are considered canon, and all three were written by J. Gregory Keyes.  The second novel in the set begins in about 2190 when Al Bester was just six years old, and tells us his story right up until his first visit to Babylon 5, covering another 60 years of time.  This novel really is Bester’s story.

The story is told in four parts (five if you count the epilogue), interestingly titled Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis, and Ascendance.  As the story unfolds, we see how Alfred Bester became the Bester we all know and hate—or perhaps love to hate.  As an orphan, entrusted to the Psi Corps, Bester is one of the very first true children of the Corps, giving particular weight to the statement we’re all familiar with, “The Corps is Mother, the Corps is Father”.  His training is difficult, and as a social misfit, life as a student and child of the Corps isn’t necessarily suited to his personality.  Even so, he’s inspired by a particular teacher/mentor, finds his way, and in fact becomes truly invested in and zealously embraces the Corps.  As a young man he has enough confidence in himself that he attempts to capture a wanted “Blip” (a rogue telepath).  This doesn’t go well at all, his motives and loyalty are questioned, and as the dust settles, his punishment is severe.  After his punishment ends, his mentor, who sees a lot of promise in Bester, brings him on another hunt.  The danger of these hunts convinces Bester even more that the Corps is right and best for all teeps, and his loyalty is cemented into place.

Also during this time, Bester falls in love, and is completely devoted to the young woman until she decides to go rogue.  In a heartbreaking moment, he chooses the Corps over his love for her, turns her in, and she’s arrested.

As the story continues, Bester is finally sent out to apprehend a Blip named Stone.  During this pursuit, he and his partner get information on another (more dangerous) Blip named Walters, the leader of a rogue movement.  Things go with difficulty and Bester ends up in the hospital, where he makes himself useful scanning dying people for information for the Corps.  This experience also takes a toll on him.  Once recovered, he is paired by the Corps with a wife, giving us some insight into the Corps’ breeding program.  He doesn’t love her, but he stays with her because of his loyalty to the Corps.  Bester also works an assignment to Mars.

On Mars he meets Lyta, who assists him with a murder case.  He’s also sent to an asteroid for a secret meeting with Director Johnston, who it turns out harbored a severe bias against Bestor.  The meeting was arranged to allow the Director to kill Bester and remove what he perceived was a problem within the Corps.  Instead, Bester kills him in a staged accident.  Along the way we’re introduced to Byron—yes, that Byron—and at the end of the novel, Bester is sent to Babylon 5 to capture Jason Ironheart.

Like the first novel in this trilogy, the second one covers a significant span of years.  Even so, it was incredibly readable, held great continuity with the first novel and within itself, and set the stage for what can only be an incredible conclusion in the third and final novel of the set.  We’ll suggest to you that these first two books might give you a dizzying view and perspective of Bester than you’ve had before.  Our ratings were a 5, 5 and 5 (out of 5), giving us an overall Boom Scale rating of 5.  None of us could wait to get the next book started!

Next time we’ll discuss the third and final book in the Psi Corps Trilogy, called Final Reckoning:  The Fate of Bester.  We have no doubt it will be a powerful and fitting end to the story.

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.