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.
In the Beginning by Peter David
Novelizations of movies aren’t often great. They’re often just cash grabs for the novelty of having a book in hand to tell the story. Peter David, however, is no hack. He’s written a number of Star Trek novels I quite enjoyed, and I was excited to see what his take on this Babylon 5 film would be. In the Beginning is largely a 1-to-1 retelling of the movie, but David adds in a bunch of detail and asides that make it feel very much like a Babylon 5 story is being told. Honestly, I enjoyed it even more than the film.
The story of In the Beginning is that of Mollari as Emperor telling some children what happened in the Earth-Minbari war, which would of course set up numerous later events and lead to many of his own self-inflicted problems. Like the movie, it’s all told from his perspective. Because this is a novel, however, David is able to keep the entire story in the voice of Mollari. Yes, the movie does much of this as well, but David adds more comments from Mollari, along with internal rationalizations of what he’s saying. All of this adds depth of character to the story that already has plenty going for it.
There’s no question that Mollari is among the most interesting characters in a cast of greats on Babylon 5. This book reads just as though you, the reader, are having the whole story being told from his perspective. Again, the film attempts this (and largely succeeds), but the novel turns it up a few notches. I can’t tell you the number of times I chuckled appreciatively at something that was absolutely on point for Mollari as a character. Chapter after chapter revealed additional insights not only into the main characters of the show, but into Mollari himself. I found myself looking forward to seeing what comments David might put into Mollari’s mind or mouth as he continued the story. It’s just a fabulous way to read about Babylon 5. Honestly, I’d love to have more novels written like this–just Mollari (or another character) retelling various events with commentary.
In the Beginning is definitely the best of the Babylon 5 novels I’ve read so far. It not only retells the story of the movie, but it expands upon it and fills in background in numerous delightful ways. Peter David’s novel absolutely captures the feel of Babylon 5 the whole time, and it is worth the read for any fan of the series.
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