Reading the Babylon 5 Novels: “Personal Agendas” by Al Sarrantonio

Having finally watched Babylon 5 for the first time (check out my posts for that series at my Babylon 5 Hub), I decided to dive into the novels. I’ll be reading them largely in publication order and reviewing them individually as we go along. Please do not spoil later books for me. There will be SPOILERS for the book reviewed going forward.

Personal Agendas by Al Sarrantonio

Personal Agendas takes place just before the story of “Falling Toward Apotheosis” from the TV series (Season 4, Episode 4). The placement here on the timeline means that it has a somewhat stronger connection to the show than some of the other novels so far.

The story centers around 5 main threads. The first is a group of Narn lead by L’Kan trying to infiltrate the Centauri homeworld to liberate G’Kar. The second features G’Kar and Londo Mollari plotting to save Narn and Centauri together. Third, Sheridan and Delenn attempt to thwart some arms dealers. Fourth, a group from Babylon 5 are also attempting to rescue G’Kar. Finally, fifth, Vir is fending off an upcoming wedding with a Centauri woman who hates the Narn.

There’s a lot going on in this 212 page novel, in other words. And, the good news is that most of it works pretty well. The Sheridan/Delenn plot is, in my opinion, the weakest by far part of the novel. It has almost no connection to anything else going on and doesn’t really do much for the characters, either. It seems to have been thrown in so two more main characters could make an appearance. Vir’s interactions with Lyndisty are a nice diversion thrown in between what otherwise amounts to a bunch of action and nefarious plotting. G’Kar and Mollari’s voices show up loud and clear throughout the novel; I found their interactions entirely believable.

The main problem with the story is that it doesn’t make a lot of sense as a tag on to the episode it’s supposed to precede. Almost none of the plot points tie into that episode, and if pushed too far, the book would seem to undermine some of the dramatic tension we get in the TV series. That said, if one reads it as what it largely is: a fun romp featuring the main characters that could have happened even if it wouldn’t make much sense for it to have happened (there’s a mouthful), it is pretty enjoyable. Several characters are depicted spot on. Even Garibaldi gets some classic one-liners. It’s a well-paced novel, so even though readers know basically none of it matters to the series it maintains interest all the way through.

Personal Agendas is one of the stronger Babylon 5 novels in the original Warner Brothers run. The characters actually feel like they do in the show and the plot, while essentially a throw-away, ties in to the series in believable ways. Recommended for Babylon 5 fans.


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