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A few comments on the cover: this book’s cover features G’Kar as Sir Not Appearing in this Novel. Giving you an idea as to how rushed out the door the first lot of B5 novels were – the covers were commissioned completely independently of the books. Then again, G’Kar had prominent appearances on practically all B5 material at this time regardless of his actual role, presumably because he’s more interesting looking that, say, Londo. I remember specifically the video cassette of “Voice in the Wilderness” featured him prominently on the cover, with his cranium being superimposed over the curve of the planet Epsilon 3, despite him not actually being in the episode.

I’m also feeling it’s unnecessary to have the big Babylon 5 logo, and then have a red sign saying “Based on the hit TV series!” And then, just in case you weren’t clear on things, adding “Based on the series by J. Michael Straczynski”. I guess Dell were really hoping they’d be able to churn these out the same way Pocket Books does Star Trek novels. The big “Book #2” is also kind of amusing, considering not only do the Dell books not reference each other, they’re not particuarly in order relative to the series either.

Like “Voices”, the book is largely a murder investigation with the central character being Garibaldi – an understandable choice. As the everyman Garibaldi’s the easiest character to write for - especially if you’ve got no idea where the series might be heading - and a murder mystery’s a nicely generic plot that can fit into any setting with little work. There’s some attempts at continuity – linking the first season raider attacks to the unrest on Mars, and some references to corruption among the upper echelons of the Earth military – which ends up tying in rather nicely to season two’s conspiracy storylines. The writing’s certainly a lot more polished than Vornholt’s novel (Among other flaws, he tends to overuse exclamation points! This can get very irritating to read!), and in general this book feels a lot less rushed.

There is one major flaw, and that’s the characterisation of Sheridan. “Voices” largely kept the captain in the background, with much of the resolution of the story taking place on Earth. “Accusations” takes place entirely on B5, yet Sheridan’s just as ineffectual and irrelevant. At one point, Ivanova’s been accused of murder and treason and is likely to be forced out of her position even if exonerated. Sheridan’s response? To quite literally sit back and muse “What a shame.”

There’s a few token references to the Narn-Centauri war, indicating this is meant to take place after “The Coming of Shadows”, but I suspect that this novel was actually written long before then, before the second season started airing. If the author had never actually seen an episode with Sheridan and had no idea what he was meant to be like, it would explain why she keeps him so much in the background and never has him do anything. Still, you’d think even writing him as a generic action hero character would be a better choice than as the ineffectual non-entity shown here!

Oddly, in a rather blatant example of an editing error, Sheridan is referred to as Sinclair for about two pages half way through the book, implying this book was originally written during season one, then hastily ‘updated’; in which case Sheridan’s characterisation is even odder – the character presented here sure as hell isn’t Sinclair either.

The main problem with these early B5 novels is how restrained they are. I assumed the authors were told most of the interesting elements of the setting (the alien cultures, for example) were off-limits, but stories dealing with the human military isn’t exactly focusing on what was interesting about the series.
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David Newgreen

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