My Read-Through of the Hugos: 1972

I’m a huge science fiction fan, and, having read a list of what are alleged to be the top 200 science fiction novels, I decided to next tackle a read-through of all the Hugo Award winners and nominees for best novel. Let me know your thoughts and favorites. Here are the nominees and the winner of the 1972 Hugo Awards. I’ve marked the winner as well as my own choice for which novel would win, had I the choice among the nominees.


This year featured one of the more diverse arrays of styles so far in the Hugo reading list. There are two science fantasy novels (Dragonflight and Jack of Shadows), two women authors and incidentally the first time more than one woman author made the list (Anne McAffrey and Ursula K. Le Guin), some radically different New Wave sci-fi (A Time of Changes and To Your Scattered Bodies Go), pseudo time travel (Scattered Bodies…), and a hauntingly thoughtful–if flawed–look at the human psyche (The Lathe of Heaven). The science fantasy books are quite different as well. Anyway, I was deeply disappointed by To Your Scattered Bodies Go. It should have been so much better, but the author didn’t change tone no matter which of the incredible caste of characters he introduced. On the flip side, A Time of Changes is the book that got me to appreciate Silverberg. I have rarely been so moved as I was by that book, and listening to the excellent audiobook is what sold me on it. It’s strange and even uncomfortable at times, but it’s great. Dragonquest looks on the surface like an easy read but has incredible depth. Lathe and Jack were each fine novels, but not as intriguing as some of their authors’ other works.

Dragonquest by Anne McCaffrey- Grade: A-
The quiet nature of these books by McCaffrey belies the epic scale of her world and the place she built in Pern. Dragonquest is a science fantasy novel of the best kind. There are dragons, hints of ancient secrets, dire threats, and human striving of the best kind. What makes the novel especially poignant is that the “villain” here is not really a person but a kind of natural threat. In a world with raging pandemics and climate change, the “natural” kind of evil in this novel is especially haunting. The dizzying heights of dragon flight and characterization help offset what would otherwise be a fairly bleak story. McCaffrey’s worldbuilding is especially dense, though in the first book, Dragonflight, it’s even more dense. I expected these books to be fairly breezy reading, but they’re in fact phenomenally deep explorations of a well thought out world that McCaffrey has created. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty to like about the characters and plot here, too, but the real star is the world she’s created. Readers who enjoy science fantasy should consider these must-reads.

To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip Jose Farmer (Winner)- Grade: C-
Farmer had all of humanity to choose from for his characters, and he chose some truly awesome figures. The problem is that he never gave any one character the time or space to develop properly and show the unique personality of each. The characters should surely speak in radically different voices, have conflicting concerns, and even see the world in quite diverse ways. But instead, each character was a fairly standard science fiction trope with a historical figure’s name slapped onto him or her. Their voices all sounded the same to me on almost every page. The book came very highly recommended from a number of sources. I’m pretty disappointed, to be honest.

The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin Grade: B-
I thought the premise–a man whose dreams become reality–was a bit tacky, but Le Guin is a master of prose and makes it work as a compelling piece about humanity. Really, that seems to be what all I’ve read from her is about, at its core: human nature. What does it mean to be human? What kind of fears would guide us if we had such a power? Who might try to harness it and why? These are intriguing questions that are just lightly touched throughout the book. The characters, unfortunately, end up largely being stand-ins for various philosophies or ways to explore different ideas. Unlike some of Le Guin’s other works, I never felt connected in any way to the characters. They read more like caricatures than characters. That said, it’s a thoughtful work that I enjoyed greatly.

Jack of Shadows by Roger Zelazny Grade: C+
After reading this book, I looked it up online and discovered it was written in one draft. I’m impressed, but also somewhat dismayed, because it seems the book could have been much improved with some thorough edits and rewrites. The concepts are there for a truly excellent novel, but it’s hampered by a kind of meandering at points that means I as a reader struggled to follow along with the events. Zelazny’s talent is on display here in glimpses, but it only presents itself in fragments. The Jack of Shadows has power in the shadows, unlike many of the magic users of his world whose power relies on the light or darkness on their side of the planet. It makes for a cool idea, but doesn’t go much beyond a few lines of dialogue and some action scenes. I don’t know what it is about the book, I guess I just wanted more from it.

A Time of Changes by Robert Silverberg- Grade: A
I admit part of my score here is likely due to the simply phenomenal reading by Tom Parker. I listened to it from my library and was simply blown away by the quality of this narration. Parker lends the novel a kind of alien/familiar feel that reflects the dichotomies found therein. Yet even if my score is slanted because of that, there’s no denying this is a pretty excellent read. Silverberg here creates a society that sees the revealing of the self as a great crime. Only among certain relationships is it permitted to even begin to reveal oneself to others. The use of words like “I” or “me” is considered horribly obscene. Inside this society, there are priests called “Drainers” who basically act as places people can confess their wrongs and “drain” their souls of them. The multifaceted nature of this is juxtaposed with Silverberg’s central drama, the autobiographical journey of the main character as he discovers the joys of self-revealing, in part due to the use of a drug from a society most people on his planet view as barbarians. Throughout the whole book there are a number of dichotomies. Alien/familiar is the most obvious, as the people of this society are humans but act so inhumanly by denying the self; civil/uncivil is another; pious/pagan another; and the list could go on. It’s a masterfully crafted, thought-provoking science fiction novel that manages to make a rather well-worn Nu Wave sci-fi trope (drug use) into something eloquent and fresh rather than tired and dated.


My Read-Through of the Hugos– Read more posts in this series and follow me on the journey! Let me know your own thoughts on the books.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!


Watching Babylon 5 for the First Time, Season 5: Episodes 9-12

The best relationship on the show… maybe.

I am very late to the Babylon 5 party. As it came out, I was a bit young for the show and the few times we tried to watch as a family, it was clear we had no idea what was going on. After several people bugged me, telling me it was the show I needed to watch, I grabbed the whole series around Christmas last year on a great sale. I’ve been watching it since, sneaking it in between the many things going on in my life. It quickly became apparent that I’d want to discuss the episodes with others, so I began this series of posts. Please don’t spoil anything from later seasons or episodes for me! 

9: In the Kingdom of the Blind

The opening reveals that there are apparently some highly trained attacks being perpetuated against the allied worlds. Then, we get to travel with Mollari and G’Kar back to the Centauri homeworld as G’Kar checks on the situation back home. It’s clear there’s a huge amount of political intrigue coming here, as we witness the murder of an advisor of Mollari fairly early in the episode. Meanwhile, the sanity of the regent is in question. Later, an assassination attempt on Mollari is foiled by both G’Kar’s work as a bodyguard and a mysterious bug-like alien. 

Back on station, Byron continues to press his case for a homeworld for telepaths. I’m honestly surprised by how vehemently Sheridan opposes the idea. But Byron plays the trump card: the telepaths have essentially gathered all the secrets from all the major players on station and plan to reveal them if their demands are not acceded to. But the situation quickly escalates as some violence erupts against the telepaths, and some telepaths fight back. Byron continues to preach non-violent resistance and meets even more opposition.

The end of this episode is full of unresolved threads, which makes me want to jump into the next episode immediately! The telepaths’ nonresistance is met with threats of violent force. The regent gets attacked by an unknown force. Freighters continue to get destroyed. 

10: A Tragedy of Telepaths

The title of this alone has me going in pretty worried about how the rest of this showdown with the telepaths is going to play out. The ominous voice over from Lochley didn’t exactly assuage my fears, either. This is especially true when she calls Bester. 

G’Kar and Mollari discover that at least some Narn have remained imprisoned. G’Kar’s reaction is so in character. He demands the release of the Narn, and threatens Mollari if he doesn’t do something. Mollari’s protests that he can’t because he’s not emperor yet may hold water for the Centauri, but G’Kar was having none of it and I wouldn’t have either. However, Mollari comes up with a plan and sneaks the Narn off of Centauri. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about the rogue telepaths and Byron’s demands. When Lochley comes and speaks with Byron, he notes that the telepaths were created to combat the Shadows and now that the war is over, they deserve compensation. It makes me think about reparations, a hot button topic if ever there was one. But to me, it doesn’t seem like the telepaths are entirely or obviously wrong here. If it’s true that they were created in order to fight the Shadows, the fact that they essentially helped win the war through (in some sense) forced circumstances suggest that there is a debt that should be paid to them. And if that reasoning follows, then it seems like real-world applications of that same reasoning could apply. 

Anyway, Bester continues to only care about telepaths, and he brings his own people on board Babylon 5 to try to settle the standoff, and it’s all kinds of ominous. 

11: Phoenix Rising

We finally get more of the backstory between Byron and Bester! And it’s a riveting, if somewhat predictable plotline. Byron committed an atrocity at Bester’s orders. Then, he left. He dedicated himself to pacifism from then on. Bester and Garibaldi also have a showdown, but it just leads to Garibaldi discovering that he has a mental block–cleverly named an “Asimov” after Asimov’s rules of robotics–against harming Bester. But just as Garibaldi seeks Dr. Franklin’s aid on the psychic block, the splinter group of telepaths takes over the sick bay, capturing Franklin, Garibaldi, and others. This splinter group of rogue telepaths threatens to execute hostages–very much against Byron’s wishes.

The situation prompts Byron to action, and he intervenes just in time to save Garibaldi’s life. But he does so only by killing one of the rogue telepaths. He then contacts Lochley with a way to end the standoff. However, when it comes to the transfer of those who caused violence, Bester jumps in and tries to take all the telepaths for himself. Byron refuses to go, leading to another shootout, and Byron decides he is done. He urges Lyta to leave, and then immolates himself and other other rogue telepaths in a chemical spill and flame. 

I honestly found myself thinking like Bester here! “I don’t understand at all” (or something to that effect). Why did Byron decide that it was better to kill himself than to continue a standoff or try to let the B5 personnel and Bester fight over jurisdiction longer? I don’t understand. 

Byron apparently telepathically sent Lyta numerous contacts, safe houses, etc. before he died. So it’s not a totally hopeless end. The episode ends with Garibaldi staring into a drink. I wonder what will happen to him next. And that’s worth considering–because Garibaldi, the man in consummate control of his life–has been in a spiral of having things happen to him rather than because of him. It’s certainly a fertile place for more plot, and I hope we get some closure between him and Bester, or at least for him. 

12: The Ragged Edge

“I have always said this about you [G’Kar]: Nothing improves your company like the lack of it.” – Mollari 

These two are one of the best dynamic duos in television. I don’t care about your wrong opinions; this is a fact. Whether it’s their early rivalry which causes hilarity, the later, deep emotional catastrophe of their relationship, or their period now as they work together, it’s all excellent. Now, G’Kar finds that the book he’s been writing for the whole series (and presumably before) has been disseminated into the general population of the Narn, and they have essentially turned it into a new holy text, with him as a new saint. Honestly, not a surprising direction. He initialyl resists, until a warrior friend of him convinces him to be the leader he doesn’t want to be. 

Garibaldi, meanwhile, goes on a secret mission to the Drazi world to investigate the attacks on freighters. He runs into an old friend, Tafiq, whom I liked almost immediately. But… it was nice knowing Tafiq for about two seconds. I hope he shows up in the novels at some point! I honestly have to laugh a little because I thought Tafiq was truly awesome and then he just gets blown away. Garibaldi gets caught flat-footed multiple times in this episode, too, which is unusual. Back on Babylon 5, Garibaldi is convinced that the attacks on the freighters go well beyond the Drazi and others. Then we have Mollari pop in on the briefing and reveal that these others were apparently some kind of Centauri, but Sheridan et al. hide this information from Mollari. 

G’Kar is almost immediately embroiled in a controversy of interpreting his words. He notes that his words about distrusting Centauri were written when he was at a different stage, but his followers insist that because the book was inspired by “the universe,” it must be holy and therefore without error. G’Kar then humorously corrects the student. Yet it is important to note that he doesn’t dispute it being inspired. Here I want to point out a tangent again which is that though J. Michael Straczynski, the writer of Babylon 5, is an atheist, he has remarkable depth when it comes to discussing religion. I’m certain that the care with which this scene was conveyed was on purpose. Straczynski deftly notes the difficulty with divergent interpretations and even apparent contradictions in a supposed holy book, but he doesn’t insist that there can be no resolution of these difficulties. 

The episode ends with Dr. Franklin telling Sheridan that he’s leaving the station due to a major promotion, and Garibaldi apparently drinking himself into a stupor. The clear intent seems to be that Garibaldi may be relapsing into alcoholism, and it’s a tough scene as he sleeps through Franklin calling him to tell him about his decision to leave. 


Babylon 5 Hub– Find all my Babylon 5-related posts and content here.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!


Presidential Biographies: William Howard Taft #27

My quest to read (at least) one biography per President continues with William Howard Taft, the twenty-seventh President of the United States. The biography I chose with my selection process (reading reviews online and utilizing and this website- My Journey Through the Best Presidential Biographies) was actually twofold. Initially, I read The William Howard Taft Presidency by Lewis L. Gould. It was tough going, and I felt like I didn’t understand a lot of what was discussed in the historical context in which it was placed. Much hype (in some circles) was on about The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin, which is a kind of dual biography intermingling Taft and Roosevelt, much as they were in their own lives. That massive volume was much more readable and, more importantly, gave me the context I needed to feel more comfortable understanding Taft’s Presidency. 

Here, I’ll offer my thoughts on that biography, and proceed to present my official ranking for the DEFINITIVE RANKING OF PRESIDENTS OF THE UNITED STATES!!!!!! The full list of the rankings with all the Presidents as well as comments on their careers, updated as I read through this list, may be found here.

William Howard Taft- The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin and The William Howard Taft Presidency by Lewis L. Gould

Taft grew up in a comfortable home that pushed him to work hard to better himself. He graduated 2nd in his class from Yale and went to Cincinnati Law School where he got an education that pushed him to increasing heights. He became a lawyer and a judge, eventually rising to be appointed as a Federal Judge. In that post, in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, he surprised many with several decisions striking down monopoly-like practices in what would become a strong record of antitrust work throughout his life. 

An amiable man who was fiercely dedicated to his wife, these aspects served him well as President McKinley opted to send him to the Philippines. Taft tried to work closely with the Filipinos to try to push towards American governance and eventual independence. In this role, he performed very well and was generally liked by both the Filipino elites and the general populace.

Roosevelt was impressed by Taft, having met a few times before, and appointed him Secretary of War. This role, however, was much less about war than it was a kind of advisory role for Roosevelt as well as a way to use Taft on the campaign trail. Roosevelt routinely dispatched Taft to essentially be his mouthpiece during various foreign affair problems of his Presidency. As Secretary of War, Taft was sent to Cuba to reassure Cubans that the U.S. was not intending occupation, to Panama to help consolidate Roosevelt’s imperialistic move to acquire rights to a Canal, to Japan, and back to the Philippines. 

Taft had his eyes on the Supreme Court most of his life, but first ended up in the White House, largely against his wishes. His popularity–and Roosevelt’s–all but assured his nomination as an ideological successor to Roosevelt. In office, one of the largest fights Taft had was over tariffs. Desiring to end some of the protectionist policies that he felt were hampering trade with the United States (among other things), Taft endeavored to bring about tariff reform, a project that would seemingly occupy much of his energy throughout his Presidency. He did ultimately manage to get congress to pass some reforms, but the way these reforms passed all but assured some protectionism would continue and took the teeth out of Taft’s ultimate goals. 

Taft also began to grow apart from Roosevelt, seemingly due to the ego of each of them preventing them from being the first to reach out to the other. Roosevelt felt he was owed by Taft, while Taft felt that his new position as President meant he didn’t have to defer to Roosevelt in all things. The erosion of this relationship was possibly spurred by Roosevelt’s increasingly progressive stances and surely due to Taft’s botching of Roosevelt’s conservationist goals, particularly in regards to mining of public lands. This rift would, unfortunately, push the two apart after they’d worked so closely together for nearly a decade before.

Another blunder of Taft’s administration was his capitulation to racist interests in refusing to appoint African Americans to various posts. It gained Taft support of many southerners who were initially skeptical of him, but also set back civil rights quite a bit and effectively meant during his administration that if complaints were loud enough about a black appointee, Taft would remove that person from office. This awful situation is surely a blight upon Taft’s legacy.

After a contentious campaign for re-election which effectively split the Republican vote between Roosevelt (Progressive ticket) and Taft (Republican ticket), Woodrow Wilson was elected president. Taft initially went back to Yale before being appointed to the Supreme Court, fulfilling his life-long ambition. In the Supreme Court, Taft wrote opinions which allowed private schools, though made them regulated (a kind of mixed win/loss for the Catholic school presenting the suit); supported businesses against taxation that was aimed at preventing child labor (another strange decision); wrote a rare dissent in support of minimum wage for women; and was involved in many more decisions that would shape policy for some time to come.

Taft’s Presidency and legacy is a mixed bag, filled with some successes and some failures. His decisions shaped the direction of the country in several ways, but these were also of varying import and moral and legal quality. Taft was not the most fascinating President ever, but was a dedicated family man who, it seems, largely stuck to the principles he started off with, for better or worse. 

William Howard Taft’s Original Ranking in THE DEFINITIVE RANKING OF PRESIDENTS OF THE UNITED STATES (Full and Updated List Here)

William Howard Taft (27th President – Original Ranking #14)- Taft’s long-term impact is not difficult to judge, but it is difficult to qualify it within terms of his Presidency. Much of his impact comes from his acts as a judge, including as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. His history of antitrust regulation helped usher in regulations of industries that continue to be challenged and sometimes held to this day. Later in life, as Chief Justice, many of the decisions his court would make deviated from industry regulation, though he remained seemingly antitrust his whole life. Taft was arguable one of the more amiable Presidents in U.S. history, assuming much about one’s status alongside his. On a personal note, his devotion to his wife and family is touching and a good example among many poor examples in the Presidency. As President, Taft would help reform foreign policy in ways that favored skill over nepotism, while also effectively maintaining and somewhat expanding the more imperial aspects of Roosevelt’s Presidency. Domestically, Taft’s refusal to appoint African Americans to posts undercut any kind of progression on civil rights issues and set back the progress Roosevelt made in that sphere. He also pushed to reform Tariffs and try to end some aspects of protectionism, which he met with mixed success. Overall, Taft was a President with both good and bad in policy, and his successes were about even with his failures. 


J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!


Watching Babylon 5 for the First Time, Season 5: Episodes 5-8

Yes, now bow. Good! Now to the right!

I am very late to the Babylon 5 party. As it came out, I was a bit young for the show and the few times we tried to watch as a family, it was clear we had no idea what was going on. After several people bugged me, telling me it was the show I needed to watch, I grabbed the whole series around Christmas last year on a great sale. I’ve been watching it since, sneaking it in between the many things going on in my life. It quickly became apparent that I’d want to discuss the episodes with others, so I began this series of posts. Please don’t spoil anything from later seasons or episodes for me! 

5: Learning Curve

There’s a great intro in this one, in which we get some insight into the training of the Rangers, along with some delightful back and forth between Turval of the religious caste and Durhan of the warrior class. Garibaldi and Captain Lochley also have a confrontation, which results in Lochley giving a spirited defense of her position during the civil war.

Delenn then meets with Durhan and Turval to discuss training of the Rangers. It’s a cool scene, in which Delenn urges them to use the great differences amidst the recruits to use the P’ak’ma’ra to be a kind of secret courier service for the Rangers due to their outcast status.

Another main part of the plot is the attempt by Trace, a criminal mastermind, to take over the underworld of Babylon 5. I have to say, my initial thoughts on this underworld aspect was that it’s going to be nothing but a side story for the main episode. And, in a way, it is. Trace is taken in and his momentary rule is over. But the way it plays out is as a foil for the Rangers on station, and as insight into the culture both of the Rangers and the Minbari, allowing us to see their moment of terror. It’s a great character piece for the side characters that are brought along, while also giving us more insight into the overall culture of the Rangers.

Station security and Garibaldi are sort of a side show here, as Garibaldi sets up some telepaths to help with station security and Zack basically just follows orders. They have a great conversation towards the end of the episode. Then, we see Delenn and Sheridan closing out the episode, upset about… something? Did I miss something?

6: Strange Relations

I found the title of this one particularly appropriate in retrospect. 

Lyta is apparently getting supplies for the rogue telepaths, but even though it seems she’s trying to sneak them out, she does so with Dr. Franklin’s blessing. Why? Because Dr. Franklin is a decent human being. Byron seems quite thankful, but speaks in what he calls “parables.” The conversation between Byron and Lyta is cut short by some telepathic portent which seems to suggest they’re all in trouble. They identify “Bloodhound” units and say “He’s here,” which I immediately figured had to mean Bester. And of course, there’s the man himself. 

This, of course, sets us up for finally seeing a confrontation between Garibaldi and Bester, but it’s short lived. Captain Lochley intervenes by punching Garibaldi and having security haul him off. She presses Sheridan on keeping his own rules, and then later discovers Garibaldi has accessed her top secret personnel files. That leads to a great one liner: “If you can’t join ’em, beat ’em” as she goes to confront Garibaldi. As she does, though, Lyta gets into a psychic confrontation with Bester and his Bloodhounds. Lyta comes out on top, but only for the moment. It buys time for Byron and the others to flee. It’s a suspenseful moment. And then the transition into the Garibaldi/Lochley confrontation gives us two people who are equally salty about the world. And in that latter confrontation, Lochley reveals that she and Sheridan were married!? What!? 

Zack Allan is once again the tool of Earth. His morals are something of an enigma. He’s a follower more than a leader. But he occasionally pushes back. I was disappointed to see him helping round up the rogue telepaths. Franklin discusses Delenn’s idea for having him pursue medicine related to aliens with Lochley, and she apparently sees it is a way around the problem. Delenn, apparently full of ideas, floats having G’Kar guard Mollari. G’Kar suddenly accepts the nomination. Lochley holds up the extradition of the telepaths to Earth with a 60 day quarantine period ordered by the Doctor. 

So, strange relations indeed: Lochley and Sheridan; Bester and Garibaldi; Lochley and Bester; Lyta and Byron; Byron and Lochley; G’Kar and Mollari; etc. I loved this episode. It had an absolute whirlwind of events in it, and seems to be setting up for something bigger. 

And… what a close for the episode. The telepaths apparently like Gothic looking settings, as they stand amidst numerous candles singing “We will all come together in a better place…” It’s a surprisingly joyous moment from people who have, so far, been largely non-emotive. It was moving, far beyond what I expected. 

7: Secrets of the Soul

Dr. Franklin is trying to compile a complete list of pathogens/viruses/etc. for the member species of the Alliance, which seems… an extraordinary project. I mean, this is the kind of project that would be a massive team of researchers, and they’re giving it to the main doctor on Babylon 5 who also has to run the station’s medical team? I cannot even imagine this. It does, however, give us some fascinating insights into some of the member species that we haven’t really seen before. For example, the concept of a “geritocracy” governing the Hyach was unexpected. I didn’t expect to so quickly get such a far-reaching look into the Hyach people, and then we see a massive twist. Apparently the Hyach had parallel evolution of two species, and then we see the Hyach killed off the parallel species entirely. And, it turns out, they needed the Hyach-Doh, the parallel species, to keep reproducing and have their species continue. Thus, the Hyach are all dying off because they killed of the Hyach-Doh. Dr. Franklin is upset, to say the least. He points out that they are, in a sense, “accomplice after the fact” to the genocide, because they have hidden and covered up their history. The Hyach let Franklin go, but he says its “not my place to speak for the dead… The only forgiveness can come from the Hyach-Doh. Too bad you killed them all.” It shows the torn moral fabric Franklin. Can he truly hold the modern Hyachs responsible for the killings centuries ago? Or merely hold them responsible for the cover up? I suspect this isn’t the last we’ve seen of this storyline. 

The other story in this episode is of Byron, Lyta, and Zack. Zack apparently thinks he can control Lyta, and when he tries to do so, she gives him a rude awakening. Meanwhile, after Byron defuses a violent confrontation with nonviolent resistance, he and Lyta kiss. But this is only a little before the rogue telepaths are departing from Babylon 5. After a violent outbreak against one of the telepaths, the rogues begin to take revenge, leading to Byron being arrested. But he’s released after being cleared. In the meantime, however, the small time criminal who harassed and beat one of the telepaths was killed–apparently through telekinesis from the perspective of we viewers, but there’s no proof it was the telepaths. Lyta and Byron get intimate, and in the process, break some of the barriers the Vorlons maybe put in place on Lyta, revealing some huge cloning project of the Vorlons? Maybe? The other telepaths look on as Lyta and Byron’s psychic energy apparently awakens them during their lovemaking. Apparently, what was revealed was that the Vorlons were the ones who created telepaths on all the different worlds, to create, a Byron puts it, “cannon fodder” for their war with the shadows. The revelation is so disturbing to Byron that he decides to force the Alliance to give the telepaths their own world as recompense for their service to the allied worlds against the Shadows.

8: Day of the Dead

Rebo and Zooty seem like a major sideshow in this episode. I’m wondering if Penn Jillette just wanted to be on an episode of Babylon 5. Also, the notion that humor is a universal phenomenon even across species is absurd. Humor isn’t even universal among humans! But the notion of universal humor came from Sheridan, so I’m not sure how seriously we’re supposed to be taking it. 

Anyway, the main plot of this episode is centered around the Day of the Dead according to the Brakiri. After ceding part of Babylon 5 to the Brakiri for the sake of their religious observance, it gets taken over by some strange energy field that appears to bring back the dead. It gives us a bit of closure on a few relationships, as well as a coupe character moments. 

Honestly, I’m baffled by this episode. It seems entirely out of place. I can’t figure out what was important or not. The line from Kosh seems like it’ll last. The closing line from Zooty is nonsensical. I don’t get it.


Babylon 5 Hub– Find all my Babylon 5-related posts and content here.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!


Reading the Horus Heresy, Book 13: “Nemesis” by James Swallow

I know I’m late to the party, but I finally decided to start reading the “Horus Heresy,” a huge series of novels set in the universe of Warhammer 40,000 (though it is set much earlier than the year 40,000). I thought it would be awesome to blog the series as I go. With more than 50 novels and many, many short stories, there will be a lot of posts in this series (I doubt I’ll get to all the short stories). I’m reading the series in publication order unless otherwise noted. There will be SPOILERS from the books discussed as well as previous books in the series. Please DO NOT SPOIL later books in the series.

Nemesis by James Swallow

I admit it: I was skeptical of this book. I had seen multiple complaints that its content was pointless, or that it was largely unrelated to the wider plot of the Horus Heresy. But a Twitter friend convinced me that it was worth diving into, and that, along with my insistent desire to read entire lists and not skip books, made me dive in. And I have to say, I’m very glad I did. Nemesis is a fantastic read with a lot of cool lore and moments in it. 

The core of the book are two stories: on the one side, we see the Imperium’s development of the Officio Assassinorium, a branch of their military dedicated to assassinations; on the other side, the Word Bearers attempt to send in a Nemesis weapon to kill the Emperor himself. This is all centered around investigations from non-Space Marine characters trying to figure out what’s happening and set in the broader context of worlds pulling apart over the Heresy. There’s a lot of action in the novel, but what made it great was its world building and the context already mentioned.

The planet Dagonet is seen as a central part of its region’s response to the Heresy. They swear allegiance to Horus, causing concern on other planets nearby like Iesta Veracrux, another planet where some of the action takes place. Dagonet sided with Horus, having had historically closer ties to Horus than to the Emperor. Horus apparently liberated the planet some time ago, and is more popular even than the Emperor. This bit of world building was included in a brief conversation between people on Iesta Veracrux, but it was couched in the narrative of having refugees show up from the sister planet and fears over what it might mean for the wider region. I thought this was a great way to do the world building and also set the conflict of the Horus Heresy against a much broader backdrop. 

The story itself is exciting, even if the outcome is somewhat of a foregone conclusion. It seems obvious that the assassins from both sides will fail, but they made the buildup interesting enough and the side characters deep enough to maintain my interest throughout. I know I’ve complained about having so many “normal” person perspectives in the Horus Heresy so far, but that was largely in novels that were supposed to be centered on entire Legions of Space Marines and seemed more focused on a random person on the street than on the Astartes. Here, care was taken to make the non-superhumans the center of the plot, and with that, the technique thrived. We see “normal” people worried about what’s happening in their wider and yet narrower worlds. 

The conclusion, as Horus burns the people of Dagonet, whether they were on his side or not, is a chilling moment that shows how far he’s fallen. It also means that the worlds involved are likely not to feature much in the coming Heresy. But I don’t mind that. One-off plots in wider universes can be good if done well. Nemesis was great. 

Nemesis is a thrilling read with some fascinating plot points and some of the best world development of any of the novels so far. I enjoyed it immensely and would recommend it to others, even though it doesn’t have a major impact on the overall Heresy, according to other readers. 


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