Reading the Babylon 5 Novels: “The Touch of Your Shadow, the Whisper of Your Name” by Neal Barrett, Jr.

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.

The Touch of Your Shadow, the Whisper of Your Name by Neal Barrett, Jr.

The premise of this (so far best-named) Babylon 5 novel is that there’s a big magical space snake thing that causes bad dreams and the people on Babylon 5 have to deal with and/or fix that.

The problem with this book is that so much of it is dreams. I’m sure I’m exaggerating here, but it felt as though a third of this book was just sitting in people’s dreams. I guess that wouldn’t hugely matter, if the dreams had relevance for Babylon 5 more broadly. Technically there’s some character development in these dreams, like a comedic/serious scene with Lennier, but it doesn’t go very far.

A huge amount of this book is focused around those dreams as well. Basically that’s the whole story here:

Everyone on Babylon 5: There’s dreams, let’s deal with them by rioting.

Garibaldi: No, don’t do that.

Everyone: Oh, okay.

Alright, I oversimplified, but that summarizes most of the plot that isn’t dreams. Yeah, they have to deal with the space alien thing, too, but at some point I just stopped caring. The good points here are the title and the occasional flash of seeing a favorite character acting in a just-right way. There’s so little by way of main plot here that it becomes difficult to even want to get into it. The dreams have no real investment on the part of the reader. We know they’re dreams, and that they’re not even building character in most cases. They’re just fluff that serve little purpose other than to pad the length of the novel.

The Touch of Your Shadow, the Whisper of Your Name is another mediocre Babylon 5 novel. Honestly, I think reading it and just skipping over all the dreams in the book may give it the chance to be more enjoyable, but as I think about doing that, I realize how little plot there is apart from them. It’s just an okay read.

Links

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!

SDG.

Reading the Babylon 5 Novels: “Accusations” by Lois Tilton

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.

Accusations by Lois Tilton

Accusations is the second Babylon 5 novel, and, like the first, it’s an imperfect experience. The core plot here is about Ivanova and Garibaldi solving a murder mystery on Babylon 5. That’s certainly a plot that one would expect to be within their purview, and Lois Tilton does a good job integrating enough twists and turns to let this be the central plot for the whole novel.

The writing isn’t half bad, either. Tilton captures Ivanova’s role fairly early on, and I enjoyed the tie-in at the very end of the book that basically bookends the novel with standard Babylon 5 operations. There’s a complexity to Ivanova’s portrayal here that makes it engaging. However, the problems with the book begin with Ivanova as well. She ends up at one point letting Talia Winters scan her, something that would never have happened with the Ivanova we know from the show, especially from later seasons. Accusations was published in 1995, so sometime during Season 2. But that makes it difficult to look back on with the knowledge from later seasons that negate this somewhat key scene.

If you’re willing to ignore such problems reconciling this book with the later series–something a reader could probably do by assuming the scan happened and Ivanova somehow convinced/coerced Winters to not tell too much afterwords–you’re going to get good mileage out of this novel. Tilton’s prose sometimes captures the conversational style punctuated with humor that the show does so well. At other times, it can fall flat. But for a tie-in novel, her writing does the job.

I do have to ask: Why is G’Kar even on the cover? He barely even appears in the book–so little that I’m questioning if I even remember him showing up or if I’m conflating it with the first book in my head. I was hoping he’d have a role in some of the plotting happening on the station. But he doesn’t, and neither do any other alien characters. This is a story almost entirely about Ivanova, Winters, and Garibaldi, with a cast of other humans thrown along for the ride. That doesn’t necessarily make this a bad novel, but it does take away some of the feel of Babylon 5. On the other hand, this hyper-focus on humans means that we get some insights into how far force, human corporations, and some workings of the politicking happening behind the scenes. It’s not a lot, but it is interesting to get just a glimpse into some background there.

Ultimately, Accusations is a decent read for fans of Babylon 5. It captures Ivanova’s character well–apart from the major flub discussed above–and mostly captivates readers with an interesting mystery plot at its core. There are also revelations about human forces shaping into potential for later conflict in the TV series, as we saw in later seasons. The book is an imperfect but satisfying read for fans, especially if they’re inclined to be forgiving when reading tie-in novels.

(All links to Amazon are Affiliates.)

Links

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!

SDG.

Reading the Babylon 5 Novels: “Voices” by John Vornholt

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.

Voices by John Vornholt

I have to admit, I wasn’t sure initially if I would be buying all the Babylon 5 novels or if I’d just try to read the ones that are officially considered “canon.” I figured I may as well get them all, because I loved the series so much. Voices is part of the first batch of Babylon 5 novels that was released, and only a few of these first 9 novels are considered “canon.” Voices is not one of those novels. I’m not one who gets all tied up in insisting upon only canon matters (I enjoyed the hell out of a lot of the now-“Legends” Star Wars novels and reviewed… a lot of them). But I want the in-universe books to make sense and be fun.

Voices did each of those… at times. The core of the plot is that some bomb goes off as Alfred Bester, the awful telepath we know and love to hate from the series, is planning a convention on Mars. Instead, because of this bombing, the convention of telepaths gets moved at the last second to Babylon 5, much to the chagrin of Girabaldi and Ivanova in particular. This is set in the time when Talia Winters was still on station, so she gets caught up in the mess, especially when another bomb goes off–this time on B5.

The first half of the novel is honestly great. It reads just like another episode of Babylon 5 set within that time period. You can truly see the characters on screen doing everything described, and it makes sense. I especially loved Girabaldi being flustered at having the whole Psi Corps convention dumped into his lap for security. It was spot-on for the handling of him as a character.

The second half of the novel is, however, not great. Suddenly, characters go off in ways that are totally different from what you’d expect from their established personas. Talia Winters, in particular, loses much of her mystique and calm characterization. Girabaldi becomes much more whiney and less decisive than it seems he should be. Even the Psi Corps people seem to lose their way, acting strangely complacent towards station security at times, and going absolutely wild at other points. The plot goes a bit off the rails as well, as we get several larger threats introduced and dismissed seemingly with ease.

What I was left with, then, was a feeling of disappointment. The promising beginning of the book didn’t get the expected payoff. I did enjoy spending more time with the characters I’d come to know and love, but then they started to act in unbelievable ways. There’s also a few gaffes, such as saying the surface of Mars is 200-300 degrees when the temperature on Mars rarely even approaches 0 from below. It’s not a huge deal–Babylon 5 is space opera and not hard science fiction–but it was enough of a blip that it distracted me. Thanks to The Babylon File (volume 1), I read that Vornholt said that the novel “could have benefited from a few more days of research” (383). It probably could have also benefited from a bit more editing to jettison several unnecessary threats and focus on the main plot.

Voices is an okay work of tie-in fiction, but it violates one of the cardinal rulse of such fiction: it loses the feel of the on-screen characters readers have come to love. I’d be curious to know what other Babylon 5 fans thought of the book.

(All Links to Amazon are Affiliates.)

Links

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!

SDG.