The second book of the Psi Corps series.

Publication year: 1999
Format: print
Page count: 266
Publisher: Del Ray

Al Bester is part of the Cadre Prime and one of the few children who manifested their telepathy almost at birth and therefore one of the few whom Psi Corps has taken care of since birth. However, Al is insular and has a hard time getting along with the other children. Even as a child he drives himself to excellence in all things. Of course, he yearns for love and acceptance but doesn’t really get it. Later, as a teenager and adult, he does the same thing, keeping everyone else at an arm’s length. He gets close to only a few people, with unfortunate results. At the same time, he learns to cherish the Psi Corps as the only way to keep his people away from the cruel mundanes. While Bester distrusts individual telepaths, he grows to think that all telepaths are special and worth far more than ordinary humans. So, he hunts the rogue telepaths to save them from themselves.

The book starts when Bester is six years old and ends near his first appearance in Babylon 5. It’s quite episodic; the book is a collection of various scenes from Bester’s life and the lessons he learns from them. It was great to see from the inside how the Teeptown worked and what it was like to live there. It’s certainly far more structured than living in a normal society but not the hellhole some characters have led us to believe. Of course, Bester has never lived anywhere in his youth, so he can’t desire to be anywhere else. It seems that most of the telepaths develop their talents later in life and have to leave their families behind when they move into Teeptown. That’s, of course, traumatic.

The children live in houses designated by their ages (called Cadres) and have to move every couple of years to the next house. The older children are segregated by sex, also. Teeptown has its own schools and collages so the telepaths don’t need to leave it at all. Indeed, to get outside Teeptown, they require passes. This means that Bester and the others who were raised by telepaths don’t interact much with normal humans. They also don’t have families, not father or mother figures. While they are taught to think of all telepahts as their siblings, they don’t seem to be emotionally close. It seems that the telepaths are kept in line with fear and humiliation, instead of threats of violence. Of course, publicly humiliating small children can be very traumatic, as is was for Bester.

Later in the book we get to see other familiar characters, Lyta Alexander and Byron. One chapter is devoted to the incident about which Lyta tells to Stephen in the fourth season. Bester is brought to a mining colony to hunt down a man who is killing telepaths.

The book gives good insights into Bester’s history and character. It doesn’t try to make him a “good” person or a hero, just a look into his motives.

I’m currently rewatching season 5 in preparation for reading the next book, The Fate of Bester. That Garibaldi-thing alone is reason enough to hate Bester.