Babylon 5

The third Babylon 5 book, set during the middle of the second season, before “Coming of the Shadows”. It draws heavily on the first season episode “The Parliament of Dreams”.

Publication year: 1995
Format: print
Publisher: Boxtree
Page count: 232

G’Kar receives a data message where the daughter of his old enemy Du’Rog swears the blood oath against him. The Shon’Kar is a powerful part of the Narn culture and G’Kar is very much afraid. Shortly, he leaves the station in a one-man craft which explodes before reaching the jump gate. Garibaldi suspects murder and it seems that G’Kar’s craft was tampered with. He investigates but before any conclusions can be drawn, Sheridan sends Garibaldi and Ivanova to the Narn Homeworld, to participate in G’Kar’s funeral and to tell everything they know about the ambassador’s death to the Narn ruling body, the Kha’Ri. Na’Toth will travel with them and also a new character Al Vernon whom Garibaldi meets just before he leaves. Vernon used to live in the Homeworld and offers up himself as a guide to the two humans. Garibaldi accepts but is determined to keep a close eye on him.

Of course, G’Kar isn’t dead. He faked his own death in the hopes of resolving things with Du’Rog’s family, one way or the other, before he’s really killed. He travels to the Homeworld, too.

Most of the book is set in the Homeworld, which was a fascinating place. Temperatures are really cold during the night and really hot during the day, in the same place. This doesn’t seem to bother the Narns but does bother the humans a great deal. We’re shown the rigid caste system of the Narns; people who don’t make it are shunned and live in horrible slums which are practically lawless. The Rangers who are supposed to keep up the law are bullies.

We also meet G’Kar’s wife Da’Kal who is apparently a well-connected woman whom G’Kar loves – but whom he just cast aside when he moved to B5. I don’t think there was ever a mention of G’Kar being married in the series.

This was another quick read. It was mostly enjoyable but there were pretty significant typos, like Garibaldi’s and G’Kar’s names exchanging places. Also, I rather liked Da’Kal but G’Kar’s abandonment of her made him a really callous character. I also really like Mi’Ra who was Du’Rog’s spirited daughter hellbent on getting her revenge on G’Kar. So, interesting alternate version of G’Kar.

The third book in the Psi Corps series.

Publication year: 1999
Format: print
Page count: 257
Publisher: Boxtree

The book starts several years after the end of the B5 series. Bester is now a hunted criminal and the Psi Corps has been terminated but is has been replaced by somewhat similar organizations, one for hunting down the telepathic war criminals and one which seems to work with Earth police organizations. Bester has nothing but contempt for them.

The Psionic Monitoring Commission has sent several people after Bester, but Bester has trained most of them and is able to evade them. However, Bestar has been running for years around the galaxy and comes to the conclusion that it would be easier to hide on Earth, among billions of humans. So, he returns to Paris and promptly finds a small hotel owner who is in trouble with a local gang. At first Bester doesn’t care one whit about the hotel owner, Louise, and just wants to mess with the gang members and ends up helping Louise. However, he accepts Louise’s invitation to stay at the hotel and finds himself falling in love… with a mundane woman. Bester hides in the hotel using a false identity and ends up writing scathing book reviews for a local paper.

Meanwhile, Garibaldi is using his (or rather his wife’s) company’s great wealth trying to track down Bester. At first it looks like he isn’t going to succeed but then he gets information that Bester has a rare disease which only affects telepaths.

Frankly, I found this to be a disappointing ending to the series and to Bester. He has loathed and killed mundanes all of his life so I found it very hard to believe that he would fall in love with a mundane woman, no matter how saintly she might be. And most of the book is about their life together which, unfortunately, wasn’t exciting. Also, we’re only give a few small hints about the Telepath war which is very frustrating. On the other hand, I think Garibaldi and his obsession with Bester was handled very well.

Police detective Girard is a major character in the book and I think he was well portrayed considering the small page count. However, he’s not a B5 character and so I wasn’t interested in him. I think this was my major problem with the book: not enough B5.

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.

The first book in the trilogy based on the TV show Babylon 5.

Publication year: 1998
Format: print
Page count: 267
Publisher: Warner Bros.

In the year 2115 telepathy was recognized by Earth’s scientific community as real. Earth was still taking it’s first steps into space and hadn’t encountered any aliens. When humans realized that telepathy wasn’t a hoax, they became scared and started to blame the telepaths about pretty much everything. During those first years, telepaths (and people accused of being telepaths) are hunted and killed, until Senator Lee Crawford founds the MRA, the Metasensory Regulation Authority. However, he doesn’t do it out of kindness; on the contrary, he wants more power to himself and he sees the telepaths as a way to do it. He plots and schemes to get into his position.

However, some telepaths don’t want to join Crawford’s dream. They band together so that they can protect each other. A few of them even make the normal people worship them. But as time goes by, some of them start to see that their best chance for survival is the MRA. Three of them, called Blood, Mercy, and Smoke, strike a deal with Crawford and become the senator’s best hunters. The trio just want to save telepaths; clearly the normal humans are the real enemy…

MRA starts the practice of using commercial telepaths but this isn’t explained any further. After a significant jump in time, the MRA has changed into the Psi Corp.

The book jumps around a lot, covering many people and a couple of generations of both early Psi Corps people and the rebel telepaths. We get to see Lyta’s ancestors and their history in the Psi corps. We also get to see that someone has engineered telepaths, but that’s not a big revelation to anyone who has watched the show. Because of the long time line, the book doesn’t spend much time with each character.

The strongest characters are the MRA’s/Psi Corps’ directors. Crawford is USA’s senator in the Earth Alliance senate and at the start of the book, not every country on the Earth is part of the EA. He’s a strong supporter of EA’s space program which is in danger of being shut down. He manipulates people expertly and uses them for his own ends. Psi Corp’s next director is Kevin Vacit who starts his career as Crawford’s assistant. EA has ruled that a telepath can’t be Psi Corps’ director but Kevin is one of those 30% of people whose telepathy doesn’t show up when tested. He’s kept it a close secret even from Crawford. He also uses the Psi corps for his own ends and even allows the resistance to continue because he believes that the strongest people are among the rebels. Of course, nobody can know that. Neither of these men are particularly likable but I think they are realistic, gray characters. The third morally gray man is Stephen Walters whose telepathy emerged late. Because of his military training Vacit sends him to infiltrate the rebels.

It’s entertaining enough but it doesn’t really bring anything new. The novel is also quite dark: there are a lot of killings, betrayals, and torture, and no humor.

The first B5 book which is set during the second season of the science fiction show Babylon 5, before Bester’s second appearance (A Race Through Dark Places).

Publication year: 1995 (during season 2)
Page count: 246
Format: print
Publisher: Boxtree

The Psi Corps are going to have a convention. At first, it was going to be held on Mars, in a luxury hotel but a new group of Martian terrorists blow it up. So, military liaison and telepath Harriman Gray (last seen in the episode “Eyes”) gets the bright idea to change it to Babylon 5. Captain Sheridan thinks it’s a fine idea and a chance to brighten the station’s rather mixed public image. Commander Ivanova and Security Chief Garibaldi can’t stop it, so 400 telepaths are going to come to Babylon 5, including mister Bester and Harriman Gray. Joy! Not.

Most of the telepaths coming to B5 are working in the commercial sector but about 100 Psi Cops and some military telepaths are coming, too. Harriman seems to have a huge crush on Ivanova and he almost stalks her. Talia Winters is happy to see other telepaths and she even gets a job offer which would take her away from B5.

I started giggling aloud when I realized what the premise was: it’s such a juicy idea. Of course, they couldn’t actually change anything so a fistfight between Ivanova and Bester was out but otherwise I expected to be very entertained. And mostly I was. I was a bit disappointed that when G’Kar had a fistfight with one of the telepaths in a bar, we saw only the aftermath but that was entertaining, too. Garibaldi giving a tour of the Down Below to the sheltered telepaths, and Talia, was great.

Harriman, Garibaldi, and Talia are the main POV characters. I was very interested to see more of Talia who I think was underused in the show.

The first half of the book is entertaining and the character interactions seem ok to me, except that a couple of time they changed their minds pretty quickly. However, the second half of the book isn’t set on B5 and we meet new characters. The characters’ moods and motivations change quickly and I was baffled by some of the choices they made. One group of people seemed pretty out of place to me.

Unfortunately, I was a bit distracted by Vornholt’s writing style. For some reason he tends to avoid using characters’ names and instead uses brief descriptions like “the young telepath” or “the statuesque woman”. Also, even I know that Mars isn’t a hot planet (and I was 100% Arts student). Vornholt also uses pretty juvenile humor.

Sadly, the book started promisingly but couldn’t live up to B5 standards I’m used to.